Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The Senate boiled on Thursday with members, who openly kicked to reject what they perceived to be a reintroduction of the 2014 Budget proposals in the Order Paper of plenary proceedings.
Eyebrows were raised on the floor of the Senate, following the enlistment of the 2014 Budget proposals of 52 federal parastatals in the Order Paper by the chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang.
Soon after the deputy leader of the Senate, Senator Abdul Ningi, read the motion on the 2014 Budget proposal of the 52 agencies for consideration on the floor of Senate, most of the senators, who spoke on the motion, expressed surprise over the appearance of the proposal on the Order Paper.
They particularly observed that the agencies so enlisted had already appeared before the various standing committees of the Senate for the 2014 Budget defence.
Some of the parastatals contained in the list are: Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and many others.
Introducing the motion on behalf of the Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, who was absent from the chamber, Ningi said: “that the Senate do consider the request of Mr President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 2014 Budget proposal for the following Federal Government Parastatals…”
But when thrown to the senators for debate by the Senate President, David Mark, all the senators, who spoke, kicked against it, wondering where the document or correspondence emanated from seven weeks after final consideration of the N4.6 trillion 2014 Budget.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, who first contributed on the matter, described the request contained in the document as nothing other than an indirect way of returning the already passed budget to the Senate for reconsideration through the back door.
“To me, this request, as purportedly made by the President and presented here by the Senate deputy leader, is strange and very strange indeed because this is the first time I will be witnessing such a thing.
“We have already passed the 2014 Budget several weeks ago, and now you are presenting to us another request to consider budget estimates of some federal agencies believed to have been captured in the original budget estimates passed.
“This, to me, Mr. President, sir, is unacceptable because what the generality of Nigerians are waiting for now is for Mr. President to sign the already passed 2014 Budget into law and not reconsideration of any budget estimates,” he said.
Also kicking against the request, Senator James Manager said: “Mr. President, this is strange. If you remember, these agencies’ budget estimates have already been treated and considered during the last budget defence session, which eventually paved way for the passing of the N4.6 trillion 2014 Budget profile by both chambers of the National Assembly in the first week of April.
“Now, what can now be said to warrant this request before us when the budget passed has not been assented to? In a nutshell, what Nigerians are expecting as far as the 2014 Budget is concerned is for Mr. President to sign the one already forwarded to him, and not the Senate carrying out any reconsideration on any aspect of the budget.”
Senators’ disapproval of the document got stronger with Senator Eyinaya Abaribe’s submission that the Senate, by its Standing Rule (52), could not revisit an already concluded issue such as the 2014 Budget, unless there is an entirely new motion to do that.
The controversy over the document further deepened when Senator Ayogu Eze asked the Senate to hold Enang to explain where the document emanated from, and the actual motive of the reintroduction.
He argued that the document ought to have been attached to the entire budget profile for proper scrutiny and consideration of the Senate when the general budget was being treated, and not coming through the back door.
“The Senate should take a very serious view of this matter of a strange document on a budget already passed. pointedly the Senate should find out from its chairman, Rules and Business Committee (Enang) where he got the document from, and he should be told that his move is already belated,” he said.
Reacting to the whole confusion and arguments, Enang explained that the document came along with the 2014 Budget profile as submitted by the Budget Office in November last year and was submitted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
He further clarified that his committee got the document from the Senate Committee on Appropriations, denying the insinuation that he originated the contentious document.
In a bid to intervene on the issue, David Mark, Senate president, however, pointed out that the document was not strange.
He noted that though he was not very certain about what happened to the document during the budget defence, it ought to form part of the main budget.
Accordingly, he mandated the Rules and Business Committee chairman to go and do a thorough scrutiny of the agencies and separate the ones that their budget proposals were treated during the budget defence from those not treated and bring the latter to the chamber for consideration.