A last minute effort to address all grey areas in the 2013 budget was made yesterday as President Goodluck Jonathan held a crucial meeting with the National Assembly leadership. Going by earlier projection, the budget is expected to be passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President before the end of the year.
The meeting, which was at the instance of the President, coincided with the ratification of $79 as the oil benchmark by the two chambers. Earlier, the Senate had approved $78 while the House settled for $80. The Presidency had pegged the benchmark at $75. In attendance at the meeting were Senate President David Mark , Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and some key members of the chambers.
Consequently, the plenary of the Senate and House was chaired by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha. Presenting the recommendations of the National Assembly Conference Committee which adopted a common position on the contentious issues in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework(MTEF) and the 2013 budget, the House Committee Chairman on Appropriation, MrJohn Enoh, said the panel agreed on $79 oil benchmark.
The National Conference Committee, chaired by Senator Ahmed Markafi, comprises 12 lawmakers, with six members each from the two chambers. It was set up to harmonise the positions of the Senate and the House on MTEF. Enoh, who gave graphic details of how the committee arrived at the new benchmark and other decisions on the MTEF, said the interest of the country was given top consideration. He said: “After an extensive deliberation and consultation by the conference Committee, the benchmark price of $79 per barrel was recommended.
The additional funds arising from the $4 increase will be substantially used to reduce domestic borrowing and deficit as well as funding critical infrastructure.” Enoh commended the Senate for joining forces with the House in arriving at the right amount as the benchmark for a barrel of oil in 2013. He said “The conference Committee wishes to express its gratitude to the Senate and House of Representatives for the opportunity to serve."