The Presidency yesterday declared that there was no disagreement between the Executive arm of government and the National Assembly over the 2022 Appropriation Bill.
It also cleared the air over the widely reported episode last Friday, at the State House, Abuja, during the signing of the 2022 Budget and Finance Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari. Specifically, it addressed issues around insertions in the 2022 Appropriation Act of 6,576 new schemes worth about N37 billion by the National Assembly.
Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday, declared that while it was true that the President expressed disagreement with the alterations, including the, “reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’,” innumerable lies were being spread about the President being “angry” and had “blasted” or “lashed out” at the Parliament.
This, it stated could not be farther from the truth.
According to the state, “As the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan said shortly after the budget-signing ceremony, disagreements as the ones listed by the President are normal in the everyday Executive-Parliamentary relationship because, as he explained, “executive and legislative judgements don’t always have to be the same.
“While we note that there are people who are trying to create a fiasco between the two arms of government on account of the budget, we assure that they will, in the end, be disappointed.
“The Executive and the 9th National Assembly have since moved away from the wild, destructive political games of the past, conducting themselves in a way that puts national interest supreme in their decisions. We doubt if there is a patriotic citizen who wants to see the return of the operating environment engendered by the eight Senate when an elected government was held in chains, held hostage to the desperate political ambitions of a clique, and the public denied needed services including that which impinged on national security.
“Happily, the ninth National Assembly is more about policy than politics. Under the constitution, both arms of government are coequal and at the same time, independent and interdependent. The rule of the game is cooperation and the President, as a democrat fully accepts this”.
The Presidency further justified Buhari’s assent to the 2022 Appropriation Act saying, “Mr. President was clear and candid in expressing his reservations with the numerous changes to the 2022 Budget made by the National Assembly, which would hamper its implementation.
“However, to respond to critics that question why assent to the Budget if it was so severely tampered with, we wish to respond as follows: (1) Need to Save Value-Additive Projects, Programs & Policies: Although over 10,733 projects were reduced and 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly, there are tens of thousands more provisions in the 2022 Budget, all of which, when efficiently and effectively implemented, will have significant developmental impact on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians.
“Given Mr. President’s commitment to improving the lot of the Common Man, it was felt that it would not be wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater. Ongoing Capital Projects, Critical Recurrent Votes, Priority New Projects – all feature in the 2022 Budget and Mr. President’s forbearance in assenting to the Budget will save these provisions from implementation delays and other challenges.
“(2) Dealing with Modern Democratic Norms: President Buhari is a democrat who deeply believes in the supremacy of the Constitution, with its checks and balances across the three arms of Government. In terms of the passage of legislations like the Appropriation Act and other Money Bills, the National Assembly has equal responsibilities with the Executive.
“Indeed, if Mr. President had declined assent to the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly has powers to override the President’s veto if they can drum up a 2/3 majority vote. This is the constitution. Happily, this situation has not arisen during the tenure of Mr. President’s Administration, and the Executive’s relationship with the Leadership of the 9th National Assembly is much improved over what happened with the 8th National Assembly.
“It is on account of his confidence in the strength of this excellent working relationship that Mr. President has directed that an Amendment Budget Proposal should be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly, once they return from their recess.”