The Presidency yesterday defended the integrity of the 2016 Budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was not padded.
Presidential legislative aides told reporters in Abuja that there is nothing known as “padding” in legislative parlance.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant (SSA) (Senate), Senator Ita Enang and his House of Representatives counterpart, Ismaila Kawu, spoke with reporters after meeting with the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s headquarters.
The budget, which is being implemented, they said, was not padded, pointing out that when a budget is presented to the National Assembly, the lawmakers are expected to deliberate and pass it as they deem fit.
Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Abdulmumini Jibrin accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor of padding the budget with N284 billion.
Enang and Kawu declined to give details of their meeting with the APC leadership, saying they have been asked not to comment on the issue.
Enang said: “I am here on the invitation of the leadership of the APC with my colleague to bring answers to issues raised by the party on the 2016 Appropriation and we have been with the party for a little over three hours. We have given explanation to them on every issue and told them that there was nothing, to our knowledge, like padding of the budget.
“The budget as assented to by Mr. President is the budget as passed by the National Assembly and that is the budget being executed.
“But as at now, the party is handling it as a domestic issue, and all of us are enjoined not to make public comment on the details because the matter is still under consideration.
“So, that is what we will want to say for now, we will not want to go into the details of it so that we will not breach the ethics of the party, the directives of the party or pre-empt anything or any outcome from the party investigation”
Asked of the Presidency’s feeling about the issue, he said: “I will want to say that we came here as persons who work as liaison officers on the budget because the party had questions for us and we came to make clarifications on the issues raised.
“We have made those clarifications and would not want to draw any conclusion. Please let us not go too far by mentioning any office. Let it be that the two of us have appeared before the party
“In all our years of legislative engagement , we are yet to find in the legislative lexicon the word ‘padding’. When the budget is presented before the legislature, the legislature is to consider the budget and pass it as they deem fit. So what the legislature pass becomes the appropriation upon assent. Therefore, any word which is yet to crystalise in legislative lexicon, you cannot hear us mention it”.
Health Services Committee Chairman Chike Okafor yesterday alleged that Jibrin is determined to implicate every member who attempts to defend the House on the scandal.
Okafor is one of the seven committee chairmen Jibrin accused of padding the budget with 2000 fictitious projects worth N284billion.
Okafor said he was attacked because of his refusal to manipulate a N1billion cottage hospital project in favour of Bebeji/Kiru Federal constituency which Jibrin represents.
Okafor said Jibrin’s inconsistency could be noticed from his failure to differentiate between the standing committees and their responsibilities.
According to him, Jibrin probably, out of mischief failed to recognise that the house has three committees oversighting the Health sector.
He also explained that Jibrin took on him for daring to go on national television to defend the House integrity on padding.
Okafor said: “I want to believe that the reason I am being mentioned by Jibrin was because I refused his demand that a N1 billion cottage hospital be diverted from the police to his constituency.
“He came to me saying that I should concede a N1billion project to his constituency. I out rightly refused, explaining to him that health allocation was inadequate in the first place.
“To the suprise of our joint Committees, we found a N500m health project in Bebeji/Kiru Federal constituency that was not approved by us.
“The allocation for that project should be of interest to Nigerians because Health allocation in the budget was not affected, so the question is where did he get the allocation for that project from”.