President Muhammadu Buhari has finally admitted making some changes in the provisions of the 2016 Budget.
Buhari, in the letter addressed to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, dated January 16, 2016, said that he made some corrections in the draft Bill and asked the legislature to consider the corrected version as the authentic Appropriation Bill for 2016.
President Buhari observed that although some corrections were made on the Budget document, “the draft Bill remains the same and there are no changes on any of the figures.”
Buhari noted that at the time of submission of the 2016 Budget, he had indicated that the detailed breakdown of the budget containing the schedule would be made available to the Senate.
Although the President said that he corrected certain aspects of the Appropriation Bill, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers in the House of Representatives
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regarded Buhari’s action as an amendment to the Budget.
The lawmakers argued that the President lacks the power to amend the budget after presenting it to the NASS without a proper withdrawal.
Controversy had trailed the whereabouts of the budget when the Upper Chamber, upon resumption from the Christmas and New Year recess, declared it missing.
When it was later found, the Senate accused the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, of doctoring the budget.
The Senate asserted that the Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 by the President was different from the one Enang distributed to the members and vowed not to deliberate on it.
But yesterday, the Senate confirmed receiving the corrected version from Buhari and adopted it.
President Buhari’s letter reads in part: “It would be recalled that on Tuesday, 22nd December 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.
“At that time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there are 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 December 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 on any of the figures.”
After reading the President’s letter, a 30-minute closed-door session was held by the Senate before Saraki called for the adoption of the corrected version of the Appropriation Bill and thereafter assured Senators of the receipt of copies of the budget in readiness for consideration of the Bill today.
He praised Buhari for saving Nigeria from further embarrassment on the confusion that had trailed the 2016 Budget by presenting the corrected version of the Appropriation Bill to the two chambers of the National Assembly for consideration. The Senate, he said, would commence discussions on it and pass it soon.
In their reactions, the PDP lawmakers rejected the President’s letter, arguing that he lacked the power to unilaterally amend it.
The letter, which was read by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, during the plenary, was greeted by disapproval by the PDP lawmakers, who shouted “No, No!”
The Speaker remarked that the President said corrections had been made to the details of the budget as presented on December 22.
Reacting to the letter, Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) cited Sections 81 and 84 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which he said, did not give Buhari powers to amend the budget, adding that such powers fell within the jurisdiction of the legislature.
Ogor urged the House to disregard Buhari’s letter and go ahead to work with the original budget submitted to the House earlier in December 2015.
The Speaker corrected the Ogor argument, adding that there was nowhere in the letter that Buhari said the budget was amended.
Dogara said it is only the President that has powers to make corrections to the budget if he observes any error.
The AUTHORITY learnt that a mini commercial bus marked BENUE XA374GTJ, which brought the copies, probably from an unknown commercial printing press, arrived in the complex around 11:00am unnoticed.
An eyewitness said: “We just saw the mini bus at the rear entrance of the National Assembly and the people that accompanied it started offloading the copies of the 2016 Budget; that is all I can tell you for now.”