The Senate is set to clash with the Executive again over a comment attributed to Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal that the constituency project for the National Assembly in the 2016 budget may not be implemented.
Following the comment, the Senate yesterday summoned Lawal to explain what he meant when he said Ministries, Departments and Agencies might not find constituency projects as critical to the execution of their mandates, especially in light of dwindling resources.
The invitation followed the adoption of a motion by Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP/Edo South).
Urhoghide, in his lead debate, said his representation as a senator was being threatened by the SGF.
According to the Edo South lawmaker, it was unbecoming of the SGF to declare that N60 billion constituency projects in a budget of N6.08 trillion, would not be implemented.
Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who seconded the motion, however, said the Senate should not dignify a statement from “improper authority”.
According to Na’Allah, what the SGF was reported to have said could not be the position of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said: “I wish to state that this Senate will be doing a lot of good to democratic process. It is precise to recognise some certain issues that are fundamental.
“This Senate is aware that SGF is not the Finance minister, this Senate is equally aware that he is not a minister of Budget, this Senate is equally aware that the SGF is not a spokesperson of the Federal Government. I want to say that what was alleged to have been said by the SGF cannot be the position of Mr. President.
“We should not dignify comments from improper authority. The SGF does not have the authority to speak for the Federal Government”.
His position was however, countered by the Deputy Minority Whip, Biodun Olujimi (PDP/Ekiti South), who said whatever comes from the SGF as the highest nominee of the Federal Government, should not be taken lightly.
Olujimi said: “The SGF is the highest administrative nominee of this government and whatever comes out of his mouth must be a policy statement that has to do with government.
“I have a secretary to the government in my state; when she speaks, she speaks responsibly because she knows whatever comes out of her mouth will be taken as important.
“In the last few months, we have had an SGF that has been speaking carelessly and has being meddling with affairs of the other tiers of government and that is not right.
“The SGF himself called the conference of such eminent Nigerians, a conference that was put together to see how we can take care of the problems of Nigeria and people came together to talk about Nigeria, to talk about our existence and talk about moving forward, he called it a job for the boys.
“The next thing he will do was to say constituency projects that have been approved by this red chamber will not be properly implemented”.
Chairman, Appropriation Committee, Mohammed Danjuma Goje (APC/Gombe Central) said: “I was surprised and shocked when I read the statement credited to the SGF. I felt embarrassed.
“He shouldn’t have made that statement. Without prejudice to the motion, let the SGF come and explain.
“In addition, we in Appropriations have sent an invitation to the minister of Finance and minister of Budget to come and clarify and give us an update on the budget implementation as a whole”.
Goje said because the budget was passed as an Act of the National Assembly and assented to by Mr. President, “if that law is not going to be implemented, we have to know why”.
Another senator, Adamu Aliero (APC/Kebbi Central), told his colleagues that it would be unfair for the Senate to expect that the 2016 budget would be implemented 100 per cent.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the proper thing should be to invite the SGF to explain what he said.
The Senate president, therefore, mandated the joint committees on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Finance and Appropriation to grill the SGF on what he said.
Saraki urged the joint committees to report back to the Senate in plenary within the week.