As confusion trails the missing 2016 Budget presented to the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 22, 2015, by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Presidency has distanced itself from the missing budget.
The hard and soft copies of the 2016 budget documents were declared missing earlier today, Tuesday.
The Nigerian Senate was scheduled to commence deliberation on the proposed budget Tuesday (today).
But Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, shocked lawmakers at a closed-door session, when he told them the budget documents had been stolen.
Ndume, sources said, explained that deliberation on the budget could therefore not begin until fresh copies of the documents were obtained from the presidency, the Ministry of Finance or that of national planning.
However, disturbed by the raging enquiries posed by Nigerians, following the news of the missing budget, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, defended the Presidency, noting that President Buhari has not withdrawn the budget as speculated in the media.
Shehu in a series of tweets via his Twitter handle @GarShehu, just coming in this night, said: “Enquiries about the budget: Nobody except the President can withdraw the budget. As far as we know, he has not done that.
“The copies in their hundreds have been delivered to both chambers of the National Assembly.
“By tradition, once the budget is submitted, it ceases to be our property.
“Enquiries as to where it is should be directed to the appropriate quarters,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee of Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, has been mandated to lead a search for the documents and liaise with the presidency, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, and the national planning ministry on the matter.
The Peoples Democratic Party accused the presidency of being behind the theft of the documents, an accusation rejected by their All Progressives Congress’ counterparts, who reportedly said it was too early to speculate.
Recall that President Buhari had on Tuesday, December 22, 2015, presented the budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly.
Few weeks ago, there were tumours that Buhari had withdrawn the documents to enable him to correct some discrepancies, a claim the presidency and the national planning ministry denied.
In the budget, capital expenditure takes N1.8 trillion, marking a significant over 300 per cent increment from the 2015 vote of N557 billion.
According to the estimate, N396billion is voted for education, being the largest sectoral allocation. The health sector gets N296 billion while defence has N294 billion.
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Saraki after a closed door meeting with President Buhari on Tuesday afternoon at the State House in Abuja, refused to answer questions on the missing budget.
There was no clue as to whether the visit was connected to the alleged missing 2016 budget.
Attempts made by the State House Correspondents to confirm or refute the missing budget were unproductive as Saraki did not comment when asked.