Jonathan asks Okonjo-Iweala to present 2014 budget to NASS

President Goodluck Jonathan has delegated the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to lay the estimates of the 2014 budget before the National Assembly.

This is coming just as both the Senate and House of Representatives have settled their differences on the crude oil benchmark price to be adopted for the budget by eventually settling for $77.5.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Wednesday that both chambers of the National Assembly had settled for $77.5 following series of reconciliation meetings over the matter.

Jonathan communicated his decision to delegate the minister to lay the budget estimates in letters he wrote the Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

At the House, the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, read the brief letter to members during Wednesday’s session in which members also endorsed $77.5 as the crude oil benchmark for the budget.

The President’s letter did not specify the date the finance minister would perform the task of laying the estimates before a joint session of both chambers.

It was speculated that the minister would carry out the assignment today (Thursday), the same day the lawmakers will be proceeding on their Christmas and New Year break.

Members of the House also approved the controversial 2014-2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework on Wednesday.

This followed a closed-door session, where they studied the report of the Conference Committee on the MTEF that sat with the Senate to harmonise the oil benchmark figures.

It will be recalled that Jonathan initially proposed $74 as the oil benchmark. However, the Senate raised it to $76.5, while the House went for $79.

The different figures led to a dispute between the two chambers on the one hand, and Jonathan on the other.

Attempts to harmonise the figures had failed before now as the House insisted on its figure.

This delayed the presentation of the budget estimates by Jonathan. On two occasions, his scheduled visits to the National Assembly were cancelled in November.

At a point, the conference committee adjourned sine dine (indefinitely), but reconvened on Tuesday to agree on $77.5.

Members of the House, who had insisted on $79, later backed down and emerged from the closed-door session to approve $77.5

The  PUNCH had reported exclusive last week that the two chambers would eventually settle for $77.5 as the oil benchmark.

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