Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has written to the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani to come and explain his utterances regarding the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari.

THISDAY gathered that the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun drafted a letter yesterday evening to be sent to the senator inviting him to the party’s office in Abuja to discuss his criticism of the president’s handling of the allegations of corruption levelled against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal.

Senator Sani had thrown a tirade on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday accusing the presidency of lies and hypocrisy, after the president wrote a letter to the Senate exonerating Lawal of corruption allegations.

The senator was miffed by the content of Buhari’s letter read by Senate President Bukola Saraki on the floor of the Senate, in which the president accused the ad hoc Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in North-east chaired by Sani, of denying the SGF fair hearing by failing to invite him to defend himself during the investigation on the mismanagement of funds allocated to the North-eastern section of the country as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The president, in his letter, also concluded that the ad hoc committee’s report was an interim one, obviously forgetting that the presidency had indicted and ordered the arrest and arraignment of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, among others, in 2015, on the basis of an interim report submitted to it by a presidential committee set up to investigate the utilisation of funds for the procurement of arms by past administrations.

Sani had described the letter as the funeral of Buhari’s anti-corruption war, pointing out that when the president wants to fight corruption outside the presidency, he uses a disinfectant but when it is within the presidency, he uses a deodorant.

In another development, the ousted Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, yesterday challenged Saraki to treat the Senate’s 2017 budget differently from that of 2016, revealing that the breakdown of the upper chamber’s budget for 2016 was hidden from other senators.

Ndume, who made the remark while contributing to the 2017 budget debate, had earlier raised a point of order challenging Saraki’s alleged decision not to recognise him to speak when it was his turn, claiming that in accordance with the budget roster, he should have been the 16th person to contribute to the debate.

He said: “When you announced the debate on the budget, you asked us to write our names and I wrote my name and my name is listed. After Distinguished Senator Dino Melaye, I was prepared and I was following but I didn’t hear you call my name. So, I don’t know when I will contribute again.”
Responding, Saraki said he was not aware of the list that Ndume was talking about, maintaining that the authentic list he was using was the one before him.

“Senator Ndume, as I sit down here, I didn’t write this list. I take the order in directing the affairs of the chambers and the list I have is the list I am using and I don’t know whether that list is the one you are talking about.

“So, follow my list and you will be called in due time. So, I don’t know the list you are talking about. The only list that matters is the list I have in front of me and I am going with that list,” Saraki said.

Eventually, when Ndume was called to make his contribution, he insisted that the handling of this year’s federal budget must be different from that of last year, insisting that details of the budget must be well spelt out in a way that senators will be conversant with the details of the budget.
He also tasked the Senate Committee on Appropriation to ensure that the federal government provides details of the entire 2016 budget, pointing out that doing so would enable lawmakers to follow up on its implementation.

He said: “We come here to pass the budget without seeing the details. This is a government of change and this must change. The details of the budget report should be known and as required, must be considered holistically.

“Last year, we had several issues with the budget. In fact, to some extent, very embarrassing and that is because some of us are even innocent. I don’t know what was in the budget because the details of the budget were not provided and this should be done this year.

“The budget of the Senate is also not known to the senators. It should be known this year. This is very important because we cannot be taking blame or credit for what we don’t know.
“Mr. President, if you look at 2016 budget, yes we have been given the budget performance, but what the 2016 budget contained in relation to 2017 budget is not available.

“There should have been a column where the 2016 budget details will be enumerated. Then the 2016 budget would have been detailed so that we know, because we could end up having uncompleted projects.

“We could also end up having projects that are new and that will never be executed because we provided for them desperately in order to answer the call of our colleagues, yet they will not be done; or for technical reasons, they will say they will not do it.

“But if the budget of the 2016 column is there and we know what has been released for particular subheads, then we will know what is budgeted for this year. We will know how to do actual budget work. The Committee on Appropriation should do that and know the right thing.”

In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), challenged the federal government to ensure that the budget was not a mere compilation of figures, but a deliberate action plan to achieve development, even as he advocated the need for Nigeria to exploit the opportunity of its goodwill in the international community this time to seek another round of debt forgiveness.
“Each year, the budget passes through the ritual of passing through the National Assembly and the state of Nigerians as far as their lives are concerned experience no change.

“On N1.663 trillion for debt servicing, we should explore the goodwill that Nigeria enjoys today from the international community to seek for further debt forgiveness, so as to boost our economy to address other issues which we are faced with,” he said.

Sani wondered if the N50 billion education budget would address the rot in education sector and advocated for a reduction of the N140 billion defence budget in view of the perceived containment of Boko Haram in the North-east.

“The budget for education, will this address the decadence in the sector? Will this end the perennial and persistent Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike? Will it address the basic challenges of our education sector? The defence budget of N140 billion – in a situation whereby we acknowledge the fact that the insurgency has seriously been degraded – we need to see a scale down of the defence budget so that the large sum of those monies could be used for other sectors like in health and education,” he added.

Also contributing to the debate, Senator Philip Aduda (FCT) said the N37 billion allocated to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was inadequate, noting that contractors in the territory were owed billions of naira.

He also advised the FCT Minister to entrench a tax system that will enhance revenue generation for the development of the FCT.

But Senator Babajide Omoware (Osun East) lamented the increasing spate of unemployment in the country which he said was an expression of the stunted growth in the economy.
He said the federal government must spend more if it wants to revamp the economy and also ensure there is a reduction in the recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure is increased drastically.

“The number one solution to recession is for government to spend more. The executive must fund small and medium scale enterprises. There is about N50 billion in the budget for the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and Bank of Industry(BoI). That is not enough; there must be a lot more money.
The challenge we have in Nigeria is not about providing this money. It is about ensuring that this money gets to those who need the money – the youths, the women.

“In the last dispensation, money was allocated to small and medium scale enterprises. People were not able to access it. The government must design a method of ensuring that those who actually require this money get it. This is the only way there can be growth in the economy,” he stated.

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