Four months after the Presidency reluctantly assented to the 2017 budget based on what it called ‘significant distortions by the National Assembly’, another major conflict between the two arms of government is brewing. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and President Muhammadu Buhari Vanguard learned from authoritative sources, last night, that the source of the dispute is fuelled by the prolonged delay by the National Assembly to approve virement of funds for key national projects, which the executive considers crucial in growing the economy and boosting infrastructure and development across the country.
A top official of the administration said the Executive was pained by the fact that the Senate did not approve the N135 billion virement request sent to it late July by then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, before the senators proceeded on vacation, only for the lawmakers to resume last week and summon some ministers for questioning over what they called ‘poor implementation’ of the budget.
The official said the prolonged silence of the lawmakers on the virement request, which had been with them for over two months, was unhelpful for the execution of the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Mambilla Hydroelectric, Railways, and several other projects.
“You can see that each of these projects has specific timelines and was allocated specific amounts in the budget, which, for inexplicable reasons, were slashed by the National Assembly and re-allocated to some insignificant programmes not contemplated by the Federal Government.
“It is on record that they all agreed in series of rapprochement meetings with the Executive to withdraw the ‘pocket projects’ and approve the movement of the funds to the projects originally captured by the Federal Government in the budget.
“What we are seeing now is worrisome and not in the spirit of the gentleman’s agreement reached by the two sides before the distorted budget was assented to by the Presidency in June and Nigerians must be made to know what is going on,” the top official pointed out.
Last week, the Senate questioned the duo of Finance and Budget ministers, Kemi Adeosun and Udoma Udo Udoma, on the implementation of the budget so far and raised alarm that not much had been done, with only a few months to the end of the year.
After grilling the ministers, the virement letter from the Presidency which was tabled for consideration and approval was met with stiff opposition by many of the lawmakers who insisted that the Presidency ought to have come by way of supplementary budget, and not virement.