By Egena Sunday Ode
President Mohammadu Buhari at the weekend dismissed insinations that the National Assembly had become a mere rubber stamp to the Executive arm of government.
According to him, the fact that his administration had a cordial relationship with the legislature does not in any way suggest a compromise on the part of the lawmakers as being speculated in some quarters.
The President said the robust relationship between the two arms of government was due to the commitment of his leadership to serve the Nigerian people and the determination of the legislators in the National Assembly to live up to expectations in their duty to serve the Nigerian people.
“The executive arm of government has always partnered with the members of the National Assembly especially the 9th Assembly as demonstrated by their actions in terms of expeditious passages of bills as well as screening of nominees for various appointments,” the President said.
President Buhari also pointed out that the symbiotic partnership was the outcome of a camaraderie aimed to deliver on services to Nigerians generally.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) Umar El-Yakub, spoke to newsmen following last Friday’s signing into law the revised N10.8 trillion budget for the year 2020 passed by the National Assembly in June.
The parliament had in June passed an revised the budget for 2020 as Nigeria tackles the new coronavirus pandemic and a sharp fall in the price of oil–Nigeria’s biggest source of revenue from export.
The budget, which was proposed by the federal government sought to reduce Nigeria’s 2020 budget from N10.6 trillion to N10.5 trillion, was, however, increased by the lawmakers.
But the budget was increased to N10.8 billion, higher than the initial approved budget in December 2019.
The liaison spoke to State House Correspondents against the backdrop of fears that the parliament under the ninth Assembly was tilting towards becoming a rubber stamp to the executive.
He said, “I believe Nigerians voted members of the National Assembly to represent their interest and to work for their betterment as well as to make laws that will be for the good governance and order for the country. And in order to ensure that happens, the National Assembly certainly needs the executive arm of government because it is indeed the arm that implement those laws that have been passed by the National Assembly.
“As you have witnessed, the signing of the 2020 repeal and amendments bill is one of those the National Assembly looked at expeditiously because it is an amendment that was necessitated by the circumstances of the moment, that is, the pandemic which also caused a serious strain on the economy in terms of the revenue that are generated as well as other benchmarking indices.
“Ao, to that extent, you find out that the national assembly is rising to the expectations of Nigerians partnering with the executive to deliver on services to the Nigerian people and for me that is responsibility, that is partnering in nation building and indeed that is what they have been elected to do.
“So, for one to suggest that they are being rubber stamped, even the executive actually recognizes and appreciates the independence of the various arms of government as you are all aware.
“Mr President is someone that believes in the rule of law and he allows processes to take precedence and therefore whatever is due by law to engage the National Assembly, this government has always been very proactive in doing that and also we appreciate the relationship because they have also demonstrated in many ways than one that they are committed to serving the Nigerian people.
“This is clearly one of those times that when we presented the amendment which by the way we have always interacted even before from the executive arm with the legislature to carry them along.
“This is something that hadn’t been going on with other assemblies. Perhaps, that is why Nigerians thought they are just approving, passing bills or screening nominees but the reality is that they are carried along in the whole process.
“I am sure you are aware that as early as the minister of finance, budget and National planning as well as the budget office engaged the leadership in discussing the MFTEF 2021-2023 FSP which has been the norm because every time government is intending to present any bill to the NASS, the leadership and membership are engaged in the initial process, so as make it more seamless in terms of their considerations of such government initiatives
On why the budget was increased, El-Yakub revealed that some parameters we’re critically considered.
He explained that the 2020 budget was benchmarked at $25 per barrel of crude oil while the new amended budget is at $28 per barrel.
“So, because of that you can see there is bit of an increase in revenue and thank God also the price of oil from then, even though the initial benchmark was at 53, there has been a leap recently in the price of oil and even though the production benchmark was reduced from 1.9 million barrels to 1.8 million barrels per day but certainly because of the increment in projections as far as the cost of oil is concerned some monies were realized and projected to be realized.
“In addition to that, one needs to understand that the whole essence of the review is to prioritize government projects to the extent that projects that will certainly address infrastructure and ginger the economy more as well as address health issues, concerns because of the pandemic, Investments are made in those regards and certainly you know that there are palliatives that had been initiated by the federal government in the phases of implementation.
“All those necessitated these new look at the budget, so as to free certain amounts of money hitherto appropriated for certain projects which in the circumstances are not as expedient to prioritize but looked at other infrastructure that need prioritization so as to address the pandemic and the difficulties that it has brought to the lives of Nigerians.