•Aso Rock delayed polls’ budget for seven months – Senator Abaribe
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The Presidency said, yesterday, it would not join issues with anybody on the delay in the consideration of the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 general elections.
It said what should be uppermost to every well-meaning Nigerian was the immediate passage of the supplementary budget to ensure that preparations for the general elections were not hindered, calling on the National Assembly to heed the demand by the executive arm to reconvene and approve the budget, with its security components.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legislative Matters, Senator Ita Enang, spoke on behalf of the Presidency, in response to the claim by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe that the executive arm of government withheld the INEC budget for seven months, after it was submitted to the Presidency in January, before submitting it to the National Assembly for approval on the eve of the commencement of its annual recess, late last month.
Abaribe made his claim while speaking on a television programme last week.
The statement came against the backdrop of the calls that the federal lawmakers should reconvene to consider and approve the INEC budget.
Meanwhile, relevant committees of the National Assembly and officials of INEC, last week, met to scrutinise the N189.2 billion budget ahead of the presentation of the document to the two chambres of the parliament wherever they choose to resume for approval.
The leadership of the National Assembly had been accused of being reluctant to reconvene the federal parliament on the grounds that it could be an opportunity to remove Senate President Bukola Saraki who recently defected from the party with the majority in the Senate, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Enang told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, that what mattered most was the passage of the INEC budget with its security components.
Enang said he would not say anything that could cause more delay in passing the budget, saying he was ready to take beating on all sides inasmuch as it would result to the passage of the budget.
He said, “We will not join issues with them. The budget for the election is the budget for INEC, the police, the National Security Adviser, the DSS, the Nigerian Immigration Service and other security agencies that have to do with the 2019 elections. So it is election budget and it is budget for security agencies, particularly for the INEC .
“So we do not want to join issues or react to what senators say, so that it will not be the kind that will infuriate them. At this time, I will want to take beating on all sides so long as it results in passing the budget. Whatever the beating the legislature gives me, I will take so long as they eventually pass the budget.”
The presidential aide asked to know if Abaribe made the claim when two of them appeared on a television programme, last week, to talk on the controversy trailing the delay in the passing of the INEC budget.
He said, “Is it the programme I appeared with Enyinnaya Abaribe? If it were in that programme, I did not hear him say that. I was in the programme with him either on Monday or Tuesday.
“I did not hear him say so and I cannot react to what I did not hear him say. My response is that I did not hear him say so and I have not read him say so. It will be inappropriate for me to respond to what I did not hear him say. Because I believe that he would not have said so.
“My attitude now is that whatever is the circumstance now, I am praying them to find a way of passing the budget for the elections, not just the INEC budget but also the budget of the Office of the National Security Adviser, the police, the DSS, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and all that, that is what I want them to pass.”