The Senate on Thursday accused the executive of smuggling copies of a doctored version of the 2016 Appropriation Bill into the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
The Senate stated this while discussing the report of its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which it set up to investigate the alleged disappearance of the budget.
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, after a two-hour executive session with his colleagues, explained that the upper chamber deliberated extensively on the report of the committee behind closed doors.
At the plenary, Saraki said the committee, in its report, revealed that the Senate had in its possession two versions of the 2016 budget proposal.
According to him, the first version is the hard copy submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari while the second is a different version produced and brought into the Senate by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.
Saraki, however, said members of the upper chamber had resolved to start the consideration of the 2016 Appropriation Bill on Tuesday, January 19, but with only the original document submitted to the National Assembly by Buhari.
He noted that if the Presidency wanted to amend the initial version of the bill that was submitted to the National Assembly, there were proper legislative channels to do so.
Saraki added, “Our findings revealed that Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on NASS Matters, printed copies of the 2016 Appropriation Bill and brought them to the Senate. We have discovered that what he brought was different from the version presented to us by Mr. President.
“We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr. President as soon as we receive the soft copies of the original document from the Executive.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, in company with his deputy, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, also told journalists after plenary, that Enang mass-produced for distribution, a different version of the document.
He said, “The report about a missing budget is not true. We don’t have a budget that is missing.
“The investigation by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, had been submitted at the executive session. It was a fallout of the collective 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 and discrepancies with what was originally laid by Mr. President at the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“However, the Senate in defence of its own integrity and 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.
“The budget submitted by the president is not missing.”
The Senate spokesperson assured Nigerians that the senators would as from next week, get down to business as members had already picked dates to speak during the three days set aside for the debate on the 2016 budget.
He recalled that Saraki visited Buhari on Tuesday because the Senate leadership was mandated to speak with all those concerned with the document, hence, “that was why the Senate President was in touch with Mr. President”
Enang, who was alleged to have submitted another version of the budget, different from the version submitted by Buhari, declined comments on the issue when contacted by one of our correspondents on Thursday.
A source in Enang’s office said, “Oga is just a sacrificial lamb in this case because he was being unfairly accused of an offence he never committed. These copies were brought to our office and Oga just asked us to start distribution. How will he know the content?’’
Attempts to speak to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, on the differences between the documents submitted by Buhari and the one distributed by Enang, failed as he declined comments on the issue.
A member of the committee, however, told our correspondent that their terms of reference did not include examining both versions of the documents to identify the differences.
But the Presidency said the current level of relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is too precious to be expended on issues that are not compelling.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday.
Shehu was reacting to the claim by the Senate that the Presidency smuggled doctored 2016 Budget proposal to its chamber.
The presidential spokesman said since the lawmakers had expressed their readiness to start working on the budget, the Presidency would not encourage anything that would distract them from the work at hand.
He said, “We are happy that they (the lawmakers) are ready to get on with the budget. We don’t want anything that will distract them from their work.
“The present level of relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is too precious to be expended on issues that are not compelling.”
But the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has called on the National Assembly to remove Buhari for what it described as various constitutional breaches, especially the submission of two versions of the 2006 budget proposal.
The PDP said this in a statement by its Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus on Thursday.
The party said the National Assembly should thoroughly investigate what it described as a shameful act, including what it called the distortion and banding of figures to accommodate personal interest.
“We therefore call on the National Assembly to commence the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari for the various constitutional breaches especially the submission of two versions of the 2006 budget,” the party stated.
Secondus also asked the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly to resign, saying they had failed to provide the much-needed capacity in the management of the nation’s economy, which he said resulted in the embarrassing crashing of the nation’s currency to as low as N305 to a dollar.
The PDP also asked the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to resign for allegedly plunging “the country’s currency policy into chaos, an action that has thrown investors into total confusion.”
In his own reaction, the Chairman, Senate Committee on National Identity, Senator Kabiru Marafa, faulted the argument of his colleagues that two versions of the 2016 budget, were available in the Senate.
Marafa, in an interview with journalists in his office on Thursday, challenged the Senate leadership to make the two versions of the 2016 budget available to members of the public or should identify the differences.
He denied Enang’s culpability in the alleged smuggling of the doctored document into the Senate, adding that such action was impossible.
Marafa added, “I don’t understand what is playing out. We started with one problem and we are ending with another problem. Today, we say there are two versions, the procedure of laying budget is very clear.
“President Muhammadu Buhari laid the budget in December. If somebody says there are two versions, where is the second version and when did we have procedure of collecting budget from SSA? We have procedure. I think it is very necessary to differentiate what is fake and original.
“Mr. President laid the budget inside the box and it is still inside the box. Ita Enang will be the last person that will do that. If you doctor one out of eight copies, does it make sense?’’
Investigations revealed that the copy laid by the President was still in the box with which it was conveyed while the Executive had withdrawn the version said to have earlier been distributed by Enang.
Further findings at the office of the Senate President and the SSA to the President on NASS Matters, revealed that all the “doctored” version had been completely returned to the Budget Office, thereby making it difficult to spot the differences.
Contrary to the argument of the Senate, the House of Representatives said it had only one version of the 2016 budget as laid before the joint session of the National Assembly in December by Buhari.
It also clarified that it would go ahead next week to start debating the general principles of the budget as laid by the President.
The House maintained its position that no budget was missing from its chamber, adding that the same document submitted by Buhari earlier was intact.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, clarified the position of the House to reporters amid claims that there were two versions of the N6.08tn document.
Namdas said on Thursday, “As far as we are concerned in the House, the budget is in the public domain.
“It is the same document that was laid by Mr. President that we have with us.
“Next week, we will begin to consider the proposal. Any other document outside the one Mr. President presented is not with us.
“So, for us, if our budget was never missing, how could we have another version?”
Namdas, who confirmed an exclusive report by The PUNCH on Tuesday, explained that the House shifted the consideration of the budget to next week to give members the time to study the details.
“You know, we just reconvened after the Christmas and New Year break.
“Members need a few days to study the document. We could have started the consideration this week,” he stated.
The House also claimed that contrary to “interpretations by some persons,” Buhari did not say that he would stop the National Assembly from buying 469 exotic cars for its legislative duties.
Namdas, who was making a reference to Buhari’s December 30 media chat, said the President’s reaction was due to the “wrong” figures that were given to him on the cost of the cars.
He added, “Mr. President never said he would stop us from buying cars.
“He was given a wrong figure of N47bn as the cost of the cars. He only said if it was true that such an amount would be spent on cars, there would be issues.
“It has turned out that the N47bn is not true. That was as far as the issue went.”
In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – Buhari
In response to the suspended acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, President Muhammed Buhari, lamented that the anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”
Buhari, whose vision is to put an end to corruption in Nigeria, believed that every aspect of the nation’s life is enshrined in corruption and it’s of major concern when leaders of institutions saddled with the mandate to fight the menace are found in the waves of the corruption they claimed to be fighting.
This act is a great abomination not only because it strikes at the root but it also trivialises and undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself, the President explained.
He further said that in a bid to put an end to this great abomination, he had set up Ayo Salami Panel to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that his administration is fighting.
Buhari said that his administration is ready and willing to go all out in the fight against corruption, and no one is too big nor above the law to become a victim of anti-graft’s sledgehammer.
The president said, “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touch on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
In Search For The New EFCC Chairman, Justice Ayo Salami Panel Advises Buhari to Look Outside The Police Force
Justice Ayo Salami’s panel advised President Muhammadu Buhari to look outside the Nigerian Police Force for the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A credible source confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to follow the panel recommendation to avoid a similar fate to that of Magu, the former chairman.
The source also confirmed that the panel recommendation was a result of sleaze allegations against suspended acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Also, that search team would be constituted in the next few days to slim down the possibilities of finding the right candidate to bring into reality the President’s vision of a corrupt-free anti-graft agency.
The source further confirmed that “the sleaze and abuse of office allegations against Magu, a commissioner of police, were overwhelming,” and that he may be put on trial.
As advised by the panel, the new EFCC chairman should be in interim position for two years.
It was suggested that the recommendation from the Justice Ayo Salami panel might have pinned Magu, according to Femi Adesina, the presidential spokesman, he advised president Buhari to consider looking into other law enforcement or security agencies, as well as considering important and diligent staff of EFCC in his plans to appoint the next EFCC chairman, as s provided in the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004.
Following the Justice Ayo Salami panel recommendation, Salami said “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC.
“Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, the arrangement would be made for the appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism”.
Justice Ayo Salami appreciated the president for giving members of the panel an avenue to serve the country.
Ezekwesili Presents Research Findings on Fixing Nigeria’s Politics
She stated this at the public launch of #FixPolitics, where she presented findings from her fellowship research on how to fix politics in Nigeria and Africa more broadly.
Ezekwesili invited 124 Nigerians from diverse fields of endeavour and geopolitical zones to collaborate on designing the research findings over the last one year as a Work Study Group. The group is the co-leadership organ responsible for an integrated citizens-led actions to fix the broken political system.
She pointed out that politics in Nigeria was not fulfilling the core requirement of a democratic system, which was to provide good governance for the common wellbeing of citizens.
“My research findings primarily reinforce that the poor state of affairs in Nigeria is the consequence of the quality of politics at play. Politics is at the heart of everything any society can or will become. The essential process of democracy is not complete without politics,” the 2019 Nigerian Presidential candidate said.
In her study, she established primarily that in a democratic system, “there are three triangular pillars which determine the kind of outcomes that politics will produce for the people.
Explaining the concept, the former World Bank vice president said, “On the right angle or demand side of the triangle is the electorate; on the left or supply side is the politicians, political class and parties; and at the top is the regulatory – constitutional, legal, electoral and institutional context within which the politics happen.”
According to her, these tripod pillars create an interconnecting network of actions that determine the outcomes of every political system.
“Every pillar or angle of the triangle must function effectively and concurrently with the other two to enable the right quality of politics that will deliver strong economic performance for a people.
“In evaluating the outcome of politics in Nigeria and Africa, my study established that the quality of the electorate, quality of political class and quality and lack of independence and capacity of political institutions constitute a structural and systemic problem for democracy and must therefore be fixed by citizens,” Ezekwesili said.
She also said, “The research found that Nigeria is ridden with politicians without competing ideas of how to solve the problems of citizens, who lack a culture of public service and subordinate the common good to their personal and narrow interests.
“The constitutional, legal, institutional and regulatory environment is compromised by the political class to more frequently act without independence, fairness and adherence to the rule of law. The political space is thus completely monopolised by the supply side of governance, that is the political class, thereby causing political, economic and social stagnation for the nation and people.
“Currently in our politics, voters generally lack the level of influence necessary to compel the right political processes and good outcomes that serve the good of all in society.
“The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good.”
To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system.”
She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance.”
Delivering a keynote address, former President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said there was an enormous gap between the interests of the citizens and that of the politicians, which he saw as a major problem to a democratic setting.
“To fix politics in Nigeria, the citizens and the politicians must work together and represent the same in practical life,” he said.
Calderon further said that “citizens must change their perception of politics and political participation rather than holding to a view that politics is for corrupt and dishonest people.”
According to him, corrupt people are quite the opposite of what politics stands. “To fix politics is what happens when the people participate and take responsibility to provide political participation with ethical sense and ethical parameters,” Calderon added.
In a goodwill message, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said politics should be seen as an inclusive love affair and if institutionally implemented, “Africa will witness a great change in its democratic system.”
While dissecting the dynamics of democracy, three intergenerational panels with discussants like Prof. Atahiru Jega, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aisha Yesufu, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Jude Abaga(also known as M.I Abaga), Cynthia Mbamalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Samson Itodo, among others, agreed that there was an emerging consensus to fix politics in Nigeria as the status quo was untenable and unsustainable.
Speakers like Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Ayo Sogunro, Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje highlighted that “there is a need for young people and women to fully engage in partisan politics, create platforms for political engagement, use politics as a tool for framing a shared vision based on a new dominant value orientation of public service, connect the elite with the grassroots and mobilise the Nigerian public to mount pressure on the legislature for the right constitutional and electoral changes.”
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