President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to sign the 2016 budget despite the fact that it was passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.
According to Buhari, he is withholding assent because the legislators are yet to send him the full details of the budget.
“I have to look at the bill that has been passed by the National Assembly, ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission,” the president said on Thursday, March 31, 2016, during a meeting with US Secretary of State, John Kerry in Washington.
A source in the Presidency had earlier said that Buhari was hesitant to sign the document blindly so as to avoid being unpleasantly surprised.
“The president has been handicapped because he does not know what is contained in the details and what adjustments the national assembly must have made to the proposal sent to them,” the source told online news platform, The Cable.
“Although he is anxious to sign the document so that implementation of the provisions could start immediately and ease the tension in the economy and polity, he is afraid he may later discover, when the details are sent, that what is contained therein is not implementable. He wants the national assembly to send in the details speedily so that it could be considered for assent,” the source added.
In defence of its actions, the Assembly has said that there is nothing wrong with Buhari signing the document without being aware of all the details within it.
“We wish to make the some clarifications, following media reports suggesting that withholding of assent to the 2016 appropriation bill by the presidency is due to the failure of the national assembly to send the budget details to the presidency alongside the appropriation bill,” the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin via a statement released on Wednesday, March 30, 2016.
“The general public should note that the MTEF and 2016 budget proposal came to NASS very late. You will also recall that a lot of dust was raised over different versions of the budget circulated in the national assembly. Further, some ministers disowned the content of the budget during defence before NASS.
“In order for the nation to move forward and avoid stagnation of administrative processes, the tradition is that the bill is passed and forwarded to the presidency for assent, while the lawmakers continue to work on the details.
“There is nothing abnormal about this practice and yet nothing abnormal about a president assenting a budget before or after seeing the details. In any case, the budget details are usually sent within a week or two after passing the budget.
“The NASS will continue to exercise its constitutional duty of appropriation to the latter. While recognising the President’s power to withhold assent, the NASS is also constitutionally required and has power to veto. But we don’t want that to happen and we don’t see this happening in this case,” he added.
The National Assembly’s defence would be amusing if it wasn’t so incredible. How can a legislator expect a President to sign such an important document, especially one that has been the centre of so much controversy, without reading the fine print?
How can Buhari possibly trust an Assembly that has shown itself willing and able to squander Nigeria’s funds without remorse or shame?
Furthermore, the 2016 budget is a contract between the Buhari administration and Nigerians and anyone who signs a contract without reading it thoroughly might as well be signing his own death warrant.
In the law of contract, attaching your signature to a document means that you have read it and that you agree to the terms and conditions contained within.
Therefore, it would amount to administrative suicide for President Buhari to assent to the budget without knowing every single detail there is to know about it.