- Says two versions in circulation
- Reps begin debate next week
Miffed by the drama over the intrigues on the 2016 appropriation document, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki yesterday blamed the Presidency for the unnecessary controversy surrounding the 2016 Budget, accusing Aso Rock of smuggling into the senate with a fake version of the submitted copy of the document presented to it by President Muhammadu Buhari last year.
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who made the allegation, accused the Presidency of submitting two versions of the 2016 budget. He said, while President Muhammadu Buhari laid one version before the joint session of the National Assembly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, smuggled in another version.
Saraki who spoke after a two-hour closed-door session of the Senate said, “We came to a resolution that since we have two versions of the 2016 budget, we will only accept the one presented by President Buhari.
“The Budget was never missing. While the President submitted one, the Special Adviser presented another one, hence the reason for the investigation.”
He further said that after the Senate ad hoc committee setup to investigate the claims of the 2016 budget being misplaced delivered its report, they came to the conclusion that the Senate has in its possession two versions of the 2016 Appropriation Bill which were from the President and from Ita Enang, respectively.
The Senate President however revealed that the consideration of the 2016 Appropriation Bill would commence on Tuesday, January 19, explaining that if the presidency intends to amend the initial version of the bill that was submitted to the National Assembly, there were proper legislative channels to do so.
In referring to the dilemma caused by Ita Enag, Saraki said: “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.”
In a similar contention, the Senate Spokesman, Aliyu Sabi, reiterated the position of the senate president while briefing journalists after plenary yesterday, stressing: “We are duty bound to consider the budget that has been laid by Mr President; we are waiting for the soft copy of it so that we can produce it ourselves.”
Senate ready with 30 governance, economic bills
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said that in a bid to provide adequate legislative instruments to fast-track the necessary change and reforms expected in all critical sectors of the country, 30 Bills to address identified key areas have been submitted by his colleague-Senators and now await Senate’s consideration and passage.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, the Senate President stated this at a meeting with his key aides as part of preparations for the commencement of legislative session in the new year.
He also said the Bills when passed would give backing to necessary reforms in the nation’s security agencies, judiciary, anti-corruption crusade, agriculture, transportation, taxation, poverty eradication and the creation of business-friendly environment for investors, among others.
According to him, among the priority bills now awaiting Senate debate are Police Reform Bill, Justice Reform Bill, Criminal Procedure Law Amendment Bill, Whistleblower Protection Bill, Budget Reform Bill, Ecological Funds Utilization and Management Bill and the Excess Crude Account Management Bill.
Others are: Executive Bodies Independence Protection Law, National Assembly Budget & Research Office Bill, the Institutional Restructuring of the NNPC Bill in place of the PIB, the E-Commerce Protection Law Bill, Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, Market Competition Bill, Credit Bureau and Referencing Bill, Agricultural Credit and Loan Scheme Bill, Private Sector Infrastructure Investment Protection and Regulation Bill and the Road Sector Reform Bill.
Also included are: The Railway Sector Reform Bill, Ports and Habour Reforms Bill, Regulatory Impact Assessment Bill, Climate Change Bill, Tax and Revenue Las/Bill, Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, The Fertilizer Bill, The Government Performance and Result Act (GPRA) and the National Poverty Eradication Commission (Establishment) Bill.
The Senate President said the priority bills are meant to drastically change the business environment and promote inclusive growth especially in the real sector.
Saraki said: “It is the belief of the National Assembly that diversification of the economy will not happen unless regulatory and legal framework for doing business in Nigeria are substantially reformed and deregulated to allow the private sector participate in the infrastructure market which is a key area for creating jobs and priority national productivity.
“It is a known fact that the economic artery for delivering goods and services in Nigeria has mainly been the road network. But this has been severely limited by the level of degradation and lack of investment. The impact has been increased in carnage, deaths and the penetration of goods to markets has been severely limited.
“With the priority bills being proposed by the National Assembly, private sector participation in railways, road construction and other transport infrastructure that will stimulate job creation will become a reality.
“The penetration of transport infrastructure into the waterways will also be expanded, access to credit will receive a significant boost through the introduction of the modern bankruptcy and insolvency laws which is about to be passed into law and credit referencing/reporting system which will significantly reduce credit risks and therefore lower the cost of borrowing,” he said.
He said that the Bills are key economic reform instrument that will stimulate employment, significantly raise national productivity and also see the government paying particular attention on other pressing public services while public funds will be freed up to achieve greater efficiency in the governance system.
Saraki further stated that other critical areas the priority bills are targeted at will include market regulatory reforms through the Market Competition Bill, Agricultural Credit and Loan Scheme Bill and the Climate Change Bill.