Senators, Reps Splits Over 2016 Budget Details… Principal Officers Angry With Saraki, Dogara
Like President Muhammadu Buhari, many members of the National Assembly, including some principal officers, are demanding from the leadership of the national legislature, details of the 2016 budget just approved.
President Buhari is insisting on seeing the details approved by the National Assembly before appending his signature to the budget.
However, it emerged yesterday that the budget details are known only to a few members of the Appropriation Committees of both chambers.
This has not gone down well with other National Assembly members who are shocked that some legislators are more favoured than others in the affairs of the legislature.
Senate Leader Mohammed Ali Ndume denied last night that there was any division among National Assembly members on the issue.
After a delay of about three months, the National Assembly on March 23 passed the 2016 budget of N6.06trillion, down from the N6.077billion proposed by the executive.
But President Buhari declined to assent to the Appropriation Bill because the details were not attached.
Buhari said in the US that any time the details are made available to him he would scrutinize it line by line.
Sources in the National Assembly said that most Senators and Reps were only given a summary of the budget of the details.
Attempts by Senators and Representatives all week to have the details failed, it was gathered.
A principal officer, speaking on the issue yesterday said: “Senators and Representatives are split on the 2016 budget. As I talk to you, most Senators and Representatives have not been given the details of the budget. What the Appropriation Committee made available to each chamber was the summary.
“Only a few privileged members of the committee or favourites have access to the details. So, the President was right in insisting on the details before signing the budget into law. He has the backing of some Senators and House of Representatives.
“How can I be a Principal Officer without access to the details of the budget? Some of us are being reduced to passengers in the administration of the National Assembly.
Another Principal Officer said: “There is tension in our midst, we are becoming agitated too. You don’t run the legislature as a personal thing. What is personal about the budget that you are hiding from the leadership?
“Some of us are worried that we are being treated like kids by the Appropriation Committees of the two chambers. Under normal circumstances, we are not supposed to be running after the committee chairmen.
“Our position is that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara should call Goje and Jibrin to order.”
A high-ranking Senator said: “It is true that we don’t have the details but we are watching the development. Some Senators are unperturbed because they want everything to collapse.
“This unhealthy politics on budget details may lead to a deeper crisis among us unless Saraki and Dogara act wisely in checkmating Goje and Jibrin.”
A member of the House of Representatives said: “There is a lot of suspicion surrounding the budget details. I think the details are being used to fight a proxy war.
“Whatever it is, the nation will be worse for it. It is actually absurd to ask the President to adopt the PDP model of signing the budget before getting the details. We agreed to do things differently this time around and the Appropriation Committees in the two chambers should adhere to the new era.”
A PDP member of the House said: “If there is trust between the Executive and the Legislature, I don’t see anything wrong with the President in signing the Appropriation Bill into law without the details. This was the case in the last 16 years.”
However, Senate Leader Mohammed Ali Ndume denied any division among the federal legislators on the alleged non availability of the budget details to some members.
He said that if there were differences, they would have been sorted out at the harmonization conference of the two chambers.
He added that because there were no differences, the two chambers passed the same version of the budget.
Asked specifically whether Senators had details of the budget they claimed to have passed on March 23, Ndume said they did.
He asked rhetorically: “How can you pass a budget without the details?”
He noted that when President Buhari presented that budget, details of the fiscal document were included.
He said that after the passing the budget, “the nitty-gritty of the details will be printed out and each page endorsed by the chairmen of the Appropriation Committees of the two chambers.
He added, “This is a government of change and things are being done differently. During the PDP regime, the budget would be passed and sent to the president for assent without the details. The details of the budget would then be transmitted to the president later.
“This time around, the president is saying that he cannot sign the budget without the details. It is not a big deal; the details of the budget will be transmitted to the president shortly.
“The budget is about 1800 pages in three volumes. The chairmen of the Appropriation Committee of the two chambers will go through the details page by page and sign them. Some time you have to print out the copies for them to sign.
“There is no division or differences whatsoever. Such difference would have been settled at the level of harmonization if there was any.
“The details of the budget will be sent to the president. It will not take longer than necessary. The two chairmen are working assiduously. The president is saying before signing let me see the details. It is normal. The constitution is clear that the president can spend half of the budget before even signing it.”