President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Nationally Assembly to formally request the withdrawal of the 2016 Appropriation Bill he had presented to a joint session of the federal legislature on December 22 for adjustment.
The president’s leader was addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara.
But a lawmaker has asked Buhari to simply withdraw the entire budget.
Hon Marshall Uwom said, “A bill is formally before the Senate, the president cannot merely write to effect corrections. If the piece of literature is defective, he should seek a withdrawal of the entire document and present a decent bill; this ought to be by a motion on the floor of the hallowed chambers.”
The Lawmaker from Rivers State commenting on the Budget 2016 stated; “this ridiculous drama is already in Act 3 scene 2. Nigerians deserve to know the how and why and who ? On a daily basis abuse of laid down procedures are perpetrated by the Central government in flagrant disrespect for public sensibilities.”
Buhari’s formal request followed controversy over the alleged secret extraction and doctoring of the original budget document. The controversy over the budget had raged all through last week, as the National Assembly resumed after a recess and the legislators prepared to begin deliberation on the budget.
It emerged that the budget saga, which became the source of an ever-growing confusion, arose from Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang’s alleged adoption of a sneaky approach in the pursuit of an otherwise legitimate objective.
It was gathered that Buhari had discovered after presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly that some of the figures proposed for operations in the Presidency and the State House were being publicly criticised as outrageous and higher than those of his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan. Given Buhari’s austere nature and the change agenda of his party, the figures for the subheads in the budget for the office of the president, vice president, and a few ministries, which went viral on the social media and had become a major topic of discussion on both the print and broadcast media, were a huge embarrassment.
To reflect the public mood, the president was said to have directed the recall of the 2016 budget from the National Assembly for review. Ordinarily, the review process should have entailed a written request from the president to the National Assembly calling for the withdrawal of the budget. But Enang, allegedly, embarked on a surreptitious process of changing the budget figures, which went awry.
The senate had at its plenary on Thursday accused Enang of doctoring the contents of the 2016 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by Buhari. “What he distributed is different from what was presented by Mr. President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by Mr. President,” Saraki announced to the senators after an executive session that dwelled on a strange confusion about the substitution of the budget, which had raged since Monday. Enang’s indictment followed an investigation by the ethics and privileges committee of the senate.
Elombah.com learnt that when Enang wanted to swap the original document, he attempted to reach the Clerk of the Appropriation Committee by telephone but could not get through. He then decided to call the Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, and told him how he had attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to reach the appropriation clerk to collect a document from him.
Ayewoh, it was learnt, accepted to call the appropriation committee clerk and ask him to call Enang, but without knowing that the communication was in connection with the budget document.
Ayewoh was said to have told the investigating committee that he did not know what Enang wanted to discuss with the appropriation clerk but only showed him respect by drawing the clerk’s attention to Enang’s call.
According to reports, when Enang appeared before the committee, he denied communicating with both Ayewoh and the appropriation clerk over the budget. He also allegedly said he never had their numbers.
Efforts to reach Enang for his reaction to the budget controversy did not succeed. He appears to have decided to reserve his comment on the matter. In the heat of the controversy last week, Enang was quoted as saying, “I do not want to comment on the matter at the moment. It is a very sensitive matter involving two of my bosses – the National Assembly and Presidency. I don’t want to talk about them.”
Senate and former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, exchange diatribes over controversy surrounding the 2016 budget.
Former interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, yesterday upbraided the leadership of the Senate for alleged misplacement of the 2016 budget proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He blamed the mishandling of the document on what he called the undisciplined process that produced the current leadership of the Senate.
Akande, who spoke with reporters at his Ila-Orangun country home during his 77th birthday, wondered how an important document as the budget could be so mishandled.
But the leadership of the Senate responded swiftly last night. The Senate leadership in its response to Akande’s view, said it was “regrettable that a man of Akande’s status would be responding to mere speculation without cross-checking his facts or worse still eager to latch on to any opportunity to bring to disrepute the leadership of the Senate because he failed to get his choice candidates elected.”
It said the former governor of Osun State was completely off the course on the issue as it did not say at any time that the document was missing.
It said what it told Nigerians was that two versions of the budget surfaced. It accused Akande of eagerness to “latch on to any opportunity to bring to disrepute the leadership of the Senate because he failed to get his choice candidates elected.”
Akande had told reporters: “Our party, the All Progressives Congress, never planned to have the structure we have at the National Assembly.”
He said neither President Buhari nor the APC could be blamed for the ‘misplaced’ budget. On revelations about arms deals under the Jonathan Administration, Chief Akande said: “It surprises us to meet huge corruption. We never knew it was that bad.
“The rot was great. The level of corruption was great. Very huge. It is like facing a monster.” He enjoined Nigerians to support the fight against corruption by President Buhari.
According to him: “The government can’t do it alone. Nigerians must support Buhari to succeed. “We should realise that government and the party are not the same. Government is a product of the government.
“Our party is concerned about three things. And this administration promised three things: to confront corruption, terrorism and reduce unemployment. And these are things we have faced since we came into power.”
Spokesman for the Senate, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, urged Akande to “check his records properly so that he could see that at no time did the Senate say the 2016 budget was missing.”
He said: “We have said it several times that the budget was not missing. That two versions of the details of the budget exist and this is no longer in doubt as the Presidency has equally admitted this.
“We expect a man of Akande’s calibre to cross-check his facts and take us up on our words. That he decided to ignore the facts and make comments on speculations is regrettable.
“He is a man who had served in government. He is a leader of the party with the majority in the Senate and he has several channels of cross-checking facts as against speculations.”
Abdullahi added: “Contrary to the description of what happened as indiscipline on the part of the leadership, the position of the present Senate leadership is a demonstration of the regime of openness, transparency and accountability that now reigns in the upper legislative chamber. In the past such a development would have been swept under the carpet.
“The statement by Akande was another expression of the frustration that the former Governor of Osun State suffers for not being able to impose his lackeys on the Senate as leaders.
“Chief Akande is still sulking after his group’s failed attempt to impose certain individuals as the leaders of the Senate last year. “So, he was in a hurry to condemn the leadership. We want him to know that the leadership of the Senate can only emerge through the provisions of the constitution and the standing rules of the institution.
“As a democrat, Akande should know that once the majority has elected the leadership, all parties to the contest ought to accept the decision.”
Apparently Akande is unaware that the President had written the National Assembly on the budget controversy.