The Senate on Tuesday adopted President Muhammadu Buhari’s request asking it to discard the original budget proposals he presented to the Joint Session of the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 and work with a corrected version of the bill, after two weeks of controversy.
The development followed the Upper Chamber’s adoption and approval of a letter from Buhari, read by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on the floor of the Senate.
Buhari, in the letter, had indicated the intention of the executive to check the proposals to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown.
He told the lawmakers that necessary corrections had been completed on the budget and that the corrected version of the money bill had also been submitted to the National Assembly.
The President, therefore, said that the National Assembly would be given both the original copy he had submitted to the apex legislative assembly since December 22, 2015, and the copy containing the corrections.
Buhari acknowledged that he was aware of the controversies and confusion the corrections made on the budget proposals had provoked in the polity.
He explained that the draft bill did not change, neither were there any changes in the figures of either the sectoral allocations or the total budget figures.
The letter partly read, “It will be recalled that on Tuesday 22nd December, 2016 (he means 2015), I presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the National Assembly. I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details.
“As of the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule.
“That has since been completed and I understand that the corrections have been submitted. The National Assembly would, therefore, have the details as submitted on the 22nd and a copy containing the corrections submitted last week.
“It appears that this has led to some confusion. In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the National Assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates.
“The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures.”
Saraki told his colleagues after the adoption of the document that what was paramount in the hearts of Nigerians was the content of the budget and how it would impact on their lives.
He said the controversies generated with respect to corrections being made on the bill by the Presidency should be a thing of the past.
He, therefore, noted that the Senate would commence debate on the budget proposals today and continue on Thursday and Tuesday next week.
Consequently, Saraki directed the Senate Leader to ensure that copies of the budget estimates were produced and distributed to members in preparation for debate.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday stopped a protest by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party over the corrections proposed to the 2016 budget by President Buhari.
The PDP lawmakers, led by the House Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, raised objections soon after Dogara read a letter from Buhari, informing lawmakers on the alterations to the N6.08tn estimates.
In the letter, the President emphasised that the total figures in the budget remained unchanged except that he made necessary “corrections” to some provisions.
Dogara had hardly read the letter when Ogor jumped up from his seat to protest that what the President did was an amendment and not mere corrections. (Punch)