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Buhari Senate gives President final warning over 2016 budget

There has been a series of back and forth between the legislature and the executive over the budget especially due to the supposed removal of provisions for the Calabar – Lagos rail project from the final budget.

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President Muhammadu Buhari play

President Muhammadu Buhari

(Twitter)

The Senate has given a final warning to the Presidency over the controversy surrounding the 2016 budget.

There has been a series of back and forth between the legislature and the executive over the budget especially due to the supposed removal of provisions for the Calabar – Lagos rail project from the final budget.

The Senate’s warning was contained in a statement released by spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi on Monday, April 11, 2016.

It reads in part:

“While the executive is mandated to prepare and lay before the National Assembly a proposed budget detailing projects to be executed, it should be made clear that the responsibility and power of appropriation lie with the National Assembly.

“If the presidency expects us to return the budget proposal to them without any adjustments, then some people must be living in a different era and probably have not come to terms with democracy. We make bold to say, however, that the said Lagos-Calabar rail project was not included in the budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, and we challenge anyone who has any evidence to the contrary to present such to Nigerians.

“Since the beginning of the 2016 budget process, it is clear that the National Assembly has suffered all manners of falsehood, deliberate distortion of facts, and outright blackmail, deliberately aimed at poisoning the minds of the people against the institution of the National Assembly. We have endured this with equanimity in the overall interest of Nigerians.

“Even when the original submission was surreptitiously swapped and we ended up having two versions of the budget, which was almost incomprehensible and heavily padded in a manner that betrays lack of coordination and gross incompetence, we refused to play to the gallery and instead helped the Executive to manage the hugely embarrassing situation it has brought upon itself; but enough is enough.

“This latest antics of this particular minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is reckless, uncalled for and dangerously divisive. Apart from setting the people of the southern part of the country against their northern compatriots, it potentially sets the people against their lawmakers from the concerned constituencies and sets the lawmakers against themselves.

“This manner of reprehensible mischief has no place in a democracy. We hereby demand from Mr. Amaechi a publicly tendered apology if he is not able to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was included in the budget. Otherwise, he should resign forthwith.

“Finally, by the provision of Section 81 (4) (a) and (b) of the constitution, the President is allowed to sign the budget and kick-start the implementation of the other areas that constitute over 90 per cent of the budget where there is agreement between both arms, even as we engage ourselves to resolve the contentious areas, if there were any.

“We, therefore, maintain that even these contrived discrepancies are not sufficient excuse not to sign the budget into law. We, therefore, urge President Buhari to sign the 2016 budget without any further delay. For every additional day that the president withholds his assent from the bill, the hardship in the land, which is already becoming intolerable for the masses of our people gets even more complicated. Certainly, as primary representatives of the people, we shall not vacate our responsibility and watch the people continue to suffer unduly.”

The budget has been the centre of controversy since it was reported missing from the Assembly premises in January.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki later said that two different versions of the document had been submitted to the legislative house.

The controversy led to the sacking of the Director General of the budget office, Yahaya Gusau and the redeployment of 22 officials from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

The budget was finally passed on March 23, 2016 after the Senate and the House of Representatives both received the requisite report from the Joint Committee on Appropriation.

The controversy did not stop there however as President Buhari refused  to sign the budget without being aware of the final details which were yet to be sent by the Assembly.

The details were eventually sent to the president on April 7.

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