President Goodluck Jonathan wants an immediate end to the cold war between him and the House of Representatives. He has invited Speaker Aminu Tambuwal for peace talks to iron out their differences. The duo were scheduled to meet last night at the Presidential Villa for the talks.
The Presidency and the House are locked in a stand-off over alleged slow pace at which the 2012 Budget is being implemented with the Reps, on Thursday, threatening the President with impeachment for the situation.
They gave him up to September to implement it to 100 per cent, failing which “we will begin drafting the article of impeachment.”
Moments after the Thursday session of the House, the Presidency responded to the impeachment threat, saying it was on the same page with the Reps on the budget issue.
Spokesman for the President, Dr.Reuben Abati, told reporters that his principal was as concerned about the budget’s performance as the Reps.
However, The Nation on Saturday gathered last night that President Jonathan personally reached out to the leadership of the House with a view to ending the stand-off.
Besides, some top government officials, friends and associates of the President have, on their own, launched separate initiatives to stop the situation from degenerating. They were said to be lobbying the Reps to sheathe their swords.
After harmonisation, the Senate and the House of Representatives had, on March 15, passed a budget of N4.88 trillion with a benchmark of $72 per barrel. The vote was increased from N4.65 trillion proposed by the Federal Government.
The President, however, assented to a N4.7 trillion budget on April 13. But the House of Representatives on Thursday expressed displeasure that only 30 per cent of the budget had been implemented.
Authoritative sources said the President was showing a lot of resolve to close the ‘communication gap’ between the Executive and the House. The President was said to have contacted Speaker Tambuwal to hear him out on the grievances of the lawmakers.
A source said: ”s a leader, the President on Thursday invited the Speaker for interaction on issues raised by the House. I think they were expected to meet yesterday.
“There were strong signals that the two leaders had opened up discussions on the telephone before the Speaker was invited by the President. Neither the President nor the Speaker wanted the polity to be heated up by the budget palaver.
“The Presidency had wielded enormous influence to lobby the House members to defer Thursday’s special plenary on budget implementation, but it did not work out at all.
“Apparently, the Speaker deliberately switched off to also stave off pressure that could heighten the misunderstanding between the House and the executive arm.
“What I can conveniently tell you is that the leaders have started talking. Apparently, there is a ‘communication gap’ between the two sides and there is need to improve working relationship.”
Neither the Presidency nor the House was willing to officially comment on the rapprochement last night. Besides, some top government officials, associates and strategists of the President have been wooing House members to end the logjam over budget implementation.
A principal officer of the House, who spoke in confidence, said: “Forces and people around the corridors of power have been calling us to sheathe the sword. We have told them that the issues we raised were not personal. We were concerned about how to move Nigeria forward. It got to an embarrassing level that some of us had to switch off our phones.”
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, said the House does not rule out dialogue with the Executive. “For us, we are after the right thing being done. The appropriation law is being addressed with impunity. We are empowered by the 1999 Constitution to raise questions like we did on Thursday on the floor of the House.
“We owe our employers (Nigerian masses) a duty to ask questions on their behalf and protect their interest when things are upside down.
“No one is after President Goodluck Jonathan, but we want the system to work. We are in July and the budget is not being implemented as expected. Even some approvals made for the execution of some key projects had no cash backing. That means, nothing is working."
Asked if the Executive has reached out to the House, Mohammed said: “It is not impossible, because in a situation like this, they would want to market their position to the House leadership.
“And going by what the Majority Leader, Mrs. Mulikat Adeola, said that the situation will be addressed before we resume from recess, there could be room for dialogue.”