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2016 Budget: Between presidency and senate of jokers

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“Can you imagine that to the president, the drama over the 2016 budget document was “laughable”, according to House Presidential Liaison Officer Sumaila Kawu?”

Buhari presents N6.08trn 2016 budget to NASS

Can anybody dispute that Nigeria as a country is governed by joke? This has nothing to do with the political party in charge whether APC or PDP as they are a bunch of the same people circulating from one platform to the other without recourse to the issue of integrity or ideological believes. How can the annual budget of a country presented by the president to its National Assembly become an object for moonlight play?

Call it a two-way failure, this is the lowest Nigeria, as a nation, have sunk. How do we expect the serious-minded international community to look at us? It should have occurred to the senators that making this joke public would definitely embarrass not only the Presidency, but equally the National Assembly and even the entire country? The president and his people also have not helped matters at all. Can you imagine that to the president, the drama over the 2016 budget document was “laughable”, according to House Presidential Liaison Officer Sumaila Kawu? This is a shame because there is nothing in this embarrassment to laugh about.

It is painful that this issue that caused Nigeria and Nigerians so much embarrassment was casually treated by the senate as a joke and by the presidency as a laughing matter. Anybody who knows the weight of what happened would sincerely sympathize with President Muhammadu Buhari but far more for Bukola Saraki as senate president because this is an issue that dangerously borders on reputation first on the president’s side for being unmethodical and for Saraki as being mischievous and unreliable. How do they expect Nigerians to believe any of them in the future on issues that borders on honesty and integrity?

Frankly, this sad development was not a matter of lack of communication between the Executive and legislature but an act of mischief by those behind it.

Did the presidency steal the document in the first instance? And why should the presidency steal a document it can easily recall? Does the law prohibit the Presidency from making any amendment to a bill it submitted to the National Assembly?

Actually as has been confirmed during senate plenary of Tuesday January 19 2016, by the reading of a formal letter from the president notifying lawmakers of the “corrections” to his original budget proposal, it is clear the presidency attempted a backyard approach to correcting or rather waggling figures in the document.

The letter reads: ‪“It will be recalled that on Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, I presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the national assembly. I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details.

“At the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule.

 “In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the national assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates. The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures.”

Of all the denials and counter accusations, still despite the adjustments to the allocations to the various departments and units, the total appropriation of N39.13 billion for the Presidency remained unchanged in both the previous and current budget versions. So why put us through this ridicule?

This controversy was actually created by the president’s men who may have overstepped their bounds. No doubt, most Nigerians still believe that Buhari meant well but he should put his house in order and fast too because these sort of lapses are becoming too many and too frequent.

Circumstances around the budget document submitted by President Buhari on December 22 last year became an issue on Tuesday 12 January 2016 when it emerged that the proposal as submitted by the President could no longer be traced and that a new version submitted by Senator Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), was different in content from what was originally tendered for discussion by the president.

The senate knew that the Presidency couldn’t have been bothered much about changing figures in the document because of concerns for the benchmark crude oil price used in the initial proposal (though it looks unreasonable to stick to $38 per barrel as originally syndicated given the rate of the downward spiral in global crude oil prices) as the executive claims its Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) took into consideration the current oil market situations.

Truth be told, this whole joke by the senate was to openly embarrass the Presidency over its expressed pretense or rather shock following the surprise revelation during the president’s recent media chat over what was budgeted for feeding and exotic cars for the presidency in a time of austerity like this.

If the senators have conscience and are actually representing our collective rather than their narrow-minded self –serving interests, they would have known that this unnecessary joke, delay and politics with the document could worsen the country’s economic crisis as the nation grapples with the impact of plunging oil prices? But how would they bother when they rake in tens of millions every month while the people they are representing are wallowing in extreme hardship. God bless Nigeria!

(Ifeanyi Izeze lives in Abuja: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)


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