The Senate yesterday urged the Presidency to tell Nigerians the true state of the 2016 budget. This is even as it demanded a public apology, or resignation, from the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi over his “reckless, uncalled for and dangerously divisive” comments that the red chamber removed the Lagos-Calabar rail project from the budget.
In a statement signed by Sen. Aliyu Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, in Abuja, the Senate, while reacting to claims in the media credited to the executive arm of government that the National Assembly tampered with some aspects of the 2016 budget, said, “the National Assembly had bent backwards to produce a coherent document out of the excessively flawed and chaotic versions of the budget proposal submitted to it.
“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 lies 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.”
According to the Senate, 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.
“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 antic 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,” the senate said.
The statement added, “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 road 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 percent of the budget”.
It said that the president should sign the budget and begin implementation of areas “where there is agreement between both arms, even as we engage ourselves to resolve the contentious areas, if there are any”.
The statement added: “We therefore maintain that even these contrived discrepancies are not sufficient excuse not to sign the budget into law.
“We therefore urge the President to sign the 2016 budget without 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”.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.