Nigerian Senate blames presidential aide for budget controversy

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The Nigerian Senate has blamed the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, for the controversy trailing the 2016 budget proposal.

Senate President Bukola Saraki who disclosed this on Thursday, said the investigation by the committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions, discovered that copies of the appropriation bill submitted by Senator Ita Enang were different from the one presented by President Buhari on December 23, 2015.

The committee’s report was considered and deliberated upon at a closed session of the Senate, and thereafter the Senate President confirmed the findings contained in the report.

“We want to inform the public that we have received the report of the committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions, on the investigation surrounding the 2016 appropriation bill. Our finding is that Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on NASS Matters 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, and 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” the Senate President announced.

On Wednesday, the Senate President said that copies of the 2016 appropriation bill would be distributed to the Senators for consideration and debate starting from next Tuesday January 19. It is now unclear whether the scheduled consideration of the appropriation bill will commence as agreed by the Senators following the outcome of the committee’s investigation.

However, Senate spokesman Senator Aliyu Sabi in attempt to further clarify the issue said the discrepancies discovered in the document is not the main concern of the upper legislative chamber.

“Now, what is important is not about the differences, what is important to us is the document that we are going to use to continue the process of discussing the budget in the interest of this country. That is what is important” he stressed.

Voice of Nigeria later spoke with the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang to verify the claim of the Senate but he said, “what matters now is that the country should move forward and not whether the copy of the budget proposal I sent to the Senate is different from the one presented by Mr. President”. 

Currency Exchange Rate

Meanwhile, the Senate has invited the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele to appear before the lawmakers and give clarification to the issues concerning the exchange rate of the Nigerian naira against the American dollar.

The invitation came as a result of reports from the financial market that the Naira depreciated further to a 43-year low at =N=305 per dollar as scarcity of dollars intensified in the unofficial market.

From an average of =N=287 per dollar on Tuesday, the parallel market exchange rate rose to an average of =N=305 per dollar across the country and the Senate believes there is need for the apex bank Governor to properly explain the situation to the lawmakers.

In another development, the Minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole met with the Senate committee on health where he highlighted latest efforts by the government to control the spread of the Lassa virus.

He said government was putting in place a comprehensive national response plan to combat lassa fever through a broad based sectoral action implementation.

 

Nnenna.O