The Nigerian Senate has on Monday given the presidency what it described as a final warning, following its dealings with the legislative branch of government on matters relating to the 2016 budget, adding that it would no longer tolerate the presidency blaming the legislature for its woes.
This is coming against the backdrop of a simmering feud between President Muhammadu Buhari and National Assembly over the Appropriation Bill, as the Senate accused the Presidency of “gross incompetence”, “arrogance” and “lack of coordination.”
It was gathered that the rationale behind the rift was the removal of the Calabar – Lagos rail project from the final budget.
Officials of the presidency, yesterday, affirmed that the rail project was in the budget but removed by the committees of Appropriation in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The allegation was, however, stoutly rebuffed by the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Reacting to the allegation, the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, in a statement, yesterday, confirmed that the Lagos-Calabar rail line project was not included in the original document presented to the National Assembly by the Executive.
Also, a statement issued by Senate’s spokesman and chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi read in part:
“While the executive is mandated to prepare and lay before the National Assembly a proposed budget detailing projects to be executed, it should be made clear that the responsibility and power of appropriation lie with the National Assembly.
If the presidency expects us to return the budget proposal to them without any adjustments, then some people must be living in a different era and probably have not come to terms with democracy.
“We make bold to say, however, that the said Lagos-Calabar rail project was not included in the budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, and we challenge anyone who has any evidence to the contrary to present such to Nigerians.
“Since the beginning of the 2016 budget process, it is clear that the National Assembly has suffered all manners of falsehood, deliberate distortion of facts, and outright blackmail, deliberately aimed at poisoning the minds of the people against the institution of the National Assembly.
We have endured this with equanimity in the overall interest of Nigerians. Even when the original submission was surreptitiously swapped and we ended up having two versions of the budget, which was almost incomprehensible and heavily padded in a manner that betrays lack of coordination and gross incompetence, we refused to play to the gallery and instead helped the Executive to manage the hugely embarrassing situation it has brought upon itself; but enough is enough.
“This latest antics of this particular minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is reckless, uncalled for and dangerously divisive. Apart from setting the people of the southern part of the country against their northern compatriots, it potentially sets the people against their lawmakers from the concerned constituencies and sets the lawmakers against themselves. This manner of reprehensible mischief has no place in a democracy. We hereby demand from Mr. Amaechi a publicly tendered apology if he is not able to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was included in the budget. Otherwise, he should resign forthwith.
“Finally, by the provision of Section 81 (4) (a) and (b) of the constitution, the President is allowed to sign the budget and kick-start the implementation of the other areas that constitute over 90 per cent of the budget where there is agreement between both arms, even as we engage ourselves to resolve the contentious areas, if there were any. We, therefore, maintain that even these contrived discrepancies are not sufficient excuse not to sign the budget into law.
“We, therefore, urge President Buhari to sign the 2016 budget without any further delay. For every additional day that the president withholds his assent from the bill, the hardship in the land, which is already becoming intolerable for the masses of our people gets even more complicated. Certainly, as primary representatives of the people, we shall not vacate our responsibility and watch the people continue to suffer unduly.”