By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Emeka Odom, Kunle Olasanmi, Abuja, MSUE AZA, Kaduna and OLAJIDE FABAMISE, OLUSHOLA BELLO, KAYODE TOKEDE, BUKOLA IDOWU, Lagos
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is set to assent to the 2017 budget, as the presidency clarified yesterday that he has the constitutional powers to sign the appropriation bill.
This is just as budget passed by the National Assembly two weeks ago was transmitted to the acting president yesterday.
The special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang, disclosed this to State House correspondents.
Clarifying on reports raising issues as to who will sign the budget, Enang said as the acting president, Osinbajo has the constitutional powers to sign the budget.
He said, “The budget as passed by the National Assembly has just been transmitted to the Acting President. I just delivered it. Let me use this opportunity to clarify an issue. The acting president has the power to assent to the budget and he will assent to it when the processes are completed.
“The Acting President has the power to assent to the budget. In February, he assented to 7 or 8 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”.
Hinting that after the completion of the budget process, the acting president will assent to the bill, the presidential aide was, however, not specific on the day Osinbajo will sign it.
“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 completipn of the process that it will be assented to by the president and the president here now is the acting president”, he added
Meanwhile, legal experts in the country have corroborated the position of presidency that Acting President Osinbajo has the legal backing to sign the budget.
Renowned human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) told LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday that there should be no controversy over who should sign the budget.
According to him, the controversy over who should sign the budget was needless.
Ozekhome said, “There should be no controversy at all because before the president travelled abroad for medicals, he handed over properly to his deputy through a letter to the Senate.
“The letter suffers some irregularities in terms of drafting but the president specifically mentioned section 145 of the 1999 constitution. The President did not remove anything from Section 145 in his letter to the Senate.
“The section said the vice president automatically becomes the acting president. As the acting president, he assumes the power to sign budget, preside over Federal Executive Council Meeting, National Council of State meetings and so on.
“What we have is an acting executive president. He will be in that capacity until the president returns and, through another letter, tells the Senate that he is back and ready to resume work”.
Another Abuja based lawyer, Mr Ismaila Alasa, shared the views expressed by Ozekhome when he said there should be no confusion over who should sign the budget.
“No, there should be no controversy since he is in acting capacity. He has the full rights and powers of the president. People are just trying to make issue out of what should not generate any controversy”, he noted.
Mr Joseph Ibekwe, president and national coordinator of Kingdom Impact Network (KIN), reiterated the need for the acting president to sign the past budget into law as soon as possible.
According to him, “if Professor Yemi Osinbajo is the acting president of Nigeria, as we know it as at today, then it is his responsibility to sign the budget, that is one of the functions that define his office as acting president. That is the position of our laws”.
Osinbajo Has All Presidential Powers To Sign Budget – ACF
Also, the apex Northern socio-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has warned those trying to cause confusion with the issue of budget signing to desist, saying Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has all the presidential powers to sign the 2017 budget in President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence.
Speaking in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Kaduna, ACF spokesman, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has done what the constitution requires by handing over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as acting president and the Senate has confirmed that.
“Acting president therefore has all the constitutional powers to perform the duties of the president. Anybody saying otherwise is ignorant of the constitution and should stop causing confusion. The acting president should not be distracted” ACF maintained.
Meanwhile, Industry stakeholders have reacted to the 2017 budget which was transmitted to Acting President Yemi Osibajo by the National Assembly yesterday.
The Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadri, commended the legislature over speedy effort put in place to ensure that the budget was finally passed to the acting president for assent.
The DG who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend in a telephone conversation in Lagos, urged the acting president to quickly sign the budget to speed up recovery of the economy.
“It is what we have been waiting for in our sector, it will go a long way to resolve various challenges facing the manufacturers”, he said.
He called for proper implementations of the budget so that other sectors can find their level of ease in doing business.
Also speaking, the Director General of NACCIMA, Barr. Emmanuel Cobham, said that there was no controversy in governance since the budget has been passed to the appropriate person.
Economic analysts, Mr. Tunde Oyediran said, “Though I have not seen the details of the budget, but our expectations are high”.
According to Oyediran, we want to see budget allocations to agriculture, education, health and other sectors of the economy. We want to see their allocations to capital projects vis a vis recurrent expenditure.
The managing director of Highcap Securities Limited, Mr. David Adonri, said since the year was already far spent, the budget cannot make meaningful impact on the economy.
Analysts have also said they expect that Vice President Osinbajo will effect a speedy passage of the bill, as it is key to the implementation of the Economic Recovery Growth plan.
Managing Director of Cowry Assets Management Company Limited, Johnson Chukwu, said he was expecting the VP to accent to the budget by next week in line with his recent statement that he will work on the budget and ensure the passage as soon he gets it.
He said, “I believe the budget should be signed early next week. I don’t think the VP will want to start splitting hair with the National Assembly over the amendments that they effected in the budget because we are too far gone in the year.
“It wouldn’t make a logical sense for us to start going back and forth when we are almost at the half of the year but what the acting president should do is sign the budget. If there are areas of disagreements, he should send an amendment to the Assembly to amend those sections of the budget that he thinks are implementable. The key thing is that we should get started. We should start the economic plan of the government for this year”.
On her own part, a Research Analyst at Afrinvest West Africa, Obianuju Nofor, stated that for the country to achieve the desired economic growth for 2017, the speedy passage of the Budget was crucial.
He said, “Looking at the ERGP, we are looking at a 2.6 per cent growth in 2017 and in order to achieve that we need to pass the budget like yesterday so it’s a good thing for the economy.
“Let’s just hope that everything that is budgeted for in the plan is actually implemented. It is key to achieving the Economic growth plan because if you look at the plan, it has a focus on agriculture it has a focus on the power sector, and other key sectors of the economy.
“We need to put in money into these sectors so that we can see the trickledown effect and thereby boost production in the economy.