Healthy Executive, Legislative rift deepens democracy, say Mark, others
FAR from the belief in some quarters, the nation’s economy is buoyant and the Executive arm of government has not breached any law in the implementation of the budget.
This was the position of the Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, during an interactive session with the Senate Joint committee on Appropriation, Finance, Public Account and National Planning.
Also, Senate President David Mark yesterday allayed the fear of negative consequences that are usually associated with occasional disagreements between the Executive and the National Assembly, as according to him, such rifts are actually central to the sustenance of a viable democratic culture and good governance
Okonjo-Iweala, who was at the National Assembly, said in view of the fact that the implementation of the budget began only in April, the budget was still on course, having achieved about 40 per cent implementation in four months.
“The country is absolutely not broke, though it may have problem of cash flow at times, but it is not out of place. There may be temporary cash flow issue but broke, no’’, she declared.
She explained that out of the N1.3trillion allocation for capital projects, N404 billion had been released while N184 billion had been utilised. She further disclosed that about N140 billion representing 44 per cent of the amount was still in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) waiting for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to utilise.
She expressed concern over the budgeting systems in the country where the budget year is extended to March of the succeeding year, pointing out that “it is not done anywhere in the world and this must be changed.”
She counselled the lawmakers against hasty judgment on the performance of the budget, saying: “ Give us till the end of the year before passing judgment on the performance of the budget, it is premature to talk of abysmally low performance.’’
She apologised to the committee for not being able to honour previous appointments on the session and the misrepresentation by the media. “I want to say that when I read papers, I was amazed with some figures, some section of the media has been misinforming. We sent out a press release, detailing all what has been done regarding the use of resources but even with written comments, it has been twisted, thereby leading to misinformation. I appreciate this opportunity to dialogue”, she said.
On the issue of constituency projects, she said: “We have no problems with that, the projects are there, neither the president nor any one has said that. Ministers have launched these projects and they are on it, it takes some time to understand the whole process.
“We have good collaboration with the National Assembly but there has been one or two things we are working to solve. For some MDAs, some projects were moved from one place to another, making it difficult for some MDAs to implement. I want to reiterate that constituency projects are being designed and procured. I do not think that it is something we should make a big deal out of. Rather, we should work together to solve the problem.”
She explained further on the budget, saying: “We have been utilising resources gathered for 2012. From 2012 N85 billion statutory transfer was done for domestic debt payment of N95 billion, personnel cost of N449 billion, N95 billion overhead and so on. It was spent until April when 2012 capital budget was approved and it is done quarterly.’’
While opening the interactive session, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba said the performance of the budget was a serious issue hence the session. “The performance of the budget is a major concern to Nigerians because it is through the budget implementation that we deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. This certainly is not going to be a family meeting, it will be a Nigerian meeting and we are making it as open as possible so that every Nigerian will get to know what truly is happening. You know in the many years of military rule that the National Assembly did not exist. Nigerians got used to living without the National Assembly. Now everything that goes on because Nigerians have got used to living without the National Assembly is blamed on the National Assembly. We will like to take responsibility for where we go wrong but what we certainly will not take responsibility for is the failure of others. If others fail let them take responsibility. Where we fail we will take responsibility. We are willing and we’ve always been the weeping boys of Nigerian politics. We will continue to take the weeping but we will not be the scapegoats for anybody. We will not be the excuse for anybody not to have done his or her duty’’, he said.
Mark noted that there was an exaggeration of the rift between the Executive and the Legislature.
He said that the two arms of government were all working for Nigeria but argued that “the legislators are the elected representatives of the people so we wear the shoes and know where they hurt most. I think people should listen to us.”
Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, apparently regarded the gains of the cooperation of the two arms as outweighing their disagreements as he noted that they had worked very cordially and would continue to operate in this way for the development of the country and the strengthening of the nation’s democracy.
At the second anniversary of NTA Star Times yesterday in Abuja, the Senate President stated that as regards budget implementation, both the Executive and the Legislature should not begin to preach about percentage, but should worry more about how these percentages had translated into realities on ground.
He said: “When we talk of whether we have implemented the budget to 56 or 21 percent, the man who is walking on the street in Nigeria is not interested in those figures, but rather wants to be employed and wants to see that there are critical infrastructure on the ground for him to utilise.”
According him: “The intricacies and mechanisms that result into this are not truly the problem of the ordinary Nigerian. He wants to eat three square meals in his house, he wants to have steady power supply. The intricacies and the road both the Executive and the Legislature will take for these things to happen are truly not his problem and he is not interested. So we should not begin to preach about percentage, we should worry more about how these percentages have translated into realities on ground.”
According to Mark, the media play a key role in the democratic governance and a bigger role in deepening democracy, calling on the media to work to ensure that democracy develops and stabilizes in the country.
The President of the Senate called on the NTA to ensure quality programmes in its presentations .
Noting the cooperation between the Executive and Legislature, Maku said: “We are working together, no matter what the public may think…”
Maku observed that the programme of reform of the economy by the administration was attracting global attention, adding that due to those reforms and consistency of leadership, the country had received the highest Direct Foreign Investment in Africa.
“It will take time for our people to fully understand the revolutionary trends that have taken place in the key sectors of the economy like the telecoms, power. About 79 investors from different parts of the world have expressed interest to invest in the nation’s power sector,” he said.
Also, the Vice Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Mashood Mustapha has said that the disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government over alleged haphazard implementation of this year’s budget by the Executive was not designed to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan but to make the nation compete favourably with other countries of the world.
Mustapha said the House of Representatives had by that action put the president on guard, adding that, “we have only put the president on the guard; that is the difference between democracy and autocracy.”
The legislator representing Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency, however, warned : “If the president fails to implement the budget, Nigeria is governed by a constitution and article of impeachment is very clear. If the president decides he doesn’t want the job again, then he may look the other way without going in line with the advice and directive of the National Assembly, then everybody knows the consequence.”
Mustapha, who spoke to reporters yesterday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, added: “We only pointed out that there is a particular clause that can actually be used if the 2012 budget is not implemented substantially. We have looked at the budget, which is a law and it is binding on all to abide by. Now that we have this law it must be followed religiously, but for some people to decide to do selective implementation of the budget is against the law.”
Besides, the opposition Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has described the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s call on House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to resign following his call for the impeachment of Jonathan as hypocritical and blackmailing politics of the ruling party.
The party noted in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja that it was highly subjective and utterly illogical for the PDP South-West leadership to call for the resignation of Gbajabiamila on account of his indictment by the state of Georgia’s Bar for professional misconduct, adding that the call came on the heels of the recent motion by the house opposition leader on the floor of the Lower legislative House, for the commencement of impeachment proceedings on Jonathan should he fail to implement the 2012budget by September this year.
The statement, which was signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin noted that the ruling party felt rattled by the call and believed that, like it had always been with this PDP-led Federal Government, the messenger of a good message must be smeared and vanquished even if there was no justifiable basis of it.
The party which questioned the moral right of the South West members of the PDP to call for the resignation of their colleague at the House of Representatives warned that the call was part of the PDP’s attempt to dash the hope of ensuring scrupulous implementation of the 2012 budget which ACN members comments may have raised.
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