As controversy continues to trail the emergence of a new version of the 2016 budget, facts have emerged over how the original budget was withdrawn and taken to a highbrow hotel in Abuja, where the document was doctored by highly placed government officials and civil servants.
On Thursday, during plenary, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, openly accused the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Senate), Senator Ita Enang of doctoring and circulating fake copies of the budget proposals.
Consequently, the Senate vowed not to work on the fake document until it receives an electronic copy of the original budget.
It was gathered that the alterations of the budget document were done in the House of Representatives, but the House officials were quick to intercept the doctored version and insist on the circulation of the original proposals as submitted by the President.
Issues surrounding the 2016 budget came to limelight on Tuesday when it emerged that the proposal as submitted by the President could not be traced.
The discovery prompted the Senate into a closed-door session following which the Senate Committee on Ethics was mandated to investigate the issue.
The issue also led the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari same Tuesday afternoon.
Based on the allegations, Nigerian Pilot Saturday went to town to unearth what happened.
From our findings, the presidency was scandalised when details of the over bloated budget estimate for the presidency/Aso Rock presidential villa went viral in the media.
As a damage control measure, the Presidential Liaison Officer for the Senate, Ita Enang and the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, were said to have approached the Clerk of the National Assembly during the yuletide break to retrieve the original budget presented to the joint sitting of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22.
It was gathered that the Clerk of the National Assembly took it for granted that the duo must have got the nod of the leadership of the Senate and handed over the document to them without cross-checking with the Senate leadership.
The budget was thereafter taken to a highbrow hotel in Wuse 2, located near the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where some civil servants were lodged for about a week to effect changes to the budget, especially the estimates.
The doctored document was supposed to be returned to the Clerk of the Senate before the resumption of the National Assembly, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the new document could not reach the Senate before last Tuesday when the upper chamber was supposed to commence deliberation on the estimates.
It was also gathered that both the Senate President and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business were in the dark concerning the new development and slated the budget estimate among the items to be deliberated by the lawmakers.
A cursory look at the new version of the budget shows that some of the items for presidency that were padded in the original document like the purchase of BMW cars were drastically reduced while most of the other figures were reviewed.
For instance, in the original budget estimate presented by Mr. President, a princely sum of N3.63 billion was pencilled down for the purchase of BMW saloon cars and Jeeps, but this was reduced by N3.29 billion to N340 million, in the fresh version.
The controversial construction and provision of recreational facilities in the presidential villa, which was estimated at N764, 671,015, in the original document has been removed in the new version of the budget.
The State House (headquarters) total overhead in the original document was N2,063,951,770, but this was reduced by N99,999,998 and now stands at N1,963,951,772.
State House (headquarters) total recurrent in the original document was N3,640,645,629 but now stands at N3,540,645,631.
The Office of the Chief of Staff to the President’s total allocation was N2,258,000 in the original document but there is an increase of N25,000,000 and the figure now stands at 27,258,000
Office of the Chief Security Officer to the President’s total allocation was also increased by N25, 000,000 from the original N3, 177,380 to N28, 177,380.
State House Medical Centre also had an increase of N25, 000,000 from N3, 865,629,221 to N3, 890,629,221.
Also, State House Lagos Liaison Office budget was jacked up by N25, 000,000 from 126,727,005 to N151, 727,005
Overhead Cost (State House) was reduced by N99, 999,998 from N1, 964,893,444 to N1, 864,893,446.
Other recurrent costs (State House) was reduced by N99,999,998 from N2,063,951,770 to N1,963,951,772.
Miscellaneous (State House) was reduced by N100, 000,000 from N454, 145,445 to N354, 145,445.
Renovation work on eight number blocks of 16 numbers of two bedroom flats at State House Security Quarters, Asokoro “New Quarters” was completely absent in the original budget but the new version has an N254, 587,922 estimate while Wildlife Conservation in the presidency was reduced by N210, 255,800 from N326, 084,876 in the original document to N115, 829,076 in the new version.
Another item that was omitted, but smuggled into the doctored document was the annual routine maintenance of Villa facilities by construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria, JBN. In the new version a total of N3, 914,197,062 is pencilled down for this item.
Electrical installation of distribution boards and other cables was increased by N180,141,832 from N191,592,132 to N371,733,964 while purchase of 33-Seater Coaster buses was reduced by N38,000,000 from N158,000,000 to N120,000,000.
Purchase of 16-Seater Toyota Hiace Coaster buses was reduced by N84,000,000 from N204,000,000 to N120,000,000.
The new version of the budget has provision for the sum of N25, 000,000 for the office of the Chief of Staff to the President (total overhead) but this was omitted in the original version of the budget while another N25 million is now estimated for total recurrent for the same office.
Furthermore, the new version of the budget estimate made provision of N795, 234,275 for the update of the website of the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals. This was missing in the original document laid before the national assembly last year.
Buhari writes NASS, withdraws appropriation Bill
Meanwhile, in apparent confirmation of Nigerian Pilot’s exclusive report on the controversial 2016 budget was in actual fact withdrawn, President Mohammedu Buhari has formally written to the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, asking for formal withdrawal of the appropriation Bill, to enable him make some critical adjustments.
The formal request which will be read in the chambers of the upper and lower houses at plenary tomorrow when the session resumes, finally settles the controversy over the ‘missing’ budget document, which greeted the resumption of the lawmakers from the Christmas and New Year break on January 12.
Investigation revealed that, after presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly in December last year, President Buhari had discovered that some of the figures proposed were incredibly high while some key areas were not accommodated, and asked his Special Adviser on National assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang to seek for ways and means of amending it.
Ita Enang, in a bid to do his boss’s bidding, however, replaced the budget without due process, prompting hues and cries over a ‘missing’ budget when the lawmakers raised the alarm that led to the setting up of a committee to investigate the issue.