The deepening rift between President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, over alleged poor implementation of the 2012 budget, may imperil the 2013 budget.
Jonathan had on Wednesday presented N4.9tn budget to a joint-session of the parliament, a move aimed at ending the debilitating ritual of late passage.
But investigations on Friday indicated there might be no budget for 2013 if members of the House carried out their threat not to touch the document, until a satisfactory implementation of the 2012 budget was achieved.
A Principal Officer of the House and leader of the opposition, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, confirmed the underground moves to SUNDAY PUNCH.
Similarly, a committee chairman said, “The Executive cannot continue to take us for a ride; we are the representatives of the Nigerian people, we feel their pulse more than anyone else.
“Visit the various states, people are suffering because most of the capital projects in the 2012 budget have not been implemented.
“In many of the cases, the contracts have not even been awarded; this year is one of the worst and we have never had it this bad. We have to thrash all this out.”
Also, such hard stance has echoed in the Senate as its Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, said the Senate would demand from Ministries, Departments and Agencies, proof of full implementation of the 2012 budget before approving the allocations of the 2013 budget.
He told one of our correspondents in Abuja that, “The MDAs will have to justify what they were given in 2012 if they intend to get further allocation in next year’s budget. That is where we are going to wait for them.”
The senator maintained that it made no sense if figures were announced as budget and no development was achieved. It was learnt that opposition party members in particular were mobilising lawmakers across board to reject the budget.
Reports of the various committees of the House on the just-concluded assessment tour of 2012 projects to the six geopolitical zones, gave low rating of the implementation.
It was gathered from the House Committee on Works that “more than 80 per cent of the roads they claim to be working on are at a standstill.”
“We could not get convincing explanations on roads they reportedly constructed,” it said. The Federal Government had a budgetary outlay of N4.7trn for 2012.
As at October 10 when Jonathan laid the estimates of the 2013 budget before the National Assembly, only N711.6bn out of the 2012 capital component of about N1.3tn had reportedly been released to the MDAs.
The fiscal calendar closes on December 31, 2012.
While lawmakers described the performance of the budget as “abysmal,” the President blamed the late effective take-off of the budget in April, as one of the major reasons for the scenario.
Out of the N4.9tn, a total of N1.5tn is set aside for capital projects, about 5 per cent increase from the 2012 figure.
“On paper, they want the world to believe that they are going to spend more on capital projects next year and can’t understand why we are not cheering them.
“Where are we now in the implementation of the 2012 budget? This is October, the year ends in less than three months,” an angry lawmaker noted.
Gbajabiamila said lawmakers were boiling over the “shoddy” implementation of the 2012 budget.
He added that the apparent refusal of the Executive to bend its position, and accept any of the budget frameworks of the House on the 2013 proposal, had worsened an already strained relationship.
He said, “We have to sit down as a House and collate all the results of the committees that went on oversight visits and take a stand.
“So far, the reports are not impressive. We will insist on the implementation of the 2012 budget.”
Gbajabiamila explained that many lawmakers wanted the House to declare zero budget for 2013, if the executive could not convince them further, on how it implemented the 2012 budget.
He said, “For the first time in the history of this country, if it means that in a particular year, there will be no budget, let us do it.
“We can ask them to go back and complete the implementation of the 2012 budget, even if it means using the same budget for 2013.
“This may be the first time in the history of this country that we may repeat a budget; there may be appropriation in 2013, but it has to be along the line of the 2012 budget.”
When contacted, the spokesman of the senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said, “Our expectation is that the 2012 budget will be fully implemented as promised by the President.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Health, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, admitted that the budget performance in 2012, especially in health sector, “wass very poor and disheartening.” But he said neither the President nor the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was to blame.
He explained, “It is the fault of the MDAs that have decided to treat our national budget with disrespect thereby exposing their lack of capacity and incompetence in application of funds released to the projects as provided in the description of the budget itself.”
But he advised his colleagues that rather than rejecting the budget, they should address all the grey areas with the executive or else Nigerians would be made to suffer for no fault of theirs.
“We will not reject the budget because it is not for an individual but for the Nigerian people in general and as true representatives of the people, we must do what is right.
“I believe that our people deserve the best and as such, we should try not to increase their pains by refusing to touch the proposed budget as presented by Mr. President.
“Rather, we should pass it and let us charge our respective committees to intensify their oversight functions so that all projects for 2013 are executed”, he said.
On his part, the Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, said, “There are many options to look at as a House. We are still studying our reports.
“At the end of the day, it is still our duty to panel-beat the budget. There is no way we can reject the budget.”
On Wednesday, the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, had told Jonathan that the reports of committees on the implementation of the 2012 budget were “clearly unimpressive.”
Tambuwal received a standing ovation from members for his hard-nosed posture.
He reminded Jonathan that whenever members stopped demanding full budget implementation, they had failed as legislators.