Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Chairman of the Senate committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, on Friday distanced the leadership of the upper chamber from the closed-door budget sessions some committees are having with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) over the 2020 Appropriation Bill. This is coming barely 24 hours after the Senate spokesman, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, justified the secret budget sessions held in the last few days between some Senate committees and Ministers and heads of agencies and departments.
Jibrin, who spoke with newsmen on the issue, stated that at no time was such decision taken by the leadership of the upper chamber. According to him, budget defence sessions are to be conducted in the open and not secret or closed door session as widely reported in the media on Friday . Said he : “Neither the Senate as a body nor the Appropriation committee, coordinating the entire process, gave such a directive to any committee to hold budget defence session in secret with officials from the executive arm of government. I saw the story in the paper today and I’m not happy about it if actually the method was carried out by the affected committees.”
Jibrin, however, assured that the trend will be reversed from Monday when the public will be allowed to have unfettered access to the budget defence through the media. His words: “I know that such a trend will not continue from next week because Nigerians have right (to information) from the budget defence sessions , supposed to know what and what the parliament and the executive are preparing or planning for them.
“The budgets being discussed or defended by the affected agencies, are more or less, for Nigerians, the very reason why such assignment should be carried out in the open with attendance of journalists who are to report the details of what transpired at each of the sessions”, he said.
He, however, clarified that closed door sessions may be held by committees oversighting the military, police and other security agencies at certain stages for security reasons. “For security reasons , committees over sighting the various military outfits and police, may at critical stages, hold closed door sessions but this is not expected from other committees especially on the issue of budget defence, being financial proposals meant for societal advancement”, Jibrin stated.
Chairman of Senate committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, had on Thursday told reporters that the media would constitute a distraction during the budget defence by the MDAs According to him, “the budget defence willl not be done in the direct presence of the media. It will constitute a distraction when sensitive issues are being discussed. Serious issues can not be discussed openly like that. Like the nitty gritty of the budget cannot be discussed in the open. “When President Buhari was preparing the budget, the media was not involved. It was after the budget was ready that he read it at the joint session of the National Assembly. So, it is when the budget defence is concluded that the media can be briefed on the account “The chairmen and members of the various committees can brief the media after deliberations and the media would be told what was discussed. The budget defence should not be done in the full glare of the media. No, I don’t think so. This is like playing to the gallery”, he stated.