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JUMBO PAY: PRESIDENCY, N'ASSEMBLY ON WARPATH

By NBF News
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The Presidency and the National Assembly may be on collision course over proposals by the former to freeze overheads as from 2015 fiscal year. The proposals, which are contained in the 2012-2015 Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) were fall-outs of a meeting held last weekend between the Presidency, the economic team and Committee chairmen in the National Assembly, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The lawmakers were reportedly furious that having publicly announced a cut in its overheads for the 2012 fiscal year by 40 per cent last year, the Presidency has since kept mum on the percentage cut of its overheads.

The issue, however, resurfaced at penultimate Monday's parley with the National Assembly.

The committee chairmen, Daily Sun learnt, insisted that the coordinating minister for the economy and Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced the percentage cut of overheads in the Presidency.

Okonjo-Iweala, Daily Sun learnt, balked at releasing the overhead spendings of the Presidency, a development which made the lawmakers to become restive as they voiced their disapproval.

President Goodluck Jonathan was present at the meeting, which was coordinated by his economic team, led by the Finance Minister.

Defending figures and proposals contained in the MTEF, Okonjo-Iweala allegedly told the lawmakers that it has become necessary to reduce government expenditure with a freeze on overheads.

Three committee chairmen, who attended the parley but pleaded not to be mentioned, recounted how the Finance Minister 'talked about the need to curb expenditure by cutting down on overheads and how the country needed to shift focus from recurrent to capital projects.

'The minister gave figures of overhead spendings by the Legislature and other arms of government. When it came to the turn of the Presidency, the minister wanted to give the overheads expenditure of the State House but we demanded specific overheads incurred by the Presidency.'

At this point, the lawmakers reported that the Finance Minister kept quiet. 'She evaded the question.

'Instead of the minister to give us details of the percentage of the Presidency overheads in relation to the N4.6 trillion budget approved for 2011, she promised to send the overheads of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to the National Assembly. She said she would send it to us ministry by ministry.'

Back in the National Assembly, lawmakers resolved to get the details or 'the 2012 budget will not be approved.

'The NASS has publicly announced its overheads cut by as much as 40 per cent. The Presidency must tell Nigerians how much its overhead is and by how many percentage it is willing to cut or has cut, as the case may be.'

Another strategy, it was gathered, is to wait for the presentation of the new budget after which lawmakers would demand the details of the overheads cut.

Details of that cut would likely guide the overheads freeze beginning from 2015, it was also learnt.

In a review of the Monday's parley, some lawmakers were reportedly still fuming over the meeting, which has been described as 'unnecessary and a waste of time'.

'At the end of the meeting, nothing concrete was achieved. We still don't have details of the oil subsidy and which critical sector of the economy would benefit from its removal.

'The meeting only showed that the NASS is angry with the Presidency on its proposal to withdraw oil subsidy as from 2012,' said another Senator from the North-west.