The drama trailing the 2016 budget in the Senate continued Thursday with stunning assertions by the Senate leadership.
The troubling revelations came after over two hour closed session where the lawmakers were said to have “thoroughly discussed and taken far reaching decisions on the budget.
After the closed session, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, announced that the secret meeting centered on the controversy surrounding the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
He also recalled that they mandated the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the matter in order for the Senate to take an informed position.
Saraki then dropped the bombshell.
He said that the Senate discovered from the findings of its Ethics committee that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matter, Senator Ita Enang, printed and submitted to the Senate a different version of the 2016 budget.
He said that what Enang submitted to the Senate was against the original copy of the Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22, 2015.
Saraki did not stop there.
He said that the Senate resolved not to work with a version of the Appropriation Bill not laid before the National Assembly.
He added that the Senate also resolved to consider only the version of Bill presented by President Buhari as soon as they receive soft copy of the original document from the Executive.
He said, “We have received the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on investigations surrounding 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“Our finding is that Senator Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matter (SSA) printed copies of the 2016 Appropriation Bill and brought to the Senate.
“We have discovered that what he brought is different from the version presented by Mr. President.
“We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr. President as soon as we receive soft copy of the original document from the Executive.”
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi also addressed reporters immediately after Senate plenary to throw more light on the claim of a fake budget.
Abdullahi spoke in company with the Vice Chairman of his committee, Senator Ben Murray – Bruce.
He said, “We are here to update you on an issue that has been awash in the media. We are here in continuation of what we have said earlier that the report about a missing budget is not true.
“We don’t have a budget that is missing and we still maintain that we don’t have a budget that is missing.
“But you recall that the Senate President did inform Nigerians that there is issue that a committee was asked to investigate.
“The report of the investigation by the committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition has been submitted in the Executive session because it was a decision we took in the last Executive session on Tuesday.
“Now our findings are this, that Mr. President did lay the budget in the Joint session of the National Assembly.
“Thereafter, the Senate went on recess and upon resumption copies of the document were produced by Senator Ita Enang, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters for Senate and copies were submitted to both the Senate and the 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 in the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“However, the Senate in defence in its integrity and honour will not work with what has not been laid in the National Assembly.
“We are constitutionally mandated and duty bound to consider only that budget that has been so laid by Mr. President.
“Right now, for reproduction, we are awaiting the soft copy of the originally submitted budget so that the National Assembly can reproduce copies of the budget itself.
“Because if we reproduce ourselves, then we have confidence in the fact that what we reproduced is what was originally submitted to us.
“The institution of the Senate will not and cannot do anything that is illegal. We will not do anything that will not promote the unity, integrity and welfare of Nigerians.
“Some people were saddled with the responsibility to find out what happened.”
Abdullahi reiterated that “the budget submitted by the President is not missing, “we already have copies of it but what we are saying is that for us to reproduce for our members, it is easier, based on the quantum of document that has to be produced, that we get the soft copy of that original version so that we can reproduce it.”
He insisted that “by next week, we want to go down to business, Senators have picked dates to speak during the three days set aside for debate of the 2016 budget.”
Abdullahi also said that the Senate leadership was mandated to speak with all those concerned with the document saying “that was why the Senate President was in touch with Mr. President.”
The Senate spokesperson however refused to speak on the claim by the House of Representatives that it had its own original version of the fiscal document.
He also declined to say what amounted to the differences spotted in the version of the budget submitted by Enang and the original version presented by President Buhari.
“I am not in the position to say the differences between the document submitted by the President and the one brought by Ita Enang. The committee that investigated the issue did not include that in their report,” he claimed.
Abdullahi said that as at the time the Senate President promised to make copies of the budget available to Senators Thursday, “he was working on the assumption that what were brought by the executive were copies of the original copies submitted by Mr. President.”
He noted that “but based on the outcry, it was discovered that there are another version different from what the President gave us.”
The man at the centre of the controversy, Senator Ita Enang, refused to respond to what the Senate President said.
Enang told anxious reporters who crowded his office that he does not want to join issue with the Senate.
Source: The Nation