Although President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to present the 2013 budget estimates to the National Assembly, the federal government has started cashing in, anyway.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Ama Pepple, made this clear today in a briefing which followed the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Also at the briefing were the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati; and the Minister of Mines and Solid Mineral Development, Mr. Mohammed Sada.
She said that money from the budget is part of the N1.5bn which the government approved for the completion of Zik's Mausoleum. The project, which is being built at Onitsha, is being constructed in the memory of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“The Federal Executive Council approved the award of contract for the completion of Zik’s Mausoleum, a Mausoleum in memory of our first President. It was given out for a sum of N1, 496,531,483 with a completion of 13 months.”
Ms. Pepple recalled that the project was originally under the Presidency, where it stalled and had to be cancelled three times before it was ultimately transferred to Lands and Housing Development in 2010 when it became a full-fledged Ministry, for completion.
"In this year’s budget we have N530million in the 2012 budget which we are going to start off the project with and we have also put N1billion in the budget for next year and if that is given to us we should be able to complete it within the time stipulated,” she said.
She described the project as a national monument. “It is something we will want to complete before we celebrate our centenary in 2014. So we are very hopeful that we will get the needed funds and the Ministry is quite ready to ensure that we get value for money for the job that we are giving out."
Problems over budget manipulation and non-implementation have recently complicated relations between the executive and legislative arms of the government. In mid-July, the House of Representatives threatened to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan if the 2012 budget is not properly implemented by September 2011, a deadline which has just passed. Members of the House complained that the executive was not implementing the budget as approved.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) subsequently sided with the House at that time, saying that Mr. Jonathan was guilty of errors in the implementation of the budget which could lead to his impeachment, but that the party would intervene to ensure he stayed in office.
Speaking through the Deputy National Chairman of the National Working Committee, Dr. Sam Jaja, the PDP said that members of the House of Representatives, including its majority PDP members, had a genuine case for the impeachment threat.
Days later, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, begged the Representatives, through State House correspondents, saying that President Jonathan would not be able to meet their demands by the deadline.
“I think the point is that Mr. President is determined to implement this budget as fully as possible and therefore we will be moving towards the figure of as full implementation as we can by the end of the year because the budget was made for the whole year,” she said.
With that background, the information that, on top of the 2012 mess the executive has gone off on its own to commence implementation of a budget that has not even been presented to the National Assembly, may see further deterioration in the relationship between both arms of the government.