President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected the budget passed by the National Assembly last month, faulting the inclusion of N40 billion projects in the works ministry, 386 projects in agriculture and removal of the Lagos-Calabar rail project, among others by the lawmakers.
Buhari had presented a N6.08 trillion budget for the 2016 fiscal year in December 22, 2015; and it was passed by the National Assembly on March 23.
For three months the fiscal estimate was marred by heated controversies which included alleged disappearance of the document, its padding by the “budget mafia,” as well as rejection by some ministers and heads of government agencies.
Buhari’s rejection was contained in letters he sent to the two chambers of the National Assembly yesterday, Daily Trust learnt. The letters were however not read during plenary at the two chambers contrary to tradition.
A presidency source told Daily Trust last night that the president tactically rejected the new projects inserted in the budget by the lawmakers by reducing the proposal for some major projects.
The source said the president noted the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to appropriate funds, but that he would have accepted a situation where the money reduced was not channeled for new projects.
The senators however said they had agreed to meet with the president to address the grey areas.
Another source said once the president was satisfied that his initial proposal had been restored; he would assent to the budget.
One of the lawmakers told Daily Trust that the president had issues with the slash of the allocations to some of the projects.
“The president observed that some of the things we did were okay, but that he had issues with the proposed items whose allocations were reduced. The president believed that the items are very important, and that they shouldn’t have been tempered with.
“But I learnt that the leadership of the House will meet that of the Senate on the matter. Of course, the House had made it clear last week that it would re-examine the budget. I believe it’s because the House doesn’t want to work at variance with the Senate that it wants to do it once and for all,” another source said.
It was gathered that the president’s letter was discussed during the 78 minutes closed door session of the Senate yesterday.
During the meeting which started by 11.05am and lasted till 12.23pm, senators agreed to meet the president in order to address the grey areas.
Senators who attended the session said they had also agreed to look into the difference between the budget summary and the details. It was gathered that there was a difference of N500 million in the document.
Speaking at the end of the session, the presiding officer, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said they had agreed to make progress in the interest of Nigerians.
Also, the Speaker of the House Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday said they would not have any fight with the executive over their differences.
He told a delegation of APC elders and stakeholders from Kwande/Oshongo Federal Constituency of Benue State who paid him a courtesy visit that all issues would be resolved as soon as possible.
“We know that our people cannot wait forever for the budget and as a responsible government, we cannot afford to go to sleep on this. As we speak to you, I know that the executive has sent their observations on the budget, areas they termed ‘grey areas.’”
“We know that we have to find a solution and sooner than later, within this week, I believe that as leaders, having put on our thinking caps, we should be able to come up with a solution that will address this problem,” he said.
Buhari may sign budget next week
President Muhammadu Buhari may sign the 2016 budget next week, Daily Trust gathered last night.
A source in the Presidency told our correspondent in confidence that the current budget impasse would be over by next week.
The source, who craved anonymity, said President Buhari wanted all contentious issues about the budget to be resolved not later than next week.
Asked to confirm when the president would assent to the budget, he said: “Everything about the budget will be resolved between now and next week. I can confirm that to you right now”.
Addressing newsmen yesterday, the spokesperson of the House of Representatives Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) confirmed that they were in possession of a letter from the president.
“Mr Speaker has met with the president, and I can confirm to you that we’re in possession of the letter from the president identifying grey areas.
“But as you’re aware, both chambers have to concur. Our both leadership will meet before the end of this week, and God willing, by next week, we should be done,” he said.
But the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume said he was not aware of the president’s letter.
“It is not true that the budget has been sent back to the National Assembly. I am also not aware that there is any communication from the president on the issue. What I know is that areas of concern to the presidency are now with us here. We are talking with the presidency to resolve all the issues,” he said.
He faulted the report that the Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation Danjuma Goje was asked to resign during the closed door session.