Senate President Ahmed Lawan has refused to accept the padding allegation raised by President Muhammadu Buhari over the recently signed 2022 Appropriation Bill.
Buhari had noted that the lawmakers mutilated and padded the original 2022 Executive Budget proposal with insertions of new projects, outright removals of others, as well as reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects.
However, Lawan, who spoke on Friday at the Presidential Villa shortly after the signing of the budget, said the National Assembly was right in its judgment.
He added that the observations raised by the President are nothing to worry about.
Speaking to State House Correspondents, the Senate President said, “I think the most important thing is that Mr. President is happy with the majority of what the National Assembly has done. That is the most critical thing that we need to focus on.
“As for the observations Mr. President has raised, this is a natural and logical tendency between the executive and the legislature. Sometimes, our views on certain issues may not be the executive’s view.
“So I don’t think what the President did, by raising some observations, is something we should worry about. I’m happy that the President signed the budget in the first place. And he said it’s going back to the National Assembly to seek amendments or virement. This is a natural, logical legislative process.
“I believe that the National Assembly was right in its judgment, but there is nothing wrong in the executive arm of government coming back to the National Assembly to see how we’re able to dialogue and go through the process and see where the misunderstanding is. But I don’t think that is supposed to be a worrisome development for us.”
Lawan further explained that government-owned enterprises should contribute double the N500bn revenue reflected in the budget.
“This is based on judgments when we asked for more resources coming from the independent sources, especially from the government-owned enterprises of about N400bn to N500bn is because we believe that these government-owned enterprises should contribute even much more. In fact, I hold the opinion that they should have contributed about a trillion, at least not N500bn or so.”
He also said that by signing the budget, the Federal Government is setting an example for subnational governments.
“The driving force is our ability in the two chambers of the National Assembly to work amicably and productively. And then, of course, our ability as a National Assembly to work with the executive arm of government in such a manner that the processing of the budget estimates is done so that both arms participate fully at the appropriate time.
“The ability of the federal government to have this budget passed and signed before the end of the year has made so many states also work towards achieving that. And by today, you would have noticed that more than half of our states would have signed the budget 2022. And that is the kind of leadership that the federal government is giving to the sub nationals.”
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the House will review the President’s concerns in January.
“We are on vacation now. When we come back on January 18, we will know what’s next,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said the early directive by the President for all MDAs to begin working on the 2023 transition budget will ease operations for the National Assembly.
According to him, “The transition budget Mr. President spoke about, as you heard him earlier, they are even going to bring it earlier in 2023, which gives us ample time, more time to work on it, improve on it, and make it a seamless budget with seamless execution and implementation.
“I don’t think I have a problem with the 2023 budget. The 2023 budget is going to come, and we’re going to work on it just like we have been working on the budgets.”