The Senate President of Nigeria, a person of Bukola Saraki has urged the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to dwell on facts in his criticism of the leadership of the Senate.
In a statement on Sunday, the former Lagos State governor defended his role in aligning with the party’s preferred candidates for the leadership of the two chambers of the incoming Ninth National Assembly.
The APC stalwart also knocked the leadership of the Senate for working at cross purposes with President Muhammadu Buhari on key government policies, particularly the processing of the annual budget.
But Saraki, in a statement yesterday by his Media Adviser, Yusuph Oloniyonu, decried what he called Asiwaju Tinubu’s “quarterly attacks” on the Senate President.
The statement said: “First, he alleged that national budgets were delayed, distorted, padded, new projects introduced, funds for projects reduced ‘to halt progress of government’.
“It is unfortunate that a man like Asiwaju Tinubu, who had been in the Senate (though for 22 months and under a military regime), should not have a better understanding of how the legislature works.
“The passage of budgets is definitely not the exclusive responsibility of the leadership of the Senate. Most of the work is done by various committees. The committees are headed by senators representing different parties.
“It is the level of co-operation between the committees and the MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) in the timely defence of the budget proposals and the ability of the two chambers of the National Assembly to reconcile their figures that usually determine how soon the budget is passed.
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“To put the blame of budget delay on the Senate President or Speaker (House of Representatives) can only be playing to the gallery.
“It is also a known fact that any so-called delay in the passage of budgets under the Eighth National Assembly is traceable to the refusal of heads of MDAs to defend the budget proposals for their agencies on time.
“Last year, the President himself had to direct the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) to compel heads of MDAs to appear before the National Assembly committees following the report made to him by Dr. Saraki and (House of Representatives) Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
“To further make the points here clear, we invite Asiwaju Tinubu to look at the records of the time of submission of budgets and their passage since 2010 and he will see that with the exception of the 2013 budget, which was passed on December 20, 2012, all the budgets have been passed between March and May of the same fiscal year.
“This should give him a better understanding of the fact that the date the Appropriations Bill is submitted to parliament and the readiness of the MDAs to defend the proposals submitted, as well as timely agreement on the figures by both chambers of the National Assembly, are the main determining factors on when the budget is eventually passed.”
Saraki challenged the APC stalwart to cite specific instances where the Senate President and the leadership of the legislature sought to pad the budget with pet projects, as he alleged.
Taking the frontline politician to task about the allegation, Saraki urged him to substantiate his allegation.
He added: “A good example is the decision by the National Assembly to include in the 2018 Budget the one per cent of the total budget, amounting to N33 billion, as allocation for Universal Health Coverage, as provided for by an extant law, which had been hitherto observed in the breach.
“Asiwaju Tinubu also claimed that the Senate leadership stymied APC legislative initiatives while attempting to hoist noxious reactionary and self-interested legislation on the nation.
“We wonder what these ‘legislative initiatives’ are because in the four years of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, it has only forwarded 11 bills to the Senate, apart from the routine annual appropriations and supplementary budget proposals.
“Two of these bills, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill, have been passed. One of the bills, the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (amendment) Bill, was withdrawn by the executive following the disagreement between the Attorney-General and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Saraki said as a leader of the Eighth National Assembly, he is proud that under his watch, the Senate surpassed the records of previous Senate in the number of bills passed, the significance of the bills to the revival of the economy, the fight against insecurity and corruption, improvement in the provision of health service and the education sector, as well as better social service delivery to the generality of the people.
He said: “The bills passed, motions moved, intervention made and frequent engagements with the people were all directed towards addressing the day-to-day issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerians.
“The Eighth Senate has done very well and will leave a good legacy. Despite all the underhand tactics to undermine the legislature by outsiders and the public posturing, members have always worked as a team on critical issues that have benefits for our people and our nation…”
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