Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidency has reacted to Senate President Bukola Saraki’s allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari is to blame for the delay in approving the supplementary budget for Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
It denied insinuations that INEC submitted their draft budget to the Presidency in February but much later.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, described the allegation as ‘lies’ and that Saraki is solely responsible for delay and as well as deliberately driving the nation to the cliff edge as far as preparations for 2019 elections are concerned.
According to Garba, “The Presidency wishes to respond to the false accusations by Senator Bukola Saraki who alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari is to blame for the delay in approving the supplementary budget for INEC.
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“On the contrary, the Senate President should look into the mirror and what he will see is his own face. He is solely to be held responsible for deliberately driving the nation to this cliff edge as far as the preparations for next elections are concerned.
“It is not true that INEC submitted their draft budget to the Presidency in February. No, it came much later but even then, this is not the real issue.
“The fact that their proposals came well after the President had laid his budget for the year 2018 before the National Assembly meant that their own will be sent as supplementary budget. This was clearly stated to them by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
“A supplementary budget cannot be submitted until the main budget is passed, and so the delay in passing the main budget was the reason for the delay. The National Assembly passed the 2018 budget seven months after the document was submitted to the National Assembly by President Buhari.
“Unless someone has forgotten, the budget was submitted to the National Assembly and it took the Saraki-led National Assembly seven months to release it. There is no way President Buhari could have submitted a supplementary budget while the main one was still pending. It is never done. Because Saraki did not return the main budget, we could not have submitted the supplementary one.
“After the long delays, the President was pained to sign the much distorted, butchered and debauched document. In giving his assent, President Buhari said that he was compelled to sign the budget so as not to keep the economy continuously on a standstill.
“In his words: “When I submitted the 2018 Budget proposals to the National Assembly on 7th November 2017, I had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year.”
It is also worthy of note that this is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a government would bring together the cost of an election in one budget, with each agency involved invited to defend their portion of the budget before the National Assembly.
“It is all part of the transparency that this government is known for. In the past, governments would approve INEC budgets and funding without a breakdown, often using ways and means to fund it. Not so under President Buhari.”