Budget Padding: NLC, Others Advocate Caution, Equality, Peace

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Damilola Oyedele and Paul Obi in Abuja, Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

Following the ongoing controversy surrounding the padding of the 2016 National Budget, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to do some soul-searching and find a strategic way of perfecting the flops that have continued to befall the national budget.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said there was an urgent need to address the current crisis bedevilling the 2016 Appropriation.

He said: “The ongoing controversy over the padding of the 2016 budget is an incontrovertible evidence of the inherent weaknesses in our budgeting process and accordingly underscores the need for a thorough revisit.
“It also reveals the imperfections and the distrust in project identification and implementation system and consequent failure of the present model of capital budgeting without a development plan framework.”

Wabba stated that the current model “shows that projects are not implemented according to needs-value or priority but who is behind which. In light of the foregoing, we wish to state that instead of going after individuals, government should do a soul-search as well as x-tray a budgeting system that fails to address the needs of the people.”

The NLC warned against settling of political scores and weakening the National Assembly, stating that “we caution against the use of the present development to settle political scores or unduly weaken the National Assembly.
“A strong National Assembly is a necessity for a vibrant democracy. We urge Nigerians to be slow to anger in matters of this nature even as they have little or no reason to be too trusting of any political office holder, so that in the end, they do not end up victims of other peoples’ wars.

Wabba further urged caution, “because how the issues in contention are resolved will shape the direction of our democracy; deepen or weaken it. Equally important is the fact that it avails us an opportunity to revisit our budgetary system and the need for development planning,” he said
Also, the lawmaker representing Warri Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Daniel Reyeneiju (Delta PDP) has called for equal monetary allocation to all lawmakers for their constituency projects.
This, he said, in the face of reported padding of the 2016 budget and the crises it has generated particularly in the lower chamber.

Reyeneiju, in a telephone interview with THISDAY, described the crises as unfortunate, painful, and avoidable. “…but for the pitiless degree of greed that has bestride the various institutions in the country, including public office holders,” he said.
The lawmaker lamented that the accusations and counter-accusations have brought the legislature into unmitigated disrepute with the generality of members feeling very disappointed and betrayed by those who may have orchestrated the ‘padding or forgery imbroglio’.

“….particularly that the action of padding is strewed with unimaginable degree of moral turpitude which cannot be protected, dismissed, nor defended by hiding under the subterfuge of ‘law’, nor the principle of collective responsibility in the National Assembly.

Reyeneiju described the 2016 budget as is an Act of the National Assembly which ideally should remain sacrosanct, and thus imperative on the executive arm of government to implement based on the availability of funds.
“Thus, since the 2016 Budget is painfully strewed with deficiency of morality, its assumed inviolability and immutability can no longer be taken for granted.

In the face of such fundamental flaw specifically that immoral acts have been identified, it is my sincere view that the presidency (that is constitutionally empowered to implement) should opt for the honorable path by ensuring that all members of the House are place on equal pedestal by ensuring that they are allocated equal amounts for constituency projects of which N100 million is hereby suggested.”
“Such suggested action will not in any way undermine the 2016 Budget as an Act of the National Assembly; moreso that the Nation-State is currently reeling under the paucity of funds,” Reyeneiju said.

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Bauchi South senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Ali Wakili has urged Nigerian politicians to stop over-heating the polity with regards to budget padding crisis in the House of Representatives, asking them to sheathe their swords in the overall interest of the country. The senator who spoke yesterday during an interview with newsmen in Bauchi, also warned politicians to guard against unguarded and provocative utterances concerning the crisis at the national assembly which he said was becoming embarrassing and uncalled for.

According to him, “It is regrettable that some of the utterances by some politicians concerning this budget padding crisis are divisive and overheating the polity.”

Those involved in such do not mean well for the people”
Concerning the protest by some residents in the state, calling for the recall of some national Assembly members who are alleged to be anti-Buhari, Wakil said it was unfortunate that some subtle interests within the APC and the state were jittery of their laudable constituency projects and have resorted to using political charlatans in the media to cast aspersions on some National Assembly members.

The senator said the national assembly was going to probe state governments on how the bailout funds were utilised, noting that the move was to ensure probity and accountability.
Furthermore, a group, Arewa Youth Progressive Forum has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC and the Nigeria police to without delay arrest Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin to verify authenticity of his claims over his revelation on the budget padding.

The group also stated that Jibrin should as well explain his roles in the 2014 and 2015 budget preparations.
In a statement signed by its President, Abdulrahman Sade and made available to THISDAY, he said the National Assembly as an institution, particularly the House of Representatives, was under severe attack.
He added that “Nigerians should not allow this happen, we should strive to defend and protect it as it is the bastion of our democracy.”

He, therefore, said the lawmaker was dishing out wrong information, saying “current issues was nothing but a distraction as far as we are concerned.
”We are to defend and protect the institution of the parliament which all over the globe is generally revered as the bastion of democracy”, he added.

He said: “On several occasions this great institution has received bashings from within and without, but this time around we are compelled, and we have all sworn to protect it from any external or internal aggression.
“We say so because without the House of Representatives, there is no Nigeria. Yes, because every local government has a representative there as such we all should protect it.

“We are not saying there are no issues, all over the world parliaments have one issues or the other to contend with, and they resolve it amicably, but here, a situation where one member wants to hold the whole House to ransom, must out rightly be rejected and condemned by all and sundry, even though there are channels within the House where he could utilise them to lay bare his grievances with a view to resolving them.”