By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — SENATE President, Dr Bukola Saraki, tacitly admitted, yesterday, that the 2016 budget was missing from the National Assembly, when he openly said a search committee set up by the Senate for the missing document would present its report today.
Saraki’s confirmation of the report came just as Vanguard gathered that the search committee quizzed aides of President Muhammadu Buhari in the National Assembly as well as staff of the offices of the clerks to the Senate and House of Representatives, yesterday.
Vanguard sources said those interrogated gave useful information to the committee which would be presented to the Senate in plenary today.
The Senate President, who had earlier at the beginning of Senate’s session, yesterday, announced to senators that copies of the 2016 budget document would be made available to them today, in readiness for general debate on it next Tuesday, eventually owned up on the missing document while responding to Senator Abaribe’s point of order.
Abaribe had, through Order 42(1) of the Senate standing rule, drawn the attention of the Red Chamber to media reports that the budget document was missing and called for immediate deliberation on it by pointedly asking the Senate President: “where is our budget?”
He said: “The matter that I refer to through this order, is what is in every newspaper today, everywhere in all the talkshows in the radio of a missing budget and therefore Mr President, I want to bring to your attention and that of all my colleagues that yesterday ( Tuesday) in our closed door session, this matter also came up and some of us who are worried, who have been inundated by messages from our constituents who are really worried about what their fate will be in 2016, are asking us, where is our budget.
“That is why Mr President, I think, it is definite and it is urgent that we look into this matter of missing budget now.”
Abaribe’s submission pushed Saraki to admit that the budget document was not in sight in the Senate, contrary to the earlier denial of the Senate that the document was missing.
Saraki did not only confirm that the issue was raised and discussed at the Senate closed door session on Tuesday but also said a search team had been set up to look for the missing document.
Search c’ttee to submit report today
Saraki added in his response that the search committee set up on the missing budget is expected to file in its report today, which according to him, would help in ending the quagmire.
He said: “Because of the importance of this matter raised through your point of order, I will take it as an exception in not ruling you out of order.
“You know we were all part of the decision at the closed session yesterday (Tuesday), and as part of that decision, we are still waiting for those we have referred to carry out the assignment to come back to us.
“I think they will come back to us by tomorrow (today) and we will go into a closed session again and finish up the report and we will be able to debate it properly.”
Anyanwu, Nwaoboshi, Ndume differ
Speaking to journalists after Senate plenary, yesterday, on the controversy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Sam Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), confirmed that the search committee had already swung into action at unraveling circumstances that led to the missing budget.
According to him, ”the committee has as at this morning queried some people suspected to be involved in the missing document.”
He, however, added that the committee as disclosed by the Senate President at plenary, would turn in its report to the Senate today for deliberation.
Also, a member of the committee, Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North), confirmed that the budget document was missing and the committee was investigating it.
He said: “The document is missing. We want to find out. We have interviewed some people so far this morning. We are continuing in the next few minutes with out investigation. And we are almost at it. We will conclude in the next few hours because we have already known what is happening.”
However, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, in his reaction, insisted that the document was not missing and that it would be distributed to senators today for commencement of general debate on it next Tuesday.