No fresh N37bn flaws in budget’
By Soni Daniel, Babajide Komolafe, Peter Egwuatu, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—AMIDST fresh controversy over the passage of 2016 Appropriation Bill, the two houses of the National Assembly yesterday reneged on their assurances that the 2016 budget would be laid on Thursday, as it was neither laid nor mentioned on the Order Paper.
They also denied that their inability to table the budget was due to fresh flaws detected in some expenditure lines and entries amounting to over N37 billion.
But the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, yesterday, distanced itself from the alleged fresh flaws in the budget, expressing shock at attempts to raise fresh controversies about the budget.
The two chambers, however, explained that the postponement was to enable the National Assembly to be more thorough with the document to ensure that all figures were reconciled to make the budget implementable.
However, a source close to the National Assembly told Vanguard that the budget was ready to be laid and passed on Wednesday but was stepped down due to the political differences between the legislature and the executive.
This position was, however, refuted by the joint committees of the two houses on Media and Public Affairs, which said the budget would be ready to be laid and passed next week ahead of Easter break.
Recall that the joint Committees on Appropriations, led by Senator Danjuma Goje and Rep Abdulmumin Jibrin, had specifically announced that the budget would be laid on both Houses on March 16 and passed on March 17.
But as both chambers could not keep to the dates, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Rep Abdulrasak Namdas, on Wednesday, told Vanguard that the budget would be laid yesterday to prepare for its passage next week.
Vanguard was told by a source close to the Appropriations Committees that the budget was ready as at the Wednesday, and that it was supposed to be laid but was not done due to some unresolved issues.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Abdullahi Sabi and his House of Representatives counterpart, Namdas, maintained that barring any last minutes hitches, the budget will be passed next week.
Senator Sabi said, “You will recall we promised Nigerians that by today 17th March (yesterday), we will be able to pass the 2016 appropriation. Yesterday (Wednesday) I also confirmed to you that today (yesterday) that same appropriation bill will be laid, barring any last minute technical hitches or otherwise.
“We are here to let you know that as of today (yesterday), we are unable to lay the 2016 appropriation bill and thus we are hoping next week that process will be completed.’’
Corroborating his position, Namdas said: “We all know that the 2016 appropriation bill is one of the most important bills that we have in the National Assembly. Therefore, we can not afford to make any mistake.
“In this 8th Assembly, this is the first appropriation bill we are working on. We have realised that it is better we do things that will be applauded by the entire country than to rush and make some mistakes that will not be in our interest.’’
On the alleged discovery of padding, he said, “Let me also reiterate that as official spokesmen of the two chambers, we are not here to corroborate rumours, neither are we here to lend credence to rumours.
No fresh N37bn flaws in budget
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning, yesterday, distanced itself from the alleged fresh flaws in the 2016 Budget with a total value of over N37 billion.
The ministry described as a shocking the attempt to raise fresh controversy over the fiscal document after the legislature and the executive had met and harmonised the document ready for its passage into law.
A top official of the Budget and National Planning Ministry said that they were shocked to hear of the ‘discovery’ of new items amounting to N37 billion in the budget, which had been with the National Assembly since last year.
The official, who spoke in anonymity, wondered how the ‘new items’ crept into the budget document while still in the custody of the NASS.
Private sector reacts
In his reaction, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, said: “ I am not surprised. More will be discovered or covered as long as quick deterrent action is not taken against those confirmed to have been involved.’’
Dr. Femi Egbesola, President, Association of Small Business Operators of Nigeria, said “It saddens us that even after further scrutiny as ordered by the President; there still exist such huge error. This development is not only highly embarrassing but also indicative of the rot that has been going on for years with the tax payers monies called corruption.’’