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Sign 2016 Budget As Passed, Senate Tells Buhari

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Senate, on Tuesday, returned from its Easter break with a message for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the N6.6 trillion 2016 Budget into law as passed by the National Assembly on March 23.

The UNION reports that the details of the Budget have also been forwarded to the Presidency last week.

Senate’s insistence that Buhari should assent to the Budget was sequel to the raging controversy between the Presidency and the National Assembly over alleged removal of N60 billion Lagos to Calabar rail project from the Budget document.

While the Presidency, through the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Ameachi, alleged that the project was removed from the Budget details along with some other vital projects, which made Buhari to withhold his assent for now, the National Assembly and in particular, the Senate, said that the project was not included in the original Budget document.

The Senate had in reaction to Ameachi’s allegation issued a strong worded press statement on Monday asking him to apologise for the alleged falsehood or resign from office, just as it warned Buhari against any further delay on signing of the document into law.

A gathering storm that made the Senate upon resumption for Plenary on Tuesday, went into executive session for about an hour to deliberate on the raging issue between it and the Presidency.

Addressing the press, after the session, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Mohammed Aliyu Sabi, said the senate resolved at the meeting to stand by the statement issued on its behalf over the issue on Monday.

He explained that the senate was guided by constitutional provision in resolving that Buhari should sign the passed Budget into law first and come through supplementary budget later, to capture whatever projects that might have been omitted in the Budget by the Presidency itself and not the National Assembly.

He said: “Like you will recall I issued a press statement yesterday (Monday) on behalf of the senate to make our position very clear with respect to the issue of the budget and let me make it very clear that we issued that statement simply to clarify the situation and not to confront any authority nor to threaten anybody, we are a democratic institution and whatever we do we remain guided by the grand norm of the country, which is the Constitution.

“Today, we have resumed plenary having come back from our recess and of course we went into executive session which is the normal practice to welcome one another and discuss issues that we believe pertains to the burning issues on ground in this case the issue of the 2016 Budget and the smooth workings of the senate and the national assembly.

“Now what we issued yesterday remains our position, today all we did was to confirm what exactly are the true pictures of this situations and in my capacity as a spokesman of the senate I did not go to press with falsehood I have to verify my facts, I have to get my facts and to speak on this facts; and I think we have made that point very clear and we would definitely remain guided by the tenets of the Nigerian Constitution as we do whatever we were supposed to do.

“One thing that is obvious is that yes, we have passed the budget, Nigerians are asking what next for us what is important now is for the budget to be signed. The Constitution has taken note of this kind of scenario where you may have omissions or shortfalls of allocations and Section 81 of the Constitution is very clear on what you need to do, which is to sign the Budget, and then submit a supplementary appropriation.

“I want to assure you that the senate is not unmindful of the cries of Nigerians that we said for example the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the budget does not in any way undermine the fact that it is a very, very important project for this nation to embark on and so the National Assembly, the Senate is open, if the executive brings a supplementary appropriations with respect to these and any other issue that they feel very strongly about, we are ready and willing to consider such but the most important point to note is that we want to remain guided by the provisions of the Constitution.

“I think if we do that all this ranging controversies will be off our back and we can all concentrate and put our energies to begin the process of implementing the 2016 Budget so that those dividends of democracy, the youth unemployment issue, the empowerment of women, the social intervention programme, the infrastructural programmes, the agricultural programmes, etc, would be tackled”.

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