Sources at the National Assembly (NASS) have told SaharaReporters that the 2016 federal Appropriation Bill, which was delivered to the legislature by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22 was discreetly withdrawn by the presidency.
Speaking in confidence on Tuesday, one source stated that the Presidency wanted to keep the withdrawal confidential in order to avoid any embarrassments.
When contacted by a SaharaReporters correspondent, Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity to the President, replied via email on Tuesday, that said by electronic message only the President could withdraw the budget.
“As far as we know, he hasn’t done that,” he declared. “The copies in their hundreds have been delivered to both chambers of the National Assembly. By tradition, once the budget is submitted, it ceases to be our property.”
In contrast, one of our sources said that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who is being tried on corruption charges by the Code of Conduct Bureau, had initially agreed to maintain Mr. Buhari’s secrecy and to cooperate in the hope that he will be in the President’s good graces.
It will also be recalled that the Senate was scheduled to begin deliberations on the 2016 budget on Tuesday. It was also learned that Senator Danjuma Goje, the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, demanded that a search party be formed to locate the “missing” budget. He was reportedly liaising with Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Security Matters (Senate), in the hunt for the document.
However sources speaking to SaharaReporters have said that it was Mr. Enang, who was operating under the direction of Mr. Buhari, to take the budget and later redistribute it with modifications.
Mr. Saraki spoke publicly today stating that “what he [Mr. Enang] distributed is different from what was presented by Mr. President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by Mr. President.”
Speaking with a SaharaReporters correspondent, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu confirmed that Senators in the NASS found that there were “adjustments” made to the soft copy budgets they received from Mr. Enang when he distributed them earlier this week.
Mr. Ekweremadu stated that if modifications or amendments were made to the budget “secretly without the official cooperation with the National Assembly it smacks of irresponsibility, which is unacceptable.”
When asked why Mr. Buhari or his aide, Mr. Enang, would change the budget Mr. Ekweremadu said that “the matter was under investigation” but that since Mr. Buhari presented the budget before the holiday break “they may have needed to clean it [the budget] up].”
Mr. Ekweremadu speculated that either there may be something in the budget that Mr. Buhari no longer wanted or that there were other concerns in the Presidency.
When contacted on these new allegations the spokesman for President Buhari, Mr. Shehu, said that their position has not changed since his earlier comments.