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Don’t Sign 2016 Budget, Southern Senators Warn Buhari

The controversy trailing the 2016 budget of the Federal Government got messier, yesterday, as legislators in the two chambers of the National Assembly, NASS, broke ranks with the official position of NASS which blamed the Presidency for the fiasco.

According to Vanguard, while senators from the southern part of the country, in a formal position, asked the President not to give his assent to the budget, members of the House of Representatives in a closed-door session rose against Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who they blamed for orchestrating the face-off.

The southern senators and members of the House of Representatives from across ethnic and party lines were miffed by what they described as the central role of Jibrin in removing the Calabar–Lagos rail line from the federal budget.

While the Southern senators asked the President not to give his assent without the inclusion of the rail line, the House requested the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to interface with President Muhammadu Buhari towards resolving the imbroglio. The face-off in the House ensued shortly after it went into a closed-door session and Speaker Dogara sought explanations from Jibrin on the issues concerning the budget. As Jibrin got up to explain the procedure adopted, he was faced with criticisms from several members, leading to an uproar.

Members in different tones, accused him of muddling up the reputation of the House and putting the legislature and the Presidency in an unnecessary face-off. They alleged that recommendations put up by the House committees were unilaterally tampered with by the Jibrin-led House Committee on Appropriation.

At the end of the session with members seemingly convinced that the problem arose from the legislature, the members urged the speaker to seek audience with the President to remedy the situation.

The House resolution Reading the resolution after the closed-door session, Speaker Dogara said:  “In the interest of our people, in view of the prevailing economic situation, the House has decided to re-examine the 2016 budget.”

Briefing journalists after plenary, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, reiterated the claim that the rail project was not contained in the original budget proposal laid before the National Assembly by the President.

“We are not saying that as a House that the Calabar-Lagos rail project is not good, we know it is a viable project. “Our concern is that people say that this thing was in the budget, and we removed it. That is why we are making this clarification and again I want to state it clearly that up till now, as I speak, there is no communication from the executive, the President to the National Assembly about the budget.

“All that we read in the media are other people’s opinions, but Mr. President has not come out clearly, and this is my problem with the budget that has been passed because as we were told, this budget has been taken back to Ministries for them to examine and get back to the President. “That is why we asked our speaker to liaise with the executive, let’s know what is the issue because we are elected by the people and we are here to serve Nigerians.”

Mistrust, suspicion However, a member that spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said the problem with the budget was the issue of mistrust and suspicion. The source stated that since the election of presiding officers, there had been suspicion, adding that the controversy generated by the budget issue was not supposed to arise.

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