The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have released separate responses to allegations of padding, delay, and distortion of the national budget by the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Saraki’s response: In a 15-point statement issued by his spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President demanded a withdrawal of the accusations by Tinubu on the basis that they were false.
- He alleged that Tinubu’s “vicious attacks” against Saraki are released “every three months.”
- The passage of the budget, according to Saraki, depends on both the time of submission and the work done by various committees. “To put the blame of budget delay on the senate president or speaker can only be mischief, or at best, playing to the gallery.”
- He advised Tinubu to look at the records of the time of submission of budgets and their passage since 2010 “and he will see that with the exception of the 2013 budget which was passed on December 20, 2012, all the budgets have been passed between March and May of the same fiscal year.”
- The statement reiterated Saraki’s frequent allegation that Tinubu was only attacking him because of his erroneous belief that Saraki frustrated his ambition from becoming a running mate to President Buhari through a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015. “In his usual cavalier manner, he will stop at nothing to punish Saraki for that.”
- Read Saraki’s full statement here.
Dogara’s response: In a statement on Monday by his own spokesman, Turaki Hassan, Speaker Dogara described Tinubu as “ignorant of the budgetary process,” and also accused him of manufacturing falsehoods to paint a non-existing picture.
- The Speaker alleged that “when the history of Buhari’s administration is written by those who know the truth of what really transpired in the last four years, Asiwaju’s pretentious loyalty to President Buhari will then be exposed.”
- Dogara echoed Saraki’s response saying that the delay in enacting the budget was the persistent refusal of the Executive to present it in good time. “For the records, in the last four years, there was no urgency or plan by the Executive to achieve a January to December budget cycle.”
He listed the dates budget estimates were submitted by the Executive in the last four years:
- 2016 Budget was submitted on December 22, 2015, exactly nine days to the end of the year.
- 2017 Budget submitted on December 14, 2016, just 17 days to the end of the year.
- 2018 Budget was presented on November 7, 2017, the earliest even though it also fell short of the 90 days stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
- 2019 Budget was presented on December 19, 2018, exactly 12 days to the end of the year.
Dogara also pointed out other issues which contributed to the delay in passing budgets, including the proposal of additional projects to be included in the 2018 budget even as at April and May by various ministries; and the refusal by Ministries and heads of agencies to appear before National Assembly Standing Committees to defend their budget proposals
Important: Dogara stated that attempts to curb the delays by effecting an amendment to S. 81(1) of the Constitution to compel the President to present the Budget estimates not later than 90 days to the end of a financial year, were “unfortunately” not assented to by the President even though both the national assembly and over 2/3rds of state assemblies had passed it.
He called for Tinubu to be circumspect in his use of language. “In this case, he spoke as a spokesperson of depravity. Our reaction must therefore be seen as a provoked counter-punch. Any one can descend into the gutter if he so wishes but no one has a monopoly of gutter language. We won’t run an adult day care center anymore on matters like this,” he said.
Go Deeper: What exactly is budget padding?