The failure of the President Goodluck Jonathan to present the 2014 budget proposal of the Federal Government to the National Assembly yesterday has been surrounded by controversies as some do not believe the official explanation.
In his letter to the two chambers, Jonathan cited differences in the oil benchmark agreed by the Senate and the House of Representatives as reason for his decision.
It was the second time in two weeks that the President would postpone the presentation.
However, some have suggested security or other considerations for the President’s to be the reason of hist failure to present the budget. Sources alleged an orchestrated plan by loyalists of the Kawu Baraje-led faction of the PDP and opposition members of the Assembly to give the President a hostile reception during the presentation.
But Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communications, Dr. Doyin Okupe, denounced this idea and kept to the official dictum of the presidency on differences on benchmark. Dr. Okupe said:
“We trust that this pragmatic approach will be appreciated and wholesomely well received by the distinguished senators and Hon members of the National Assembly. “It is in this light that we unequivocally debunk insinuations in some sections of the media that the President boycotted the National Assembly today for security reasons or that government has anything to hide on the budget issue.”
Senators and members of the House of Reps were split on the reasons given by the President on his request for a new date.
Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano) insisted yesterday that disagreements on the oil benchmark between the two chambers never stopped presentation of budget proposals in the past.
Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Rep. Zakari Mohammed (PDP, Kwara), however, denied any orchestrated plan by the legislators to embarrass the President.
He, a loyalist of the President and principal officer in the House, was nonetheless critical of the division in the House, saying yesterday:
“We warned them, (mainstream PDP) then that they should not disrupt the Kawu Baraje-led group when they came visiting. “What these people want to do now is to ensure they get their pound of flesh.” And then added: “What Mr. President has done is morally wrong because this is the first time a hale and hearty president has failed to perform this traditional rite.” On the other hand, constitutionally, he is at liberty to send a representative to make the presentation on his behalf.
Vanguard gathered that in the last three days Speaker Aminu Tambuwal had been practically pleading with critical elements in the House to ensure a smooth reception of Jonathan.
At one of the meetings on Monday evening between the Speaker and some members, it was learnt that members had fumed that they only approved the 2013 budget after pleas from the Speaker but that the President has failed to meet their expectations in implementation. The meeting could not assuage the members, many of who are aligned to the Baraje-led nPDP, and they insisted on having their pound of flesh.
“We will rather go ahead and do it our way this time, no matter whose ox is gored.”
Tambuwal’s action flowed from the failure of the presidency to appoint a substantive Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters following the removal of Senator Joy Emodi, who in the past had helped calm the angst of the legislators and prepared the grounds for smooth receptions for the President.