President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Nationally Assembly to formally request the withdrawal of the 2016 Appropriation Bill he had presented to a joint session of the federal legislature on December 22 for adjustment.
The president’s letter was addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara.
The formal request followed controversy over the alleged secret extraction and doctoring of the original budget document. The controversy over the budget had raged all through last week, as the National Assembly resumed after a recess and the legislators prepared to begin deliberation on the budget.
It emerged that the budget saga, which became the source of an ever-growing confusion, arose from Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang’s alleged adoption of a sneaky approach in the pursuit of an otherwise legitimate objective.
It was gathered that Buhari had discovered after presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly that some of the figures proposed for operations in the Presidency and the State House were being publicly criticised as outrageous and higher than those of his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Given Buhari’s austere nature and the change agenda of his party, the figures for the subheads in the budget for the office of the president, vice president, and a few ministries, which went viral on the social media and had become a major topic of discussion on both the print and broadcast media, were a huge embarrassment.
To reflect the public mood, the president was said to have directed the recall of the 2016 budget from the National Assembly for review. Ordinarily, the review process should have entailed a written request from the president to the National Assembly calling for the withdrawal of the budget. But Enang, allegedly, embarked on a surreptitious process of changing the budget figures, which went awry.
The senate had at its plenary on Thursday accused Enang of doctoring the contents of the 2016 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by Buhari. “What he distributed is different from what was presented by Mr. President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by Mr. President,” Saraki announced to the senators after an executive session that dwelled on a strange confusion about the substitution of the budget, which had raged since Monday. Enang’s indictment followed an investigation by the ethics and privileges committee of the senate.