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LEGISREPORTS EDITORIAL: AS USUAL, ITS WE VERSUS THEM

LEGISREPORTS NG: The imbroglio over the 2013 appropriation bill once again reinforces the gross disregard the ruling elite have for the ruled. The irony of the matter that rankles to no end is the claim by both feuding parties – the executive and the legislature- that their rather unyielding posture is in the interest of Nigerians. Yes indeed!

It will be recalled that Nigeria’s bicameral legislature passed an appropriation bill that was N63 billion higher than the N4,924 trillion submitted by president Goodluck Jonathan in October 2012. The variation in the final figure is just one of the areas of differences between the executive and the national assembly as far as the appropriation bill is concerned.

Others are the crude oil benchmark- while the president submitted $75 per barrel the lawmakers adopted $79 per barrel- and the removal or refusal of the national assembly to approve funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among other beyond-the-surface disagreements.

And reports on the seeming impasse on the vital budget bill so far indicates that the feud between both arms of government has festered mainly because of those under-the-table conflicts. While the presidency has given the impression that senators and members of the House of Representatives allowed pecuniary motives to get the better of them by ‘padding’ the budget in the name of so-called constituency projects, the lawmakers have fired back with stringent defence of their ‘rights’ to have such bogus projects inserted in the budget.

The latter have even gone ahead to accuse the presidency of blackmail and deliberate dilly-dallying on the budget, a claim Aso Villa has debunked with explanations that the lawmakers distorted the appropriation bill significantly such that if signed into law as passed, some displaced personnel and recurrent costs hitherto captured would create serious problems of implementation of the budget.

The ding-dong affair has dragged until now with reported meetings between the presidency and leaders of the national assembly yielding no positive results yet. And threats of veto and its associated controversies have of course come into the mix with opinions differing depending on the side of the divide the opinion-giver is. All these do not erase the reality that almost two months gone into the 2013 fiscal year, the budget is yet to be signed into law thereby defeating the purpose of an early passage (the bill was passed on December 20, 2012 by both chambers of the national assembly and transmitted to the president around the middle of January). Yet what Nigerians get to hear is rhetoric and lazy defence of selfish positions by each party.

Only a few days ago, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, amidst threat of invoking the veto powers of the legislature, said the lawmakers passed the budget in a manner that protects and promotes the interest of Nigerians. At almost the same time, presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, was quoted to have said that the delay in signing the budget is in the interest of Nigerians. Seriously? Both gentlemen must be kidding Nigerians!

For a public sector dependent economy as Nigeria’s how is an avoidable delay in getting the budget in place in the interest of Nigerians? It is trite to state that even the parasitic private sector the country can boast of will remain in inertia until the economic compass for the year 2013 is sorted out thereby delaying whatever little impact that can be made in the lives of Nigerians. Can this be said to be in the interest of Nigerians?

The irony of this situation is that while the ordinary Nigerian is left in the lurch of the waiting game, the elite have their state-sponsored lives, perks and allowances running unimpeded and without fear of an uncertain economic status as is the case with the man on the street whose tomorrow on a meagre employment cannot be guaranteed if the president dithers in signing the budget to signal a favourable operating environment for his small firm.

How is it in the interest of Nigerians that bogus constituency projects ever so often inserted into the budget by lawmakers do not make any impact on the lives of Nigerians? Since when have our contractor-legislators realised that the executive is the pain in the neck of Nigerians when they deliberately and blindly insist that overhead costs must be diverted to fund spurious projects?

And why is it taking forever for the presidency to sort out the grievances of the lawmakers in the spirit of elite self-preservation that have always been the case? Because at the end of the day, nothing is likely to give as far as the usual elite largesse is concerned. It is very likely to be the same ‘we’ hapless Nigerians that will bear the brunt of ‘them’ powers that be.

So why not get it done with and let the masses move on with their tasking lives? Afterall, it is yet a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ tango with the generality of the people always left with the shorter end of the stick.

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