Members of the House of Representatives have restated their readiness to re-examine the controversial 2016 budget in line with the House resolution of Wednesday last week.
However, they said President Muhammadu Buhari should still send a formal letter to the National Assembly on his areas of disagreements with the budget passed on March 23 by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Findings by The PUNCH on Sunday showed that the general feeling among members was that Buhari would still have to comply with the provisions of Section 59 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to formalise any peace moves to rework the budget.
The House had last week delegated the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, to meet with Buhari with a view to reaching a common ground on the contentious areas in the budget.
Buhari was away to China when the resolution was passed.
However, the Speaker reportedly interfaced with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, where the latter transmitted a list of “grey areas” to him.
Dogara is expected to brief members on the outcome of the interface during plenary on Tuesday (tomorrow).
However, The PUNCH learnt that members held the view that whatever was the outcome of the interface between Osinbajo and Dogara did not override the constitutional requirement that the President should formally notify the National Assembly on why he withheld his assent to the N6.06tn budget.
One official said, “The fact of sending the Speaker to meet with the Presidency does not overtake the constitutional provisions. The Speaker may just get information on what really the issues are and relay to members, but overall, a letter must still come from Mr. President officially.”
The Speaker could not be reached by The PUNCH on Sunday, but senior National Assembly officials who did not want to be quoted, admitted that he indeed received a “list of items” from the Presidency.
Opposition party members told The PUNCH on Sunday that the House was not interested in fighting with Buhari over the budget.
They stated that members were ready to accommodate any changes that he might bring, so long as they served the national interest.
For example, the Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, said the House would welcome changes on the budget from Buhari, but quickly clarified that the President should conform with constitutional provisions.
Ogor added, “Section 59 is very clear; it says Mr. President has to give his reasons why he is returning the budget. We have not received any formal footnotes from him as we speak. So, he will be required to forward to us his reasons for not signing.
“If the reasons are justifiable, we will look at the budget again, but if we see that there are really no issues, we will override his veto and the budget becomes law.
“But, like I said, this is not a crisis and we should not allow it to become a crisis.
“The summary is that whatever interventions that have taken place will have to come to the National Assembly by way of footnotes from Mr. President. “
The PUNCH gathered that, in the “items” that reportedly came from Osinbajo, the executive sought to have “the distortions” in the budget corrected.
“The point made is that the executive wants most of the provisions of the budget retained the way they came from Mr. President.
“This will still not alter the total budget size of N6.06tn.
“There were projects that did not originally come from the executive, but were introduced into the budget by the Committee on Appropriation at the National Assembly, while those the executive brought were dropped. This issue too has to be corrected,” another official told The PUNCH.
It was further gathered that among the lawmakers, most of the “lopsided” projects injected into the budget by the Committee on Appropriation to the exclusion of other constituencies, would be re-adjusted.