The senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has denied allegations by the President Muhammadu Buhari Media Organisation that he (Saraki) was slowing down the approval of the 2019 polls budget.
Saraki said in statement by his special adviser on new media, Mr. Olu Onemola, that the late submission of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) budget for the 2019 elections by the executive showed its lack of foresight.
The president’s media group had alleged that the senate president was postponing the resumption of the senate in spite of Buhari’s submission of INEC’s budget.
But Saraki countered saying the committees of the national assembly had been working to ensure that due process was followed in approving the request despite the late submission of the INEC appropriation on time.
He said: “By now, the Nigerian people are aware that the executive branch could have submitted INEC’s 2019 elections budget at the time it submitted the 2018 appropriation proposals last year.
“The executive had from January till June this year to submit the budget request. However, due to a perceived lack of foresight, display of usual tardiness or an attempt to ensure that due process would not be followed, this request was submitted only a few days before the statutory National Assembly annual recess.
“More importantly, the Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly to help legalise the various innovations that needed for free and fair elections is still absent because President Muhammadu Buhari chose to withhold his assent the first time it was transmitted.
“The question the Buhari Media Organisation should ask their principal is: “What is he afraid of in the very progressive proposals contained in the Electoral Bill? Why does he want to frustrate the 2019 elections by denying the nation the much-needed enabling law?”
But the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, described as “false accusation” the senate president’s assertion.
He said in a statement on Sunday that the delay of the supplementary budget for the election was as a result of the late passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill which has since been passed by President Muhammad Buhari.
He said the 2018 budget, which was submitted November last year, took seven months to be passed by the parliament.
He explained that there was no way a supplementary budget could have been submitted without the passage of the main budget.
“The Presidency wishes to respond to the false accusations by Senator Bukola Saraki who alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari is to blame for the delay in approving the supplementary budget for INEC.
“On the contrary, the senate president should look into the mirror and what he will see is his own face. He is solely to be held responsible for deliberately driving the nation to this cliff edge as far as the preparations for next elections are concerned.
“It is not true that INEC submitted their draft budget to the Presidency in February. No, it came much later. But even then, this is not the real issue.
“The fact that their proposals came well after the President had laid his budget for the year 2018 before the National Assembly meant that their own will be sent as supplementary budget. This was clearly stated to them by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
“A supplementary budget cannot be submitted until the main budget is passed, and so the delay in passing the main budget was the reason for the delay. The National Assembly passed the 2018 budget seven months after the document was submitted to the National Assembly by President Buhari.
“Unless someone has forgotten, the budget was submitted to the National Assembly and it took the Saraki-led National Assembly seven months to release it. There is no way President Buhari could have submitted a supplementary budget while the main one was still pending. It is never done.
“Because Saraki did not return the main budget, we could not have submitted the supplementary one.
“After the long delays, the President was pained to sign the much distorted, butchered and debauched document. In giving his assent, President Buhari said that he was compelled to sign the budget so as not to keep the economy continuously on a standstill. INEC’s budget for the 2019 election is proposed for N189.2 billion,” said Shehu.
Also responding, the minister of budget and national planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma exonerated the executive from the delay in passing the INEC budget.
Media aide to the minister, Mr. Akpandem James, said it was not true that the INEC budget was received and kept by the executive.
He said since the budget came in form of supplementary budget, it was not proper to send it with the national budget.
“INEC budget came as a supplementary budget. You don’t send the supplementary budget to the National Assembly when the substantive budget has not been passed. That is why they call it supplementary. So when was the budget passed? When was it assented to? Those are the issues.
“If the budget was passed early, that supplementary budget would have been sent to the National Assembly. The supplementary budget was sent one month, in fact the following month.
“The budget was signed in June and in July the supplementary budget was sent to the national assembly. So, it’s not that INEC budget came and it was kept. Supplementary budget is sent to the National Assembly after the substantive budget has been passed.”
Meanwhile, senators Isah Misau and Rafiu Ibrahim have called on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government to stop making Saraki the fall guy of its failure.
In a joint statement they issued in Abuja, the two lawmakers urged the ruling party to stop seeking to find a scapegoat in Saraki over its failure to fulfill electoral promises it made to the Nigerian electorate when it came to power.
“APC leaders are being clever by half. They have spent most of the last 38 months harassing Saraki and sponsoring media attacks against him.
“Now that the man has been vindicated by the courts and he has decided to leave their party, they have devised another propaganda stunt to start heaping the blames of their failure to bring positive change to Nigeria on Saraki.
“For three years of the APC administration, former President Goodluck Jonathan was the scapegoat they blamed. Now that it dawned on them that nobody is listening to that tale by moonlight again, their propaganda machinery has shifted focus to Saraki as the new man to blame. These are characters who cannot take responsibility for their inability to provide good governance as they promised.”
“The new leadership of the APC has continued to advertise the inability of the party to manage victory, their penchant for violence as a way of saving their faces and their lack of the much needed temperament to weld together a country with diverse culture, ethnicity and religion like Nigeria,” they stated.