Presidency doctored 2016 budget –Senate

  • Impeach Buhari now, PDP tells National Assembly

  • Sagay, politicians, lawyers, OPS berate FG

The Senate has accused the Presidency of doctoring the 2016 Appropriation Bill submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22, 2015.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who disclosed this at plenary yesterday, vowed that the Senate would never consider the adulterated version of the bill. He noted that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, printed doctored version and brought copies to the Senate.

The development has prompted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to call on the National Assembly to commence the impeachment process against President Muhammadu Buhari for submitting two versions of 2016 budget.

Also, Saraki said that the Senate had resolved during its closed-door session never to consider the version other than the one presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by Buhari. He further stated that the Upper Chamber was working towards getting the soft copy of the original document from the Presidency, in order to produce copies for members to study before commencing debate on the bill next week.

The Senate President made these statements while reporting to the plenary, the outcome of the closed-door session, which lasted for about two hours. Saraki had on Wednesday, amidst controversies surrounding the whereabouts of the 2016 budget, said that the Senate would go into a closed-door session yesterday, to consider the report of the Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, mandated to investigate the budget brouhaha.

Saraki said: “We have received the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on investigations surrounding 2016 Appropriation Bill.

“Our finding is that Senator Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, printed copies on the 2016 Appropriation Bill and brought to the Senate.

“We have discovered that what he brought is different from the version presented by Mr. President. We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr. President as soon as we receive soft copy of the original document from the Executive.” Buttressing what Saraki said, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi, said that the 2016 budget was not missing as was widely reported in the media in the last few days, instead, the original document submitted to the National Assembly was doctored by the Presidency.

He, however, insisted that the Senate would safeguard its honour and integrity by not considering the alleged doctored version.

Sabi said: “The report about a missing budget is not true. We don’t have a budget that is missing. But you recall that the Senate President did inform Nigerians that there is an issue that a committee was asked to investigate.

“The investigation by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has been submitted in the executive session. It was a decision we took at the last executive session.

“Our findings are these: that Mr. President did lay the budget before the joint session of the National Assembly and thereafter, the Senate went on recess and upon resumption, copies of the document were produced by Senator Ita Enang, who is the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) and the copies were submitted to Senate and House of Representatives. “What we found out is that the document submitted by Enang, upon our resumption, has some differences, discrepancies with what was originally laid by the president in the joint sitting of the National Assembly.

“However, the Senate in defence of its own integrity, honour, will not work with what has not been laid on the floor of the National Assembly. We are constitutionally mandated and duty bound to consider only that budget that had been so laid by Mr. President.

“Right now, for reproduction, we are awaiting the soft copy of the originally submitted budget so that the National Assembly can reproduce the copy itself. That is the only time we can have confidence in the document we want to work with. “…The Senate leadership was mandated to speak with all those concerned with the document, that was why the Senate President was in touch with Mr. President.”

When approached for reaction on the allegation of the Senate that he printed doctored version of the Appropriation Bill and brought to the lawmakers, Enang refused to talk, saying that he did not want to join issues with the Senate. “Please, I don’t want to comment on the matter.

I just want peace to reign in the country. The president is my boss and the senators are my bosses; and I don’t want to join issues with my bosses,” he pleaded. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, stayed away from the controversy. “We are happy that they are ready to get on with the budget.

We don’t want anything that will distract them from their work. “The present level of relationship between the executive and the legislature is too precious to be expended on issues that are not compelling,” he told New Telegraph.

Meanwhile, the PDP, in a statement last night by its Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said the existence of two versions of the 2016 budget is the height of the various constitutional breaches committed by Buhari since he assumed office last May.

PDP said the National Assembly should thoroughly investigate the shameful act, including the distortion and banding of figures to accommodate the personal interest of the All Progressives Congress (APC) members. According to the party, appropriate sanctions should be meted out to whoever has a hand in the dubious action that has brought embarrassment to the nation’s legislative body.

The leading opposition party called on the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning to resign from the Federal Executive Council (FEC), having failed to provide the much-needed capacity in the management of the nation’s economy, leading to what the party described as “the embarrassing crashing of the nation’s currency to as low as N305 to a dollar.”

PDP also said the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefele should throw in the towel for plunging the nation’s currency policy into chaos, an action, it said, has thrown investors into total confusion.

According to the party, the APC-led Federal Government should stop pretending that it knows what to do “when feelers from the seat of power shows clearly that Nigerians, by voting for APC have just discovered they boarded a ‘once chance bus’.

“We sympathise with Nigerians who are seriously undergoing terrible hardship because of the now obvious inept leadership of APC despite the promise of one Naira to a dollar.

“What hope can a government that allows its currency to break a 43-year old record crashing to over N300 to one dollar offer and yet does not show it has clear focus of what to do?”

The party said, rather than address very grievous national issues created by its lack of capacity to govern, the APC-led Federal Government has instead resorted to violation of people’s rights in the name of fighting corruption.

It noted that the continued detention of its spokesperson, Chief Olisa Metuh, for nearly 10 days is clear breach of his fundamental human rights, and reiterated its earlier call on the anti-graft body to release him unconditionally with immediate effect PDP called on all lovers of democracy especially the international community to note the fact that rule of law and respect for citizens’ rights, which are essential ingredients of civil liberty have taken flight in Nigeria under President Buhari’s watch.

In spite of the controversy trailing the whereabouts of the 2016 appropriation bill, the House of Representatives has said it has the authentic copy of the document presented by the presented and would commence consideration of the budget next week.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas (APC, Adamawa), said: “By the grace of God, we will begin debate of the budget next week.

The budget debate could not commence this week; it was due to the fact that members needed time to study the content of the bill in order to facilitate a robust debate on the budget proposal.

“And I want to assure Nigerians that we are working with the one presented by Mr. President and that is with us and by the special grace of God by next week, we will begin discussion on that.”