‘Osinbajo would assent to Budget according to laid-down procedure’
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday received this year’s Appropriation Bill passed last week by the National Assembly. Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, presented the document to Osinbajo in a closed-door session at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking with newsmen after the presentation, Enang said the Acting President would assent to it after the laid down procedure may have been concluded. Apparently reacting to earlier speculations over who would sign the budget, the presidential aide clarified that the Acting President has the power to assent to it and assured that Osinbajo would assent to it when the processes are completed.
This is contrary to his earlier statement that President Muhammadu Buhari would assent to the Bill, not Osinbajo. Recall that Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akande, had on Wednesday, May 17, said his principal would sign the budget into law.
“Just so we are clear: when the time comes, everything is set, and he is satisfied, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 budget,” Akande had said.
But Enang countered in an interview on Channels Television’s political programme, Politics Today: “The President will assent to the budget. The Acting President is in office and when the budget is transmitted, it will go through the process and all those other questions will answer themselves.”
Also speaking to State House Correspondents on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said there was no decision yet on who will assent to the budget.
He stated: “When it (budget) is transmitted to the Presidency, that decision will be taken.” All these discordant tunes suggested a subliminal ploy by some Presidency aides, allegedly working to undermine the authority of the Acting President, which continued to receive criticisms from across the political divide.
However, Enang yesterday said: “The Acting President has the power to assent to the budget. In February, he assented to seven or eight Bills. “Those that he didn’t agree with, he wrote the Senate and House of Representatives that he had withheld his assent from them.
“He has the power of the President to assent to it. But the assent to the Appropriation Bill will be after the completion of the standard operation process. “The Bill has 30 days within which it will be assented to, but the process can be completed within two or three days.
“So, it is not possible to say it will be assented to in so, so and so day or in two or three days. “It is upon the completion of the process that it will be assented to by the President and the President here now is the Acting President.”
The budget, first presented in December last year before the two chambers of the National Assembly- the Senate and House of Representatives- by the President, had an estimate of N7.28 trillion, but was raised to N7.44 trillion by the federal lawmakers.
Details of the budget showed that N434.4 billion was appropriated for statutory transfers to the National Judicial Council (N100billion); Niger Delta Development Commission (N64.02billion); Universal Basic Education (N95.2billion); National Assembly (N125billion); Public Complaints Commission (N4billion); Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC (N45billion); and National Human Rights Commission (N1.2billion).
Notwithstanding the absence of Buhari, Osinbajo had on Wednesday vowed to immediately go ahead and sign the Appropriation Bill into law when it is transmitted to the Presidency for assent.
This came as strong speculations emerged that presidential assent to the budget may be delayed due to the absence of Buhari, who is away on a medical follow-up in London, United Kingdom (UK).
The Senate last week passed the fiscal document for subsequent transmission to the President, but there have been discordant tunes about who signs the budget into law when it finally gets to the Executive for assent.
Meanwhile, the Acting President on Thursday signed three executive orders aimed to significantly improve the ways government business and operations are conducted in the country.
He explained that his action was in accordance with the presidential authorities vested in the executive arm of government. In a statement issued by Akande after he signed the executive orders at the Presidential Villa, Osinbajo gave specific instructions on a number of policy issues that would affect, among others, the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in the country; timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies, including companies owned by the Federal Government; and support for local contents in public procurement by the Federal Government.