Jonathan identifies budgeting as major source of friction between executive and legislators *FG owes N185b in judgment debt
Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday identified budgeting as a major source of friction between the Executive arm and the legislative arm, saying for democracy to be meaningful in Nigeria, government must have a budget to manage the economy.
Speaking at the Democracy Day National Symposium with the theme “Our Democracy: Progress and Challenges” held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja under the Chairmanship of Former Secretary General of Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the president said, as part of the efforts to end the annual squabble between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government over budget appropriation, the Federal Government had once thought of approaching the Supreme Court for interpretation on whose prerogative it was to prepare budget.
He also said for the nation’s democracy to yield dividends, the legislative and executive arms of government must work together for the good of democracy.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal who also addressed the forum accused the executive arm of shunning the responsibility of assenting to bills passed by the legislature, saying this has been a challenge to lawmakers.
Both arms have always been at war over budget appropriation since the return of democracy in 1999, as the National Assembly always tinker with the actual amount planned to spend by the Federal Government. In most cases, the National Assembly always increases the budget and to express displeasure, the President always withhold assent thereby delaying the implementation of the budget.
Vice President, Namadi Sambo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, were part of the audience at the National Symposium.
Representative of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghie, former President Shehu Shagari, former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and members of Diplomatic corps.
Also present were Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur, former Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Col. Kayode Are, Chief Edwin Clark, President of the guild of Editors, Mr Gbenga Adefaye amongst many others.
Jonathan in his remark noted that for democracy to be meaningful, government must have a budget to manage the economy. He however said budgeting has always been a source friction between the Executive arm and the legislative.
He noted that every time the budget is sent to the National Assembly for approval, it is always distorted and this does not go down well with the federal government who had prepared it according to needs and resources available.
The President noted that the situation got to point in 2008 when the federal government wanted to approach the apex court for interpretation on the budget appropriation.
“For democracy to be meaningful to this country and for us not to have conflict and for us to render good service, we must have budget, budget is a law, the constitution said the executive must have a budget for you to be able to plan and manage the economy of the country. If you send your budget to NASS and they tear it to piece and package what they like to you, you start planning and managing the economy, we have challenges every year.
“When we came in 2007, our budget in 2008, we even want to go to court, so that the supreme court tell us if it is the duty of the NASS to plan the economy, let them do the budget, hand over to us, we implement but if it is our duty, then they should listen to us, because the executive arm of government has a ministry for planning and finance and work with CBN. Budgets are not created from the moon, it is based on projections, commitments and funding and what you see sometimes could be disturbing, this has been a major conflict between National Assembly and the Executive, the speaker mentioned it, that is why I am raising it, these are little things if both arms of government work together. My plea is legislative and the executive arms of government of the same political party must work together must work together for democracy to be meaningful to Nigerians,” he said.
The President also disclosed that the Federal Government was owing N185 billion due to decisions it was pushed to take that became counter- productive as a result of aggrieved parties that went to court to challenge its decisions.
According to him, “One other area is that we are still confused between the democratic government and military dictatorship, if we must practice democracy, no matter how bad you feel about any situation, you must follow the rule of law. When an elected President ceases to follow the rule of law, as we are talking now, we have about N185 billion judgment debt for this country, most of them because of decisions taken by government not properly thought through, but because people push you to take such decisions, when people go to court, the government is being fined, I have told Attorney General that we must stop this.
“Nigerians should encourage us to follow rule of law to get to where you want to go, we will follow the rule of law in our transformation programme and as we progress.”
He also noted that the administration has tried, saying “in any government, the first year is more of a planning year, for you to succeed you must plan, we have planned and carry out a number of programme which I believe Nigerians will agree with us that we have tried.”