Uneasy calm continued to envelop the two chambers of the National Assembly yesterday over the whereabouts of the 2016 budget which on Tuesday was alleged to be “missing” from the office of the presiding officers. President Buhari presented the budget to the lawmakers on 22nd December 2105.
While the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara dismissed reports of its disappearance and directed the Clerk to display copies to members at plenary, the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr Bukola Saraki, urged senators to await the report of the Danjuma Goje-led search committee set up on Tuesday to locate the appropriation bill. He, however, later promised to make copies available to senators today and fixed debate on the budget for next week.
Senators were on Tuesday shocked to discover that the budget which was billed for consideration in the day’s Order Paper was not available and nobody was willing to explain its whereabouts. This prompted the Senate to go into a closed-door session to deliberate the matter at the end of which a search committee was set up to locate the document.
However, during plenary yesterday, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia South) raised a Point of Order and sought explanation from the Senate President on the true position of the contentious matter.
Abaribe, who came in through Order 42 (1) said the matter was discussed at the closed-door session the senators had on Tuesday, and called for an investigation into the issue.
Responding, Senator Saraki, who fled when State House reporters confronted him with the issue on Tuesday, refused to allow the matter go for debate.
Saraki simply told Abaribe to await the report of the search committee.
Earlier, the Senate had fixed next week Tuesday for the commencement of the consideration of the 2016 budget.
Later in the evening, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi issued a press statement denying that the 2016 budget was missing.
He said there was no budget missing and that the Senate will today (Thursday) distribute copies of the budget to all the Senators so as to arm them to properly contribute to the debate which he said would take place between Tuesday, January 19 and Thursday, January 21, 2016.
Abdullahi stated that during yesterday’s plenary when Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe sought for clarification on the story in the media surrounding the information that the copy of the 2016 budget submitted to the Senate was missing and sought to know update on the issue, the Senate President replied that the issue he (Abaribe) mentioned and all issues emanating from the executive sessions were being looked into by an adhoc committee and that all Senators should wait for the committee to submit its report.
“We have reeled out our time table for working on the budget. So, how can the same budget be missing? The Senate President never said or admitted that the budget is missing and there was nothing that he said while presiding over the plenary that could be logically interpreted
to mean an admission that the budget is missing.
“The media should please avoid unnecessary sensationalism. We assure Nigerians that our time table of completing work on the budget by February ending remains sacrosanct and we will work assiduously to achieve it”, he said.
Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives plenary, Speaker Yakubu Dogara described some of the media reports on the missing of the budget as unfounded.
He announced that copies of the 2016 budget were ready for collection by lawmakers at the secretariat of the House Committee on Appropriation.
Dogara, therefore, appealed to members to come for the collection of their own copies of the budget, adding that the House would soon commence consideration of the budget.
He advised the media to always verify any information they send to the public and also seek clarification on certain matters when it becomes necessary to do so.
But in another development, some senators yesterday said they suspected the presidency had a hand in the sudden disappearance of the budget from the National Assembly, which they said was done to enable President Buhari and his cabinet make some adjustments to the budget.
Speaking under condition of anonymity, one of them, a ranking senator from the South-South said: “The budget was withdrawn by the presidency; this I can authoritatively tell you. It was a knit deal between the Presidency and the Office of the Senate President, the Speaker and the Clerk to the National Assembly. Now after making fresh inputs, they have returned the amended copy to the National Assembly, we cannot be fooled. Why not those involved tell us and Nigerians the home truth than all these noise making and denials?” he queried.
“The details in the copies they are delivering are different from those in the version delivered to the National Assembly in December. They have added and removed some things before returning the document,” he further alleged.
But the Presidency has consistently denied withdrawing the document.
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said on Tuesday in a statement he issued that President Buhari did not withdraw the budget.
“Nobody except the President can withdraw the budget; as far as we know, he hasn’t done that. “By tradition, once the budget is submitted, it ceases to be our property. Inquiries should be directed to the appropriate quarters,” he stated.

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  • Auta62

    When government business is run on lies and denials, distrust and lack of confidence by the citizen on those in the helm of affairs sets in. This story about missing budget or not, is a sad commentary on the APC led government. They should bury their heads in shame.