Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South has told Nigerians point blank that they should not expect the 2016 Federal Budget before November this year.
The senator disclosed this, weekend, while delivering the 2015 University of Benin Faculty of Social Sciences Annual Lecture, with the theme, “Our Country, Our Budget: A critical analysis of Nigeria’s budgeting system”, explaining that, since President Muhammadu Buhari was yet to decide on choosing his cabinet ministers who ought to be abreast of their various ministries before they can prepare fiscal plans and defend same before the National Assembly, it is impracticable to expect the national appropriation by November.
He said President Buhari was already racing against time over the 2016 budget preparation to the National Assembly, which ought to be presented next month in order to meet the threshold of good implementation, and said the absence of Ministers was the reason for this anomaly.
Urging the President to sift through and cross check properly the avalanche of briefings by Permanent Secretaries in charge of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in order not to make avoidable costly mistakes, he said Nigerians were hopeful that he would soon appoint ministers and get a budget.
“If you are going to bring in ministers, the ministers would have to be embedded first, understand their ministries before they come to defend their budgets at the National Assembly. So, I do not see this process being sorted-out before November 2015,” he cleared.
The Senator revealed that over the years, a lingering feud has been in existence between the Executive and Legislature over who controls the nation’s treasury and who prepares and monitors the budget, adding that until the necessary legal framework is established on this score, the present unpalatable scenario would remain.
On National Assembly leadership challenges, the Senator recalled that in 1999, President Obasanjo against the wish of all PDP elected Senators at the time, which wanted Mr. Chuba Okadigbo to be Senate President, imposed Mr. Evans Enwerem on the Senate.
“Once (Evan) Enwerem took office, Okadigbo worked hard at removing him so he could takeover and when he did, President Obasanjo tried to remove him. Part of what he did at that time was to take part of what was going to come to Senators and members of House of Representatives at that time – a refundable money called furniture allowance.”
He said announcing that National Assembly gets N9billion as the so-called furniture allowance, whereas the senators pay back, was President Obasanjo’s way of painting lawmakers bad in the eyes of the public over their removal of his stooge, Enwerem, while in actual fact they get a refundable N42000.
”It was a furniture grant that was supposed to be taken from their salaries, just like people get car grants and they pay from their salaries and then Nigerians said the National Assembly was taking too much money. That is where it started.”
The senator, who wondered why people should continue to ascribe to National Assembly members huge sums as salaries or allowances they do not receive, said “On the website of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, you will see everybody’s salaries from the President of Nigeria to the lowest person in the public service. Now, why do people ascribe what we do not earn to us? When it was now clarified from N9 billion to N42, 000.00 per person, nobody heard about it again.”
Meanwhile, the senator said it was former President Shehu Shagari that saved President Olusegun Obasanjo from being impeached by the National Assembly after his third term bid, which drew the ire of the voting public, in 2006/2007.
Abaribe said, but for the intervention of Shagari and other prominent Nigerians, Obasanjo would have made history as the first Nigerian President to be impeached, adding: “… he had to go and bring Shagari… to come and beg them in the National Assembly so that they won’t do so.”
He however, said the National Assembly had become wary of seeking to impose a popularly elected President ever since because of the anticipated public indignation and outcry that greeted the attempt though constitutional.
“The National Assembly has only one weapon and that weapon is impeachment. So, every chief executive knows that once we say impeachment, the whole country would say, ‘who the hell are you people to impeach our President? Impeachment is the weapon that we don’t use…But that is the only weapon we have to be able to compel the President to follow the law.”.

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