Budget impasse: Government may shut down in June

Posted by News Express | 18 April 2016 | 2,578 times

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For the first time, governance may shut down unless either President Muhammadu Buhari or the National Assembly blinks early enough over the 2016 budget.

Sources in the polity had noted that this would be the first time such a development would happen, as the Constitution only gives the executive power to spend 50 per cent of the previous year’s budget for six months in the absence of a new budget.

A Presidency source, however, insisted that President Buhari would not assent the budget as passed.

Though the House of Representatives had made its intention known to review the budget if it received complaints from the executive, the Senate said last week, that it was only awaiting a supplementary budget in case the executive had objections to the passed budget.

That could be a source of potential government shutdown, as the government cannot spend any money legally after June.

A source close to the Presidential Villa said: “Buhari will not sign that Appropriation Bill into law and he has already made his intention known to the assemblymen.

“He has been consulting widely with both legal and political associates on how to deal with the situation. A former leader even met with him shortly before he left for China.

“The president has so far relied on the constitutional provision, which allows him to spend up to 50 per cent of the previous year’s budget, but that could snap if the crisis is not resolved by end of June.

“And if the worst should happen and the National Assembly refuses to rework the budget proposal, the government will rather shut down than for him to allow the old forces of retrogression to have their way and humiliate him.”

Sources in the executive said the flagship projects by which Buhari intended to convince Nigerians that his administration meant well, were removed or distorted.

A contentious one remains the new standard gauge rail lines between Lagos and Calabar. It was expunged by the National Assembly on the argument that it was not in the final corrected copy submitted by The Presidency but sent later to the budget committee by Transportation Minister Chibuike Amaechi .

It was learnt that at the emergency Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held to review the budget as passed by the National Assembly, there was a consensus to reject the document and return it to the lawmakers.

Sources in the executive also said the decision to resist the legislature on the budget was taken, pursuant to the advice given by the legal minds within the administration who were of the view that the legislature did not have the right to increase budgetary votes.

They also claimed that the legislature could, however, reduce proposals if they believed that there was price inflation or if the projects were frivolous.

A source said: “But how can they inject new projects or raise the figures? Do they have the capacity to commission consultants to design projects? And if projects have not been designed by the executive, how can they vote money for it?

“Actually, President Buhari feels that there are some elements within and outside the National Assembly determined to distort his lofty intentions to emancipate Nigerians.”

•Adapted from a Nigerian Tribune report. Photo shows President Buhari presenting the budget to the National Assembly last December.


Source: News Express

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