* Presidency Declines To Comment
* NASS Has Two Versions Of Budget Copies
* Senate Summons CBN Boss Over Naira Devaluation
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
The drama surrounding the ‘missing 2016 Budget of Change’ reached the climax yesterday when the Senate declared that a fake copy of the Budget was smuggled into the National Assembly by the Presidency.
But the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, however, declined to join issues with any institution on the issue.
Speaking shortly, after a two-hour closed-door session, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, particularly accused the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, of printing the smuggled copies.
Saraki maintained that the Senate would only consider the 2016 Budget version that was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, December 22, 2015.
“We have received the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on investigations surrounding 2016 Appropriation Bill. Our finding is that Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on NASS Matters, printed copies on the 2016 Appropriation Bill, and brought to the Senate.
“We have discovered that what he brought is different from the version presented by Mr. President (Buhari). We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr. President as soon as we receive soft copy of the original document from the executive,” Saraki declared.
Addressing the Senate correspondents, immediately after the Plenary, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi Sabi, in the company of his deputy, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, hinted that were “some differences, discrepancies” between Enang’s version and Buhari’s version.
Sabi, therefore, disclosed that the only way the National Assembly would have confidence in the document it wants to work with is to reproduce the “originally submitted Budget” from the soft copy by itself.
“The report about a missing budget is not true. We don’t have a budget that is missing. But you recalled that the Senate President did inform Nigerians that there is an issue that a committee was asked to investigate. The investigation by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has been submitted in the executive session. It was a decision we took at the last executive session.
“Our findings are these: That Mr. President did lay the Budget before the joint session of the National Assembly, and, thereafter, the Senate went on recess, and upon resumption, copies of the document were produced by Senator Ita Enang, who is the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), and the copies were submitted to (the) Senate and House of Representatives.
“What we found out is that the document submitted by Senator Ita Enang, upon our resumption, has some differences, discrepancies with what was originally laid by Mr. President (Buhari) in the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“However, the Senate in defence of its own integrity, honour, will not work with what has not been laid on the floor of the National Assembly. We are constitutionally mandated and duty bound to consider only that budget that had been so laid by Mr. President.
“Right now, for reproduction, we are awaiting the soft copy of the originally submitted Budget so that the National Assembly can reproduce the copy itself. That is the only time we can have confidence in the document we want to work with.
“The Budget submitted by the President is not missing. We already have copies of it; but what we are saying is that for us to reproduce for our members. It is easier, based on the quantum of (the) document that has to be produced, that we get the soft copy of that original version so that we can reproduce it.
“By next week, we want to go down to business. Senators (have) picked dates to speak during the three days set aside for debate on the 2016 Budget. The Senate leadership was mandated to speak with all those concerned with the document, that was why the Senate President was in touch with Mr. President,” Sabi declared.
Sabi, however, refused to speak on the claims by the House of Representatives that it already had its own original version of the document.
“I am not in the position to say the differences between the document submitted by the President and the one brought by Ita Enang. The Committee that investigated the issue did not include that in their report.
“As at the time the Senate President promised to make copies available to senators today (Thursday), he was working on the assumption that what was brought by the executive were copies of the original copies submitted by Mr. President. But based on the outcry, it was discovered that there is another version different from what the President gave us,” he added.
But when contacted by the Senate correspondents on the issue, Enang humbly declined to join issues with the Senate.
In another development, the Senate has has summoned the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to appear before it by 11 a.m. to give explanations on the continuous weakening of Naira against the Dollar.
This was sequel to a Point of Order raised by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume.
Saraki subsequently directed Ndume to convey Senate’s resolution to the CBN boss.
“The Leader, in line with our rules, 42(1), did mention this, and in line with our rules also, we must get the views of the senators that we should stand this down till Tuesday next week.
“Leader, you convey and invite the Central Bank Governor to come on Tuesday by 11 to present this before the Senate,” he said.
While raising his point of order, Ndume said that it was expedient for the Upper Legislative Chamber to invite the CBN boss to brief it.
“As at today, Naira is exchanged for N305 to $1. In view of this worrisome situation and the fact that we all know that this country depends so much on imported materials and even food, there is a need for this Senate to, as a matter of urgency, call invite or summon the Governor of CBN to explain this situation and to provide the necessary solution to this situation,” Ndume said.