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Buhari Should Sign 2016 Budget as Passed, Senate Insists

Ayodele Afolabi, Abuja

The Senate on Tuesday insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari must sign the N6.6trillion 2016 budget into law as passed by the National Assembly on the 23rd of last month, the details of which were also forwarded to the presidency last week.

Senate’s insistence on President’s assent to the budget was sequel to the raging controversy between the Presidency and the National Assembly over alleged removal of N60billion Lagos to Calabar rail project from the budget document.

While the presidency through the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi alleged that the project was removed from the budget details along with some other vital projects,, which made President Buhari to withhold his assent for now,  the National Assembly and in particular, the Senate, said the project was not included in the original budget document.

The Senate had in reaction to Ameachi’s allegation issued a strong worded press statement on Monday asking him to apologise for the alleged falsehood or resign from office, just as it warned President Muhammadu Buhari against any further delay on signing of the document into law.

A gathering storm that made the Senate upon resumption for plenary on Tuesday went into executive session for about an hour to deliberate on the raging issue between it and the presidency.

Addressing the press after the session, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Mohammed Aliyu Sabi said the senate resolved at the meeting to stand by the statement issued on its behalf over the issue on Monday .

He explained that the senate was guided by constitutional provision in resolving that President Buhari should sign the passed  budget into law first and come through supplementary budget later, to capture whatever projects that might have been omitted in the budget by the Presidency itself and not the National Assembly.

He said:  Like you will recall I issued a press statement yesterday ( Monday) on behalf of the senate to make our position very clear with respect to the issue of the budget and let me make it very clear that we issued that statement simply to clarify the situation and not to confront any authority nor to threaten anybody, we are a democratic institution and whatever we do we remain guided by the grand norm of the country which is the constitution.

“Today we have resumed plenary having come back from our recess and of course we went into executive session which is the normal practice to welcome one another and discuss issues that we believe pertains to the burning issues on ground in this case the issue of the 2016 budget and the smooth workings of the senate and the national assembly.

“Now what we issued yesterday remains our position, today all we did was to confirm what exactly are the true pictures of this situations and in my capacity as a spokesman of the senate I did not go to press with falsehood I have to verify my facts, I have to get my facts and to speak on this facts; and I think we have made that point very clear and we would definitely remain guided by the tenents of the Nigerian Constitution as we do whatever we were supposed to do.

“One  thing that is obvious is that yes, we have passed the budget, Nigerians are asking what next for us what is important now is for the budget to be signed. The constitution has taken note of this kind of scenario where you may have omissions or shortfalls of allocations and section 81 of the constitution is very clear on what you need to do which is to sign the budget and then submits a supplementary appropriation.

“I want to assure you that the senate is not unmindful of the cries of Nigerians that we said for example the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the budget does not in any way undermine the fact that it is a very, very important project for this nation to embark on and so the national assembly,the senate is open if the executive brings a supplementary appropriations with respect to these and any other issue that they feel very strongly about, we are ready and willing to consider such but the most important point to note is that we want to remain guided by the provisions of the constitution.

“I think if we do that all this ranging controversies will be off our back and we can all concentrate and put our energies to begin the process of implementating the 2016 budget so that those dividends of democracy, the youth unemployment issue, the empowerment of women, the social intervention programme, the infrastructural programmes, the agricultural programmes, etc, would be tackled”.


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