The National Assembly leadership was last night set to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to avoid a constitutional logjam over the 2016 budget that has seen senators threatening to override the budget bill.
According to Vanguard, the threat of veto override could be triggered from next Tuesday upon the lapse of the 30-day constitutional window given the President to sign the bill tomorrow.
The National Assembly had on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 passed the 2016 Appropriation Bill submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari in December last year. The budget passed was N17,002,641,773 billion naira lower than the figure of N6,060,677,358,277 trillion naira presented by President Buhari to the National Assembly, just as the 2016 fiscal document, contained the estimates of revenue and expenditure of the federation for the 2016 fiscal year in the aggregate sum of six trillion naira.
The vow in a closed-door session of the Senate it was gathered, came as senators across party ranks rose in uproar against the alleged actions of the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje in mutilating the inputs of the Senate committees on the budget, leading to a call for Goje’s resignation from the position.
The vow by the senators to override the President’s apparent veto on the 2016 appropriation bill, they claimed, was in line with constitutional provisions requiring the President to sign the budget bill within 30 days of receiving it or have his veto overridden. The prospect of the National Assembly overriding the veto was, however, a matter of contention yesterday.
It was gathered that the closed-door meeting which lasted for one hour, thirty minutes, presided over by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was characterized by uproar as senators shouted on one another following some irreconcilable differences.
A source at the meeting disclosed that there was a very sharp disagreement between members of the Appropriations Committee who complained that the committee chairman, Senator Goje, hijacked the entire budget process and outsourced it to his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
According to the source, some angry Senators were said to have accused the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki of appointing Goje as chairman of Appropriation simply because he was a loyalist of his and a number of other senators also called for his removal from the position.
In the aftermath of the closed door session, Senator Ekweremadu summed up the proceedings thus: “The Senate in a closed session deliberated on issues relating to the 2016 Appropriation Bill and the way forward for the quick resolution of all the matters related to the early implementation of the budget in the best interest of our nation.”
Last night, Vanguard also gathered that the National Assembly delegation is expected to counsel the President on what is constitutionally expected of him in the face of the crisis. The leadership, it was gathered, would ask the President to sign the budget as passed and send an amendment bill immediately to address the issues of concern to the Presidency.
Meanwhile, Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume who amplified on issues in the legislative body following the closed-door session said that President Buhari has not returned the approved 2016 budget to the Senate but agreed that the grey areas had been communicated to the National Assembly.
He said, “We have seen the President already on the budget, in fact meeting the President by the Senate leadership is not a big deal. It is not true that the budget had been sent back to the National Assembly. I am also not aware that there is any communication from the President on the issue.
“What I know is that areas of concern to the Presidency are now with us here. We are talking with the Presidency to resolve all the issues.”
When asked to speak on the call for the removal of Senator Goje as Chairman, Appropriations Committee, Senator Ndume denied the claims.
Speaking on the outcry on the Senate’s decision to purchase N35.1 million vehicles for its members supposedly for committee work even after collecting car loans from the public treasury less than a year ago, Senator Ndume said: “A minister who is appointed, not elected, drives a convoy of four cars. Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Commissioners, House of Assembly members, and Council chairmen all drive official vehicles. Are you all saying federal lawmakers should not have official vehicles? As a senator I can ride in any means of transportation including Keke NAPEP, if it will take me to my destination.”
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