The Senate leadership has mandated its Committee on Appropriation led by Senator Danjuma Goje to identify the discrepancies in the 2016 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and the other version allegedly printed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.
The development, according to investigation, may not be unconnected with the series of public criticisms that greeted the claims by the senate on Thursday that another version of the budget different from the one laid by Buhari was in circulation in its chamber.
Many critics have alleged that the failure of the senate to identify the differences in the two documents was blackmail against Buhari’s government because similar incident was not recorded in the House of Representatives.
Obviously uncomfortable with the allegation, our correspondent learnt that the senate committee was mandated to go through the two documents and write out all the contradictory figures in the two versions of the budget.
Attempts by our correspondent to speak with Goje and find out whether his committee had so far discovered strange figures not contained in Buhari’s budget proposal and Enang’s copy failed on Friday and the senator did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone.
But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said his committee had wrapped up its assignment on the issue and had since submitted its report based on its terms of reference which did not include identifying areas of difference.
He said the task had now been shifted to the appropriation committee which would list the discrepancies in both documents.
The Senate Spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, asked members of the public to wait for the outcome of Goje’s committee assignment.
Investigations by our correspondent, however, revealed that Enang might be innocent of the whole saga as he was said to have merely forwarded to the senate copies of the document which were mass produced and taken to his office from the Budget Office.
A source said, “Oga is just a sacrificial lamb in this case because he was being unfairly accused of an offence he never committed. These copies were brought to our office and Oga just asked us to start distribution. How will he know the content?”
The controversy surrounding the disappearance of the 2016 budget estimates submitted by Buhari to the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 took worrisome dimension on Thursday when the senate accused the executive of smuggling copies of a doctored version of the document into its chambers.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, after a two-hour executive session with his colleagues, explained that the upper legislative chamber deliberated extensively on the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the issue behind closed doors.
Saraki said the committee, in its report, revealed that the senate had in its possession two versions of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
According to him, the first version was the hard copy submitted by President Buhari while the second was a different version produced and brought into the senate by Enang.
Saraki, however, said members of the upper chamber had resolved to start consideration of the 2016 Appropriation Bill on January 19, 2016 with only the original document submitted to the National Assembly by Buhari.