Budget: Appropriation Committee Shielded Details From House Leadership
The mysteries surrounding the 2016 budget details appear inexhaustible after it emerged yesterday that Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives saw the breakdown only last Tuesday, six days after they were submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Assembly.
The figures contained in the budget details sent to the President for him to sign the Appropriation Bill into law are already worsening the delicate relationship between the executive and the legislative arms with indications that Buhari is unwilling to append his signature until amends are made.
Presidency sources accused the National Assembly of removing entirely or reducing drastically the costs of some of the key projects in the budget proposals.
It was unclear last night whether the president, who returned from a weeklong visit to China earlier in the day, had decided to return the budget to the National Assembly to correct what most ministers call mutilation or sign it the way it is and send a supplementary budget later.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the ministers are said to be awaiting the President’s final decision on the issue although most of the Federal Executive Council members are in favour of the return of the bill to NASS.
Fresh projects worth about N50billion are the latest hidden votes uncovered by the Executive in the budget details.
Sources said yesterday that Dogara has had talks with the VP on the confusion.
A principal officer in the House said: “From the agitation in the National Assembly by members on Wednesday, the row over the budget could have been messier.
“This is why the Speaker is leading the initiative to review the budget details. Were it not for his maturity, the House would have been thrown into turmoil over the budget.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “Dogara did not see the budget details until he convened the House leadership meeting on Wednesday. All the principal officers were even asking for the details at our meeting.
“The Appropriation Committee deliberately shielded the details from the House leadership and members as if the committee were an independent arm of the chamber.
“Many House members were treated with disdain by the committee. Dogara felt our pains but he applied wisdom to keep the House united.”
Separate sources said some ministers have discovered that allocations to many projects were either cut or swapped without consultations with relevant committees in the Senate and House of Representatives and members of the Appropriation Committees in the two chambers.
One such source said: “Some parts of the budget have been mutilated and are not implementable. Some projects were swapped or diverted to areas where they are not needed.
“We also discovered that votes for a few projects were slashed and allocated to some self-serving demands of some lawmakers. About N50billion worth of projects were inserted into the budget outside the proposals of the Executive and without rubbing minds with the relevant MDAs.
“From the look of things, only President Muhammadu Buhari can give the final say on whether to ask the National Assembly to review the budget details or to assent to the Appropriation Bill and opt for supplementary budget.”