Acting President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 budget when he is satisfied with the content, his spokesperson said on Wednesday, in apparent reaction to a report that Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the government was unsure of who to sign the budget.
Earlier on Wednesday, Vanguard newspaper had published a report entitled: “We don’t know who will sign 2017 budget – Lai Mohammed.”
“It’s absolute rubbish,” said Mr. Mohammed, dismissing the report when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.
Coming shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari’s “medical follow-up” letter to the Senate had generated controversy, Nigerians started expressing concerns over the effectiveness of Mr. Osinbajo.
In that letter, Mr. Buhari invoked Section 145(1) of the Constitution, transferring full powers to Mr. Osinbajo, but said his deputy would “coordinate” affairs of the government in his absence.
Mr. Buhari’s use of “coordinate” instead of “will perform duties of my office” or “act on my behalf” as previously used had unsettled the polity.
But the spokesperson to the acting president, Laolu Akande, stressed his principal would sign the budget into law in due course.
“Just so we are clear: when the time comes, everything is set, and he is satisfied, Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 Budget,” tweeted Mr. Akande.
The National Assembly had last week passed the budget,increasing the total sum by N143 billion compared to what was sent by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawmakers are, however, yet to transmit the budget to the presidency amidst reports some senators are dissatisifed with the final version.
In a telephone chat with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Mohammed said the Vanguard report quoting him was “mischievous” and “absolute rubbish”.
“They asked who’s going to sign the budget, the President or the VP. I said that does not arise. Do they want me to say President? Then, they ask when he is coming back? So, I say when it is transmitted to the Presidency, that decision will be taken,” said the minister.
His aide later distributed a statement, further denying the Vanguard report.
The statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to a story in a section of the media quoting the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as saying ”we don’t know who will sign the 2017 budget”.
“This quote is a malicious misrepresentation of what transpired at the post-Federal Executive Council Meeting press briefing on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.
“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.”
PREMIUM TIMES obtained transcript of the minister’s chat with State House correspondents. The part on the budget is reproduced as follows:
Q: Has NASS transmitted the budget to executive?
A: Not yet but at least the minister of budget and national planning has gotten an advanced copy of what was passed and that is what we need to look at and compare to what we sent. It has not been transmitted officially to the presidency.
Q: Who will sign the budget?
A: When it is transmitted to the Presidency, that decision will be taken.