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Missing Budget: The oil price connection



As the intricacies behind the 2016 budget proposal submitted to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari continues to unwind, indications have emerged that the mystery trailing the document may have been caused by the slump in oil prices

Senate had raised the alarm recently that the budget was missing, but later said that was not the case, only for the Senate President, Bukola Saraki to point at Presidential Liaison Officer (Senate) Ita Enang of submitting a different version of the document presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22.

But according to Presidential Liaison Officer (House of Representatives) Sumaila Kawu, the whole drama may not be unconnected with a move by the presidency to lobby the National Assembly to take a second look at the document with the respect to the oil benchmark because the earlier projection was no longer in tune with the current reality.

He said, “Actually, as our job entails, we lobbied the National Assembly to take a second look at the oil benchmark because our projection was no longer in tune with the current reality.

“We lobbied the National Assembly on the benchmark; it was not illegal or alien to legislature world over and it has nothing to do with stealing or smuggling it out of the Senate.

“We, as the Executive, have to take account of the volatile nature of oil price. The National Assembly was aware of this, but notwithstanding we still have no reason to withdraw it.

According to him, those in the presidency found the drama over the budget “laughable as the President cannot direct his agents to “steal” the document.

He said: “It is a surprise to us and Mr President in particular; it is laughable. We just laughed when we heard of it.

According to him, the President has no reason to smuggle the document out of the Senate because he is aware of options he can explore to withdraw the document.

Read also: Senate in dilemma: One Presidency, two budgets

He also described the accusation directed at his Senate counterpart, Sen. Ita Enang as “unfair” because the former senator is an experienced lawmaker who once chaired Rules and Business Committees in the House and in the Senate.

Kawu said the missing budget rumour may have been strengthened by the locking away of the document in the Clerk of the National Assembly’s office.

“Being a joint sitting, Mr President laid one document on the floor; then it is for the Budget Office or National Planning Commission (NPC) to make copies.

“In this case, once it was laid, the Clerk of the National Assembly locked the document in his office because of the time of the year; it was holiday period and the lawmakers were going on holiday.

“The confusion might have been as a result of that.

“But our concern in this matter is why we were dragged into it.

“Buhari will be the last person to assign his agent to be involved in such illegality.”

The presidential aide said the sad development was not a matter of lack of communication between the Executive and legislature but an act of mischief by those behind it.

On his part, Enang declined to speak on the matter, saying it is between “two of my bosses”.

“I do not want to comment on the matter at the moment,” Enang said. “It is a very sensitive matter involving two of my bosses – the National Assembly and Presidency. I don’t want to talk about them.”

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