2013 amended budget: Reps summon Okonjo Iweala over ‘collapse of economy in September’

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House of Representatives yesterday asked the  Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to appear before it over her assertion that the economy will  collapse in September if the National Assembly failed to approve the 2013 Budget amendment bill sent to it by President Goodluck Jonathan.

It said the minister’s claim could not be swept under the carpet because it had grave consequence on the well being of the country. The minister was quoted as saying during a radio programme that  the incumbent administration may not be able to pay workers salaries if the lingering problems with the amended budget were not resolved quickly .

She said: “We have been able to implement the budget to a state that we now discovered that there has to be some amendment. So, Mr President sent the amendments to the National Assembly. I think we can continue for a little while longer; we need the amendment to pass because come September or October we may not be able to pay salaries.

“One important part of the amendment is the salary that was moved out of that category to other subheads, which has to be restored: We need to restore N36billion for salary that was carried out so that the country will not shut down.”

President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded a bill amending the earlier 2013 budget of N4.987 trillion to the National Assembly in March. The House, penultimate Wednesday rejected the amendment, claiming that the President was not precise on areas in the budget that he was seeking amendment.

However, President Jonathan forwarded a fresh budget amendment bill on Wednesday, listing the areas that should be amended. Faulting the views of the minister, Samson Osagie, in a motion  under matters of national importance, accused Okonjo Iweala of raising false alarm . He argued that the minister was deliberately inciting the public against the National Assembly.

He said: “ The House notes with regrets, the assertion by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala to the effect that the nation will shut down by September 2013 if the National Assembly fails to pass the so called 2013 budget amendments.

“This assertion is intended not only to blackmail the National Assembly in the performance of its constitutional mandate but also to incite Nigerian workers against a legitimate and most important institution of government – the National Assembly.

“ Aware that there is a subsisting and valid appropriation Act duly signed into law by the President, which is the operating budget for the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the financial year 2013.”

He accused the executive of deliberately delaying the full implementation of the budget, alleging that the minister of finance had insulted the National Assembly with her comment.

“ Further aware that from available reports, the executive organ of government is deliberately delaying or exercising undue tardiness in the implementation of the 2013 budget . “Disturbed that pendency of an amended budget proposals before the legislature is not an excuse for non implementation of the substantive budget.

“Worried that the minister of finance had consistently insulted the sensibilities of the institution of the National Assembly through her constant umbrage and blackmail of this institution.” He said the executive must implement the budget passed into law and stop diverting the attention of the public from its failings.

Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session agreed that the comment by the minister should not be swept under the carpet. He directed  the committees on Finance , Appropriation and Legislative Compliance  to invite her and find out if indeed she made the comment. Though no date was set for the summon, the committees were asked to report back to the committee on Tuesday next week.

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