The Senate on Monday demanded a publicly-tendered apology from Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, challenging him to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar road project was included in the 2016 budget proposal sent to the National Assembly.
“Otherwise, [Amaechi] should resign forthwith,” the Upper House said in a statement signed by the chairman of its Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, in a reaction to claims by the executive arm of government on the budget.
Mr. Abdullahi affirmed in the statement that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not included in the budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, and urged him to sign the 2016 budget without further delay while both sides work out their differences.
He called on the Presidency to come clean with Nigerians on the budget and avoid “surreptitious campaigns of calumny against the Senate” to cover up its serial errors, saying that the legislature has bent over backwards to wring a coherent document out of the “excessively flawed and chaotic versions” of the budget proposal submitted to it.
He pointed out that while the executive is mandated to prepare and lay before the National Assembly a proposed budget detailing projects to be executed, the responsibility and power of appropriation lie with the National Assembly.
In that regard, he stressed that if the presidency expects the legislature to return the budget proposal to them without adjustments, some people must be living in a different era and probably have not come to terms with democracy."
Senator Abdullahi said that since the beginning of the 2016 budget process, the National Assembly has suffered all manner of falsehood, deliberate distortion of facts, and outright blackmail, aimed at poisoning the minds of the people against the institution, adding that its members endured that development with equanimity in the overall interest of Nigerians.
Warning that “enough is enough,” he declared that even when the original submission was surreptitiously swapped, and the Assembly ended up with two versions of the document that were almost incomprehensible and heavily padded in a manner that betrayed gross incompetence and lack of coordination, the legislature refused to play to the gallery, preferring to help the Executive to manage the hugely embarrassing situation it had brought upon itself.
The Senator pointed out that Section 81 (4) (a) and (b) of the constitution empowers the President to sign the budget and kick-start the implementation of the other areas that constitute over 90 percent of the budget where there is an agreement between both arms while they engage in resolving any contentious areas.
We, therefore, maintain that even this contrived discrepancies are not sufficient excuse not to sign the budget into law, stressing that for every additional day that the president withholds his assent from the bill, the hardship in the land, which is already becoming intolerable for the masses of our people gets even more complicated.
“Certainly, as primary representatives of the people we shall not vacate our responsibility and watch the people continue to suffer unduly," he stated.