From: Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, has assured that despite the setback following the raid of the official residence of the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Danjuma Goje, President Muhammadu Buhari would still get the document for assent next week.
The raid on Sen. Goje’s home reportedly led to the seizure of relevant documents needed to process and pass the 2017 Budget.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Sen. Lawan said the meeting was part of continuous engagements to get correct briefings to enable him market presidential requests to his colleagues well and on scheduled.
Last Friday, the police had raided Goje’s residence and carted away some monies and documents. Goje, had accused the police of taking away the 2017 budget document after the raid.
The Police who said they acted on a tip-off have since replied that they recovered a stash of stolen monies and incriminating items and none of them was the budget.
However, Lawan insisted that the raid and trauma it caused the appropriation committee chairman were majorly responsible for the delay.
Asked to comment on the implication of police raid of Goje’s home and the passage of the 2017 budget, the Senate Leader said, “Let me say that there is nothing to worry about. The National Assembly had intended to pass the budget in March but because of some parameters that we didn’t have control over, we couldn’t pass it. It was our design and desire to pass it within this month, April, but somehow, something happened.
“One of our colleagues, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Distinguished Senator Danjuma Goje’s house was raided by the police after a whistleblower gave information and when parts of those documents were taken away, it was reported that parts of the budget papers were included. This and other things that happened and essentially, the trauma that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation had to go through, affected the process of budgeting.
“When we were going on Easter recess, members of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, including that of the House, did not go on recess. They stayed back because that was the arrangement, so that by the time we returned on April 25, that was Tuesday, they should lay the report of the budget. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible because of what happened. But the good news is that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we catch up with the lost time. So, by the grace of God, I’m thinking that by next week, we should be able to finish our own work and pass the budget for Mr. president to sign.”
Buhari had in December 2016 presented N7.298 trillion 2017 appropriation tagged “Budget of Recovery and Growth” to the National Assembly.
Details of the proposed budget showed that it was based on crude oil benchmark price of $42.5 per barrel, against the benchmark price of $38 per barrel used in the 2016 budget.
Daily crude oil production estimate was put at about 2.2 million barrels per day, same as the figure in last year’s budget, while the exchange rate was put at N305 to the dollar as against N197 to the dollar in 2016.
Further details of the proposed budget showed that government proposed to spend about N2.243 trillion on capital projects and N2.9 trillion as recurrent expenditure.
The 2017 proposed capital and recurrent expenditures were higher than the N1.8 trillion and N2.65 trillion respectively provided in the 2016 Appropriation, representing about 15.44 and 9.43 per cent respectively.
About N1.66 trillion has been allocated for servicing of domestic debts, for which N1.3 trillion earmarked in the 2016 budget, with foreign debt expected to take about N175.9 billion as against N54.5 billion last year.
Stating why he was in the presidential Villa, he said, “As the Senate leader, l have the responsibility to market all our bills and requests in the Senate and therefore, this is my second move in the Villa. Therefore, I have come to meet Mr. President as part of my continuos engagements to be sure that l get my briefings right so that l can always market presidential requests so well and as scheduled, this is supposed to be a continuous process. That is essentially why l have come to meet the president.”
On the need to lobby, Lawan said, ”My presence here is part of that engagement because even as legislators, we lobby. When we have our bills, we lobby our colleagues. We go to their houses. We send some write-ups to explain the necessity of that bill. We move from one seat to the next, talking to our colleagues. So, there is nothing wrong and l believe it is something we need to cultivate as a culture in this democracy.”
On when the ministerial nominees will be screened, the Senate Majority Leader said, “Certainly not this week because this is the last legislative day of the week but l have the feeling that the Senate may be looking at that and indeed others, by next week insha Allah.”