The Presidency has explained why President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2022 budget despite alterations of the estimates by the National Assembly.
The President, who signed the budget on Friday, expressed concern at the introduction of 6,576 new schemes worth N37 billion in the budget by the parliament.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, who made the clarification in a statement issued on Sunday, noted that although Buhari disagreed with the National Assembly over the changes made in the budget, he was not in conflict with the lawmakers.
He said: “Given Mr. President’s commitment to improving the lot of the common man, it was felt that it would not be wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
“Mr. President was clear and candid in expressing his reservations with the numerous changes to the 2022 budget made by the National Assembly, which would hamper its implementation.
However, to respond to critics that question why assent to the budget if it was so severely tampered with, we wish to respond as follows:
“Need to Save Value-Additive Projects, Programs & Policies:
“Although over 10,733 projects were reduced and 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly, there are tens of thousands more provisions in the 2022 budget, all of which, when efficiently and effectively implemented, will have a significant developmental impact on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians.
“Ongoing Capital Projects, Critical Recurrent Votes, Priority New Projects – all featured in the 2022 budget and Mr. President’s forbearance in assenting to the budget will save these provisions from implementation delays and other challenges.
“President Buhari is a democrat who deeply believes in the supremacy of the Constitution, with its checks and balances across the three arms of government.”
The presidential aide insisted that disagreements amongst the arms of government were normal and would lead to actionable plans to better the economy.
Shehu added: “While we note that there are people who are trying to create a fiasco between the two arms of government on account of the budget, we assure that they will, in the end, be disappointed.
“The Executive and the 9th National Assembly have since moved away from the wild, destructive political games of the past, conducting themselves in a way that puts national interest supreme in their decisions.
“We doubt if there is a patriotic citizen who wants to see the return of the operating environment engendered by the 8th Senate when an elected government was held in chains, held hostage to the desperate political ambitions of a clique, and the public denied needed services including that which impinged on national security.
“Happily, the 9th National Assembly is more about policy than politics. Under the constitution, both arms of government are coequal and at the same time, independent and interdependent. The rule of the game is cooperation and the President, as a democrat fully accepts this.
“Indeed, if Mr. President had declined assent to the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly has powers to override the President’s veto if they can drum up a 2/3 majority vote. This is the constitution.
“Happily, this situation has not arisen during the tenure of Mr. President’s administration, and the Executive’s relationship with the Leadership of the 9th National Assembly is much improved over what happened with the 8th National Assembly.
“It is on account of his confidence in the strength of this excellent working relationship that Mr. President has directed that an Amendment of Budget Proposal should be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly, once they return from their recess.
“It is hoped that the National Assembly will carefully consider and approve the 2022 Amendment Budget Proposals, once presented to them in due course, for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“It is important therefore that, in place of ‘anger’ or confrontation, President Buhari showed the democracy-loving side of his personality as he signed the budget at the same time calling for dialogue with the parliament to resolve the contentious issues.
“The Presidency under Muhammadu Buhari and the parliament under Ahmad Lawal and Femi Gbajabiamila are committed to a good neighbourly relationship and this or any other disagreement between the two arms of government will not alter the dynamics of that relationship.”