The tenuous relationship between the Senate and the Presidency assumed a new dimension on Monday as Senate President Bukola Saraki refused to cooperate with efforts by the Presidency to doctor the 2016 budget which has been a subject of several scandals and controversies.
Informed sources about the development who did not want to be named disclosed the details to SIGNAL on Thursday.
According to reports, President Buhari, shortly before embarking on his trip to China on Sunday directed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday to convene a meeting with Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to solicit the assistance of the leaders of the National Assembly to smuggle in fresh details omitted by the Presidency in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
Five signatures are required to validate the budget document after it has been passed by the National Assembly. The signatures of the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation as well as the Chairman House Committee on Appropriation are required on every single page of the budget document.
Were the Presidency to tamper with the details of the budget, it would require the four signatories from the National Assembly to validate the document. Faced with the dilemma of a fresh scandal in the event of a tampered budget document without the signatories of the relevant National Assembly officers, President Buhari then sought for the assistance of Saraki and Dogara to validate the revised document through the backdoor.
Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang SIGNAL gathered exclusively visited Saraki on Saturday to inform him about the planned meeting with the Vice President. But Senators loyal to Saraki led by Senator Dino Melaye kicked against the meeting insisting Saraki will not attend as there was no existing cordial relationship between the Presidency and the Senate, forcing Vice President Osinbajo to put a call through to Senator Melaye on Sunday appealing for cooperation and understanding which Senator Melaye was said to have again rebuffed.
“After Osinbajo’s entreaties to Senator Dino Melaye failed, the Presidency sent the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari to Saraki to facilitate his attendance at the meeting. Abba Kyari came to see Saraki on Monday to get him to attend the meeting, which was scheduled for 9pm on Monday”, the source told SIGNAL.
At the meeting, which Saraki eventually agreed to attend, the Vice President was said to have preached the need for unity and understanding between the Executive and the Legislature in the interest of Nigeria. Saraki, according to an informed source was plain and blunt with the Vice President, reminding him how the Presidency totally forgot about cordial working relationship until now that they needed help with their ‘tattered’ budget.
“Which interest of Nigeria? You can’t strip us naked in public and then dress us in white robes behind closed doors”, Saraki reportedly told Osinbajo. Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara who was also at the meeting was said to be on the same page with Saraki noting clearly that the President and his top government officials had repeatedly abused the fundamentals for any cordial relationship. Dogara was also said to have decried the fact that the Presidency barely carried the National Assembly along on several appointments.
Saraki is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for discrepancies observed in his asset declaration while he served as a two-term governor of Kwara State. The trial is widely believed to be a political witch-hunt masterminded by the Presidency and some elements within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who were unhappy with Saraki’s emergence as Senate President. President Buhari, a retired military general himself, was said to have described Saraki’s emergence as a “coup.”
“Sorry Mr. Vice President, we cannot help you. Let us continue to follow the law and abide with our constitutional duties in the interest of Nigeria”, Saraki reportedly told Osinbajo at the meeting on Monday in a final refusal to enter any compromise with the Presidency in their attempts to manipulate the contents of the 2016 budget through the backdoor.
The meeting was said to have ended on a note of frustration for the Presidency.
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