Ita Enang

Ita Enang

2016 Missing Budget: Senate Accusation Laughable – Presidency

The Presidency has described accusation by the Nigerian Senate that  the Presidential Liason Officer Ita Enang, printed a different version of the document presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22 for mass distribution to senators.

Ita Enang

Ita Enang

Dr. Saraki had yesterday said the Senate will not consider the budget until the version presented by the President is made available to senators.

Read: Senate Says It Won’t Accept New Version Of 2016 Budget Submitted By Buhari’s Aide

But to the President, the drama over the document is “laughable”, according to House Presidential Liasson Officer Sumaila Kawu.

Saraki spoke after a two-hour closed session to “thorougly discuss and to take far-reaching discussion on the budget”.

To Buhari, the drama over the budget is “laughable”, according to the House Presidential Liasson Officer Sumaiala Kawu. The President cannot direct his agents to “steal” the document.

Read: Presidency Withdrew The 2016 Budget To Change It

According to him, the President has no reason to smuggle the document out of the Senate because he is aware of  options he can explore to withdraw the document.

He also described the accusation directed at his Senate counterpart, Sen. Ita Enang as “unfair” because the former senator is an experienced lawmaker who once chaired Rules and Business Committees in the House and in the Senate.

Kawu said the missing budget rumour may have been strengthened by the locking away of the document in the Clerk of the National Assembly’s office.

He said: “It is a suprise to us and Mr President in particular; it is laughable. We just laughed when we heard of it.

“Being a joint sitting , Mr President laid  one document on the floor; then it is for the Budget Office or National Planning Commission (NPC) to make copies.

“In this case, once it was laid, the Clerk of the National Assembly locked the document in his office because of the time of the year; it was holiday period and the lawmakers were going on holiday.

“The confusion might have been as a result of that.

“But our concern in this matter is why we were dragged into it.

“Actually, as our job entails, we lobbied the National Assembly to take a second look at the oil benchmark because our projection was no longer in tune with the current reality.

“We lobbied the National Assembly on the benchmark; it was not illegal or alien to legislature world over and it has nothing to do with stealing or smuggling it out of the Senate.

“We, as the Executive, have to take account of the volatile nature of oil price. The National Assembly was aware of this, but notwithstanding we still have no reason to withdraw it.

“Even if the document must be withdrawn, it must be done legally and there are laid down means of doing that, which the President can explore.

“Buhari will be the last person to assign his agent to be involved in such illegality.”

The presidential aide said the sad development was not a matter of lack of communication between the Executive and  legislature but an act of mischief by those behind it.

He defended Enang, saying:

“Enang is a hands-on legislator that knows the rules. He was Chairman of Rules and Business committees of the House and Senate, so he knows the rules.

“This is the same lawmaker that tackled the then Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on different versions of Budget being implemented.

“He is very much aware of what is at stake and couldn’t have involved himself in such an illegality”.

On whether the budget may be withdrawn as a result of the crashing global oil price, Kawu said there was no plan for that.

“We will not withdraw the  because the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) has taken into consideration a situation like this.

“We are aware that for Saudi Arabia to raise her domestic oil price and the United States  exporting oil means there’s a problem.

“That was the reason why diversification of economy is a priority to this government, this budget wasn’t oil-dependent,” he said.

House of Representatives spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas said the House would only work with the document presented by President Buhari.

“He came with the document, and laid it on the table, and this is the document we would work on, as far as we are concerned as a House.

“By next week, we are commencing consideration of the document. Since our budget is not missing, nobody has withdrawn it,”.

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