ACTING President Yemi Osinbajo has received the 2017 budget and is now expected to assent to it any moment from now.
The document was submitted to him on Friday by the Senior Special Assistant to the president on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang, behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Enang had fueled controversy last Wednesday when he told a television station that the bill would be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari in London for his assent before it would be brought back to the acting President.
The presidential aide has now backtracked from that position, telling State House corespondents after submitting the document to Osinbajo, that the acting President would now sign it after the necessary procedure.
He said the acting President has the power to assent to the bill and would do so.
Enang stated: “The budget as passed by the National Assembly has just been transmitted to the Acting President. I just delivered it.
“Let me use this opportunity to clarify an issue. The Acting President has the power to assent to the budget and he will assent to it when the processes are completed.
“The Acting President has the power to assent to the budget. In February, he assented to 7 or 8 bills. Those that he didn’t agree with, he wrote the Senate and House of Representatives that he had withheld his assent from them.
“He has the power of the president to assent to it. But the assent to the Appropriation Bill will be after the completion of the standard operation process.
“The bill has 30 days within which it will be assented to but the process can be completed within two or three days.
“So, it is not possible to say it will be assented to in so, so and so day or in two or three days. It’s upon the completipn of the process that it will be assented to by the president and the president here now is the acting president.”
Controversy had initially swirled around the budget signing following a declaration by Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that indicated that no decision had been taken on who would sign the bill.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents after last week’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Mohammed said that the Presidency was yet to take a decision on who signs the 2017 Appropriation Bill into law, noting that whenever the document was transmitted to it for accent, a decision would be taken.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, was expected to sign the document following the letter written by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly in compliance with Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution apprising the legislature of his decision to proceed on medical leave in the United Kingdom.
However, when asked who would sign the budget, Mohammed said: “When it is transmitted to the Presidency that decision will be taken.”
However, the Presidency was definite when it said later that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo would sign the document when it is ready.
In a apparent reaction to the minister’s statement, Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, tweeted on his handle @akandeoj: “Just so we are clear: when the time comes, everything is set, & he is satisfied, Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 Budget.”
The minister had sought to disown the remark after it emerged in the media, saying he never said ”we don’t know who will sign the 2017 budget.”
A statement issued his Special Assistant, Segun Adeyemi, in Abuja, said the quote was a malicious misrepresentation of what transpired at the post-Federal Executive Council Meeting press briefing on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.
It added: “When the Minister was asked a question relating to the signing of the 2017 Budget, his response was: ‘When it is transmitted to the Presidency, the issue will be addressed.’
“Anything beyond that response amounts to deliberate mischief and should be ignored.”
Mohammed had also revealed during the FEC briefing that an advanced copy of the passed budget was now in possession of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, which he said the executive would now study for any discrepancies from the original one transmitted to the National Assembly.
Asked whether the executive had received the passed 2017 budget, he said: “In respect on the budget, it was only this morning that the Minister of National Planning informed the council that the budget has been passed. He has not sent to us individually copies of the passed budget.
“We now need to look at it against what we sent and if there is any discrepancies, we will report back to the Minister of Budget and National Planning on harmonization.”
The 2017 budget was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly last week.