DRAMA has continued trailing the 2016 budget, as the presidency and National Assembly continue the blame game.
The Presidency had, in the media on Sunday, claimed that the National Assembly had removed the Lagos-Calabar rail project President Muhammadu Buhari submitted in the proposal to the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibril, on Sunday, however, said the allegations of fresh passing of the 2016 budget attributed to the National Assembly was a ruse.
Abdulmumin, who tweeted severally on the issue on his handle: @abdulabmj, said the allegations contained in media reports on Sunday were basesless and unfounded, adding that the Lagos-Calabar railway project, said to have been removed by the National Assembly, was not even included in the budget proposals by the executive.
He spoke on the heels of similar comments made by the spokeamen of the two chambers of the chambers, who rejected insinuations that the lawmakers had padded the budget afresh.
Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Honourable Abdulrazaq Namdas, who spoke to the Nigerian Tribune in separate interviews, said the constitution of Nigeria did not make the legislature a rubber stamp.
The spokesmen said the National Assembly acted within the law in handling the budget, insisting that the National Assembly did not pad the budget in any way.
Honourable Abdumumin, however, threw lights on the several gaps in the budget as presented by President Buhari, adding that the National Assembly did a good job.
He tweeted: “Lagos-Calabar railway line was NEVER captured in the budget that was sent by the executive. How then could it have been removed by NASS?
“I actually find it shocking that even some national dailies made the removal their headlines. A little research would have helped.
“All they, and those spreading the false information needed to have done is check the initial document sent by the executive.
“The NASS has always been on the receiving end of bad press. This is being capitalised on in the conversations on budget 2016 and all its headaches and controversies didn’t emanate from NASS.
“Take the budget of the Ministry of Transportation was overshot by N54 billion. That is, by the time you add up the items on the ministry’s budget… you’d still have a gap of N54 billion. N54 billion lying there without being allocated. NASS has a responsibility and here it did the right thing. What NASS did with the N54 billion; We added N39.7 billion to the Lagos-Kano rail project. This will help complete the project once and for all. We also allocated N10 billion of this sum to the airports’ navigation and security apparatus.
“We often make so much noise about airport security after major plane crashes, but we need not wait for crashes to enhance safety at airports.
“We allocated the balance to Baro Ports for its completion and equipping. Baro Port is strategic to our economic development.
“Much ado about vaccines that weren’t even there. The budget of the Ministry of Health was the most controversial. The Minister of Health came to deny the document that was presented to the NASS by the executive for the second time. It is important to have a fact based conversation on these issues, instead of the obvious attempts by some to mislead the general public.”
Also speaking in a telephone interview on the same subject, Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, said the lawmakers acted within their powers, insisting that the National Assembly did not pad the budget in any way.
“I can say authoritatively that we did not pad the budget at all. I reject that in its entirety. We appropriated in line with what we believe the issues are and we did so in consultation with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs),” Senator Sabi said, adding that the power of appropriation belonged to the National Assembly.
He also stated that the National Assembly actually helped the executive to pass a badly written budget, adding that having done its job within the law, the lawmakers expected the executive to follow the constitutional process.
“We have done our part and we acted within the law, but there can be disagreements and that is why it is a deomcracy. If they have any objection, they can bring it up and we will look at it. I am clearly aware that we adjusted the budget to suit the programmes of President Muhammadu Buhari. We did everything in consultation with the MDAs,” he said.
His counterpart in the House of Representatives, Honourable Namdas, who also spoke with Nigerian Tribune, said the National Assembly did not set out to frustrate the administration of President Buhari in passing the budget.
He said the lawmakers had every right to work on the 2016 budget, noting that National Assembly was not a rubber stamp.
According to him, “what I want you to know is that we did our job in line with the programme of the president.
“The budget cannot be sent back to the president just the way it was presented to us, but what we passed was in line with the policy and programmes of the Federal Government.
“We are not out to frustrate the president as being speculated in some quarters,” he stated.