Fresh facts have emerged over the controversy surrounding the 2016 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari last month before a joint session of the National Assembly, with a principal officer of the Senate revealing that the document was the wrong one.
The 2016 budget became dogged by controversy last week when the Senate admitted that it was missing and its committee on ethics, petitions and privileges, which was saddled with the task of looking for it, later discovered that there were two versions of the document.
There was the one tabled before the National Assembly by the president on December 22, 2015 and another printed and distributed to senators by Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.
While the Senate insisted that it would not consider any other copy of the 2016 budget except the one presented by the president, the Presidency decried the attempt to link Senator Enang to the ‘missing’ budget controversy, explaining that the document stopped being the property of the Executive the day it was submitted, hence, the National Assembly is solely responsible for its safe-keeping.
Angered by the controversies, a principal officer (name withheld) told Daily Trust on Sunday that the budget President Buhari laid on December 22 was the wrong copy as it was the one prepared on the assumption that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was going to win the last election.
This explanation seems plausible if one weighs President Buhari’s modest lifestyle against some of the provisions contained in the 2016 budget proposal he submitted last month.
While Nigerians were told to brace-up for a tough year, the government budgeted the huge sum of N39 billion as running costs for the Office of the President as against N24.4 billion in the previous year, with major allocations going to car purchase at N3.9 billion and another N189 million to change tyres for some specified vehicles in the Presidency.
Other spending proposed by the government include N1.4 billion on both local and international travels for Mr. Buhari in 2016 compared to N944.7 million spent in 2015 by him and his predecessor, for the same purpose.
Details of the 2016 budget breakdown for the Presidency indicate that in place of the N24.6 million voted for Wildlife Conservation, including the purchase of exotic animals last year, N326m is allocated for the same purpose in 2016.
For a government that came to power on the wind of change, most of these expenditures could not be justified in the face of crashing price of oil in the international market and dwindling revenue.
Shedding light on how the Senate was able to detect the discrepancies in the copies of the budget distributed to senators by Enang and the one laid by the president last month before the National Assembly, the source said “When we crosschecked what was made available to us on resumption and the one laid by the President, we discovered that there were sharp differences in what was allocated to the Presidency.
“What was made available in the new one is lower when compared to what we have in the old one, especially feeding. The allocation of feeding of Mr. President and the vice president was by far higher than what Jonathan and Namadi spent. You know because of the analysis by a national daily, we put more attention on it”, he said.
According to him, the budget that was presented by President Buhari was the one that was prepared on the assumption that Jonathan was going to win the last election.
“The feeding money has been increased. They now realized the mistake. It was in an attempt to correct the mistake that they ran into trouble. If they had taken the National Assembly in confidence, they would have stylishly done that without anybody knowing. This is telling you that the man (the President) doesn’t have people around that are experienced enough”, the principal officer said.