Perturbed by the four conditions given to the Executive by the National Assembly, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday invited principal officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives for talks.
The session might also touch on the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution for which the executive is finalising its proposals, it was learnt. In readiness for the talks, the principal officers of the House met for two hours yesterday in Abuja. As the National Assembly leaders were getting set for the meeting, there was tension following alleged plans by Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to speak on the budget row on Thursday.
The Assembly leaders vowed to “retaliate”, if Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala attacks them at the proposed briefing. After persuasion by Senate President David Mark, the President had last week assented to the 2013 budget with a caveat. The budget consists of N2.3 trillion recurrent non-debt expenditure; N1.6 trillion for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure; N387.9 billion statutory transfers; N591.7 billion for debt service; and a $79 a barrel benchmark.
Despite the signing of the instrument, the Executive and the National Assembly have not agreed on four key areas.
The areas of disagreement are:
•no-access by the Executive to the budgetary allocations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) until its Director-General, Ms Arunma Oteh, is removed;
•extension of the lifespan of the 2012 Capital Budget to April;
•2013 budget benchmark to remain at $79 per barrel; and
•mandatory quarterly briefing of the National Assembly by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on the budget’s implementation.