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Presidency Clears The Air On Fight Between Buhari, NASS Leadership Over 2022 Budget



They Are Ignorant Or Mischievous - Senate President Lawan Knocks Those Criticizing NASS For Approving Buhari's Loan Requests

The presidency on Sunday denied any rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and the leaders of the National Assembly, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila over the 2022 budget figures.

The clarification became necessary following the concerns raised by President Buhari over some adjustments and insertions made on the 2022 budget by the National Assembly after it was presented by the executive.

The presidency explained that the relationship between the executive and the 9th National Assembly unlike what obtained during the 8th Assembly, remains cordial as both parties are working in the best interest of Nigerians.

Naija News recalls the President while signing the bill into law last Friday, expressed deep concern at some of the worrisome changes made by the National Assembly to the document.

He also carpeted the federal lawmakers for reducing the funds allocated to some critical projects and adding 6,576 projects of their own to the bill.

The President said the legislature reduced N12.6 billion in the Ministry of Transport’s budget for the ongoing rail modernization projects; N25.8 billion from Power sector Reform Programme under the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National planning and N14.5 billion from several projects of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Senate President Lawan in an immediate reaction said there is nothing to be worried about regarding the changes made by the lawmakers to the budget.

Speaking with State House correspondents after the N17.126trn budget was signed, Lawan while commenting on the President’s reservation said there’s nothing worrisome in what the lawmakers did.

He said they took the decision based on judgment and analysis of the budget figures.

The development, claims, and counterclaims were then widely reported to have caused a possible rift between the president and the National Assembly leaders.

But presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu in a statement on Sunday has denied any crisis between the legislative and executive arms of government over the 2022 budget.

He added that what happened is a normal thing in executive-parliamentary relationship and there is no truth in reports that President Buhari blasted or lashed out at the lawmakers though he obviously expressed his reservations.

The statement reads: “The Presidency wishes to clear the air regarding the widely-viewed/reported episode on Friday, December 31st at the State House during the signing of the 2022 Budget and Finance Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari; specifically on the insertion in the 2022 Appropriation Act, of 6,576 new schemes worth about N37 billion by the National Assembly.

“While it is true that the President expressed disagreement with these and many of the other alterations, including the “reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’,” innumerable lies are being spread about the President being “angry” at, had “blasted” or “lashed out” at the Parliament. This cannot be farther from the truth.

“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 8th 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 9th 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.”

On why Buhari went ahead to sign the 2022 budget despite expressing concerns about adjustments made, the presidency submitted that the need to save value-additive projects, programmes and policies, as well as dealing with modern democratic norms were responsible for the President’s decision.

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. It is hoped that the National Assembly will carefully consider and approve the 2022 Amendment Budget Proposals, once presented to them in due course, for the benefit of all Nigerians.

It is important therefore that, in place of “anger” or confrontation, President Buhari showed the democracy-loving side of his personality as he signed the budget at the same time calling for dialogue with the parliament to resolve the contentious issues.

The Presidency under Muhammadu Buhari and the parliament under Lawal and Gbajabiamila are committed to a good neighborly relationship and this or any other disagreement between the two arms of government will not alter the dynamics of that relationship”, the statement by Shehu added.

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