The Presidency on Thursday slammed the leadership of the National Assembly, describing the budget-related criticisms levelled against President Goodluck Jonathan as an attempt to rubbish the 2013 budget proposals.
President Jonathan had presented the proposals to a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday. At the budget presentation, Senate President, David Mark, had told President Jonathan that the National Assembly would not be a rubber-stamp legislature. Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, had subtly accused the President of poor implementation of the 2012 budget.
But speaking in Abuja, the Special Assistant to the President on Public Communication, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said it was sad that President Jonathan could be subjected to what he described as a “harrowing experience” during the presentation.
“Normal legislative courtesy demands that such a visitor (President Jonathan) be allowed to perform his constitutional functions without any attempt to rubbish the document that was yet to be discussed even by the members themselves,” he said.
The presidential aide, who stressed that he was speaking for the Presidency, also said it was wrong for the lawmakers to have summoned the President in the manner they did recently.
“My belief is that in the interest of the Nigerian people, for the sake of our masses, the National Assembly and the Executive must of necessity find a common ground on all these issues, instead of unnecessary grandstanding and playing to the gallery, which will not help anybody,” he added.
Okupe said it was wrong for Mark to have the notion that the President merely wanted the two chambers to rubber-stamp the budget proposals.
He said, “The President and his administration do not expect and has never conceived the idea that the National Assembly would just rubber-stamp whatever is presented to it.
“It is quite clear that this is not a high-handed administration and it does not wish in any way to be one. In a healthy democracy, there is useful exchange of ideas and deliberations over various issues of national importance until reasonable agreements are reached.”
Okupe also quarrelled with Mark’s description of the proposal as a “mere estimate”, adding that the description diminished the quality of the budget proposal. “To call these figures as mere estimates is rather unfair.” he said angrily.