By Yemi Adebowale in Lagos, Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Olakiitan Victor in Ado Ekiti
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday presided over the emergency meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to scrutinise the 2016 budget details forwarded to the Presidency by the National Assembly on Thursday.
President Muhammadu Buhari who had earlier summoned the meeting was however conspicuosly absent.
Also yesterday, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose warned the President against an alleged plan to seal a $2 billion loan deal from China to finance the 2016 budget during his trip to the Asian country next week.
No official reason was given for the president’s nonappearance at the FEC meeting. The President’s Media Adviser, Femi Adesina declined to comment on the Buhari’s absence when THISDAY spoke to him last night.
A presidency source told THISDAY that he could not fathom why Buhari did not attend the meeting. “He (Buhari) summoned the meeting and then, he was nowhere to be found. It looks a bit funny,” said the source.
Many Nigerians were surprised by the president’s nonattendance at the critical FEC meeting; members of the FEC made up of the 36 ministers, the Vice President and the Secretary to the State Government, SGF were indeed also surprised.
All the FEC members arrived early for the meeting fixed for 11am.
While exchanging pleasantries amongst themselves, they were interrupted by a clap of hand, a sign to signal them of the president’s arrival to the meeting.
But there was no sign of the president in the room. It was the SGF, Mr. David Babachir who verbally called the meeting to order while Vice President Osinabjo called for opening prayers.
At this point, Journalists were excused from the meeting and the meeting eventually kicked off without Buhari while Osinbajo took charge.
Thereafter, the vice president, ministers and some permanent secretaries began the critical examination of the document.
Addressing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said: “We have received the details of the 2016 budget from the National Assembly yesterday and an extra-ordinary Federal Executive Council meeting was called this morning to avail every minister to look at the details of the budget and see how it affects each of the ministries.
“And also at this point, it is still work in progress, we have broken up to resume later in the afternoon. We will come out with a statement later.”
The president had insisted on seeing the details of the budget before he could append his signature to the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
While he submitted a total of N6.08 trillion as the budget estimates, the National Assembly pruned it down to N6.06 amid allegations of padding.
It was yet unknown whether FEC would recommend the signing of the document into law after the meeting as the president is believed to be leaving for China next week.
Fayose tells Buhari not to mortgage Nigeria’s future…
Meanwhile, Governor Fayose yesterday warned Buhari against taking a $2 billion loan from China to finance the 2016 budget.
Fayose said Buhari’s scheduled trip to China was part of the measure targeted at sealing the deal for the loan, describing the move as an attempt to mortgage the future of Nigeria and its people.
The governor, who said the 2016 budget was not a reflection of the present economic reality in the country, added: “By the time they borrow N1.84 trillion to fund their N6.06 billion budget, I wonder how Nigeria will survive in 2017 when the Federal Government will be servicing debt with about 50 percent of its budget.”
In a release issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Fayose said: “In elementary economics, you don’t propose to spend more when your income reduces and I still can’t understand this Buharinomics in which Nigeria is going to spend N6.06 billion with crude oil bench mark of $38 per barrel when the country budget was N4.5 trillion in 2015 when crude oil bench mark was $53 per barrel.
He said since the President claimed to have recovered and still recovering trillions of Naira looted from the treasury and over N3 trillion saved from the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the 2016 budget should be funded with the recovered fund.
The governor said he was alerting Nigerians to the danger in the federal government plan to fund the 2016 budget with loan, adding: “Tomorrow, it will be said of me that I did not keep silent when Nigeria was being mortgaged to unnecessary debt.”
He warned that with the proposed N1.84 trillion borrowing, $2 billion of which President Buhari is already going to borrow in China, the nation may soon be going the way of Greece because Nigeria will be borrowing N5 billion per day for the next 365 days.
“If your income was N200,000 per month last year and your expenditure was N195,000 per month; does it make any economic sense for you to propose to spend N300,000 per month this year that your income has reduced to N120,000?
“Only President Buhari can explain to Nigerians what manner of economic theory encourages borrowing of N1.84 trillion to fund a N6 trillion budget. As for me, it is nothing but a voodoo economic theory and Nigerians must take note that the income that should accrue to them in five years’ time is about to be spent in one year by the Buhari APC government.”
Meanwhile, Adesina refused to comment on Fayose’s claims, but said that the President’s visit to China would, among other things, enable him follow up on some Memorandum of Understandings signed by previous regimes with the Chinese government on railways and power projects.
He told THISDAY that previous administrations failed to provide their counterpart funding for some of the projects, resulting in delays.
This, he said the president would straighten during his visit to China.
According to Adesina, a power project in Mambilla, Taraba State; the Lagos to Calabar and Kano to Abuja railway projects are some of the projects the presidents aims to revive with his visit to China.