Teddy Oscar, Abuja
All seemed right between the executive and legislative arms of government on Thursday, as Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the coordinating minister of economy and minister of finance, walked down the Green Chambers of the National Assembly, took a bow, and laid the long awaited 2014 Budget before the members of the House of Representatives.
The brief ceremony was performed before Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, speaker of the House, on the last sitting of the lawmakers, who adjourned proceedings of the House until 2014, as they vacated for their Christmas break.
There were indications that the document would not be laid before the end of the year, as President Goodluck Jonathan postponed the action pn two different occasions.
Okonjo-Iweala, who had earlier performed similar task before the Senate before moving to the House moments later, was accompanied by Mr. Labaran Maku, minister of information, and other dignitaries.
It would be recalled that Jonathan had written to the two chambers of the National Assembly on Wednesday of his decision to lay the budget, after failing to do so on two different occasions.
“Pursuant to the provision of Section 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), I have delegated the coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance to lay before the honourable House of Representatives the 2014 Budget estimates,” the letter read.
Jonathan, who declined to lay the budget, said that the inability of the two chambers to agree on a benchmark for the crude oil, informed his decision to do so.
While the Senate put the benchmark at $76.5 per barrel of crude oil, the House pegged the benchmark at $79 per barrel.
This led the lower and upper chambers to constitute an ad hoc committee that was mandated to harmonise the price of the benchmark.
It took three meetings for the combined committee to reach an agreement.
In fact, members of the committee actually walked out on the second meeting.
They, however, agreed on a $77.5 per barrel.
The budget estimate, which is in excess of N4 trillion, is a few billions less than the 2013 Budget (N4.987 trillion).