By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, regretted the confusion the ‘missing 2016 budget’ had caused in the polity and urged the lawmakers to work with the corrected version that the Presidency submitted, last week.
In a letter to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, which the Senate President read to senators, yesterday, President Buhari wrote: “It will be recalled that on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 , l presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the National Assembly. I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details. At the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced we would have to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule.
“The National Assembly would, therefore, have the details as submitted on the 22nd and a copy containing the corrections submitted, last week. It appears this has led to some confusion. In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the National Assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates. The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures. Please accept, Mr. Senate President, the assurances of my highest regards.”
Senate accepts corrected version
Following the receipt of the president’s letter, the Senate adopted a motion reversing its earlier decision that it would only work on the document presented by Buhari on December 22 and resolved that it would now consider the corrected version.
Senator Saraki then asked all the senators to pick their copies from the Clerk of Appropriation Committee for onward preparation for debate on the budget.
According to him, the debate on the budget would hold today, tomorrow and next Tuesday.
Prior to the reading of the letter by Senate President Saraki, the senators had soon after the upper chamber resumed plenary at 10.55 am, yesterday, entered into an executive session to discuss the president’s letter and they came out at 11.10 am.
At the closed door session, a source told Vanguard that the Senators agreed to reverse their earlier decision not to consider the corrected version of the 2016 budget and they would commence debate on the Appropriation Bill today.
It would be recalled that the 2016 Budget had generated serious controversies in the last few weeks following the case of missing budget. In spite of Senate President Saraki’s tacit admission last week that the 2016 budget was missing from the National Assembly, when he openly said a search committee raised by the Senate to look for the missing document would present its report to the Senate, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi said that the document was not missing.
As the matter of the missing budget generated heated arguments and comments in the polity, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, displayed the document at the lower chamber, insisting that the document was intact and not missing. However, the House has accepted the corrected version.
The letter however, vindicated the Senate which had insisted that the original document it earlier received had been replaced with a ‘fake’ one by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters ( Senate), Senator Ita Enang.