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Senate confirms 2016 budget missing

By The Citizen
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The controversy over whether or not the hard copy of the 2016 budget proposal is missing has been cleared.

Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Wednesday confirmed that the upper chamber has constituted a high-powered Senate search team to fish out the missing fiscal document.

The cat of the missing document was let out of the bag by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, (Abia South) who came under Senate Standing Order 42.

Order 42 deals with Matter of urgent national importance which the Senate is bound to consider if the Senate President allows it.

Abaribe told the Senate that the grievous issue of the 'missing and disappearance of the 2016 budget proposal' was widely reported in the media Tuesday.

He added that most of them had been inundated with questions by their constituents about the whereabouts of the budget proposal.

Abaribe said that their constituents who genuinely believed and saw the budget as the life wire of the country wanted to know how and why the budget got missing.

He said that the Senate should not sweep the matter under the carpet in the interest of not only their constituents but the country in general.

He recalled that the matter of the missing document also came up during their closed session on Tuesday, January 12, 2016 without satisfactory explanation on the whereabouts of the document.

Abaribe who prayed the Senate to debate the matter so as to tell Nigerians the truth about the disappearance of the fiscal document said that it was also not in the interest of the Senate not to look into the matter.

He insisted that 'the matter is definite and urgent' and should therefore be considered.

Abaribe said, 'The matter that I refer to is what is in every newspaper today, everywhere in all the talk-shows in the radio of a missing budget and therefore Mr President, I want to bring to your attention and the attention of all my colleagues that yesterday in our closed session, this matter also came up.

'Some of us who are worried, who have been inundated by messages from our constituents who are really worried about what their fate in the 2016, and are asking us, where is our budget.

'That is why Mr President I think it is definite and it is urgent that we look into this matter.'

Saraki agreed and said that a team of Senator had already been constituted to look into the matter.

The Senate President added that Senators should be patient and await the findings of the search team after which the Senate would go into a closed session to discuss the matter.

He also confirmed that the issue came up during the Senate closed session on Tuesday.

He said that though Abaribe did not discuss the subject of his Point of Order with him as required by the Senate Rule, he would allow an exception in order to look into the issue.

Saraki said, 'Because of the importance of this (disappearance of the budget) I will allow an exception.

'You know we are all part of the decision at the close session yesterday and as part of that decision we are still waiting for those we have referred to carry out the assignment to come back to us.

'I think they will come back to us by tomorrow (today) and we will go into a close session and finish up the report and we will be able to debate it properly.'

There was an attempt to cover up the issue when Senate President earlier announced that the Senate would commence debate of the general principles of the 2016 budget proposal on Tuesday, January  19  through 21st.

Saraki also said copies of the budget proposal would be made available to lawmakers on today (Thursday) to enable them go through before the debate.

He asked lawmakers who intended to make contribution to the debate to indicate interest before the consideration of the debate would commence.

There was no mention the reported disappearance of the budget proposal until Abaribe blew the lid open to confirm what some Senators had dismissed as speculation on Tuesday.

Some Senators spoken to spoke wondered 'whether anybody can circulate or distribute what you don't have.'

A source noted that 'As at today, nobody has given or told us in clear terms the sectoral allocations contained in the budget proposal.'

The Senator said that 'it was wrong for the Senate, the highest law making body of the federation to behave as if all is well when it is obvious that something is amiss.'

He noted that 'if the budget was withdrawn, it could have been appropriate and reasonable for those involved in the whole affair to say so.'

He added, 'To smuggle out a budget that was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly under suspicious circumstances is unacceptable to most of us.'

On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari and Saraki met briefly in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

It was not clear what they discussed in the closed door meeting.

Saraki was reported to have declined comment when confronted with questions on the missing budget. – The Nation.