Senate denies padding of Supplementary Budget - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Sunday, July 16, 2023

Senate denies padding of Supplementary Budget

The Senate has denied padding of the supplementary budget, saying  that it was not prepared to join issues with those it described as misguided and mischief makers on the recently appropriated N70bn for the National Assembly which they have mischievously described as a "gift" from the Executive arm of government.

In a statement in Abuja by the Chairman,, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, the  Senate also said that the passage of the Supplementary Appropriation Act was part of the constitutional duties of the Senate to accommodate funding for the Federal Government's Palliative for the Nigerian public among other National demands.

The  statement read, "after the passage of the Supplementary Budget to accommodate funding for Federal Government's Palliative for the Nigerian public, among other urgent national demands, the socio-political space has been inundated with spurious, inaccurate and irreverent misinterpretations. 

"Suffice to say that the passage is part of the absolute constitutional duty of the Senate. We would therefore, not wish to join issues with the mischief and misrepresentation that a portion of the just passed Amendment Act that appropriated 70b Naira was a 'gift' to the Legislators.

"A visit to the Suites, offices and the general structures of the National Assembly complex would reveal a yawning and the need for exigent attention. Many Senators had to bring their chairs, tables and electronics and in many cases, do sundry repairs. 

"The so much debated allocation will not be paid to any Legislator. This will be managed by the National Assembly Bureaucracy. It's pertinent to also note that the National Assembly complex does not house only the Legislators. There are thousands of workers and service providers, whose working environment need a face-lift, and/with necessary tools.

" Since the Assembly Complex is not owned by Legislators who are merely political birds of passage, such allocation cannot be termed by anyone as a palliative to the Legislators. 

"The alleged padding of the palliative budget by the National Assembly only exists in the minds of those who are all out to discredit the 10th Assembly. There is nothing like padding as being alleged in some misinformed media outfits.

"We wish to urge fellow compatriots to see the National Assembly as partners in the progress of Nigeria.The National Assembly is the soul of democracy and the 10th Senate shall join hands with other arms of government and our forward looking Nigerians to sing new songs of progress, development, safety and all round economic recovery and growth.

Recall that during a question  and answer session after the passage,  Senator Yemi Adaramodu had said, "the Senate confirmed the Service Chiefs on Thursday but the exercise was done closed door. How did it go; what are the assurances that they can do the work?

"The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Bola Tinubu sent a letter to the Senate, asking the Senate to confirm the Service Chiefs. We know that one of the very topical issues in Nigeria today is security matter, that is internal security in Nigeria. And anything that is going to add up and ensure that Nigerians can sleep in their two eyes closed, and that our property can be safe, and Nigerians can transmit themselves within, from one State to another, from town to town or village to village, and people can go their farms unfettered, the National Assembly, especially the Senate, we have to cooperate with Mr. President and other Nigerians, to make sure that we have a very seamless security system and architecture, to ensure that we stamp out what we have been experiencing up till now in terms of insecurity.

"The executive communication that came, which mentioned the names of the Service Chiefs: the Chief of Defence Staff; the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the the Chief of Air Staff, was considered. All the four were examined, they were drilled. Questions were raised. And you know, many of us are from areas that are restless, where people find it difficult to come out because of insecurity. So, definitely, it concerns us as it concerns every other Nigerian, especially those of us who are seriously endangered, though everybody is endangered in Nigeria because of terrorism, banditry and other violent criminal activities going in the country. So, we have to thoroughly look at the personnel what will handle all these security concerns. 

"We have to be very careful and down to eat to tell ourselves the truth. That is why it took us very long time to look at their antecedents, their profiles, their capability and capacity, and trajectory and everything we have known about these people. At the end of the day, the Senate found out that these are very capable Nigerians. And not only that we screened them on their capability and capacity, we had to ask them how they are going shift from what we have been having before, because it is not that we are having new soldiers. We have been having Service Chiefs, we have been having soldiers in the country; the question is, what are they going to do differently, how are they going to give us positive results without rhetorics, without negative narratives everyday. 

"We have always been hearing, this is a war which is not conventional. Then, it means that we need to approach it unconventionally too. So, whatever it takes for us to tackle it, we have to tackle it. But before we can be talking about that, we have to have a round peg in a round hole that we can rely on. That is why it took us very long examine everything about them. The Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Naval Staff were all examined and cross examined, questioned and cross questioned. Then the Senate confirmed their nominations to function in the capacities they were appointed.$

On why the Acting Inspector General of the Police not part of the screening, he said, "This is military affair, and the security of Nigeria today, and the issue of insecurity, whether it's Boko Haram, terrorists or bandits, rest solely on the shoulders of our military. So, this is military affair. Then, the issue of IGP will come. There is no order or law saying that they must come the same day."

When asked that the  Senate approved N500 billion and $800 million requests by President Bola Tinubu and what  the  funds are supposed to be used for as  Nigerians would want to know, the Senate  spokesperson said, "Yes, the other issue which the Senate treated is the issue of N500 billion palliatives which the President asked for in order to cushion the negative effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the common Nigerians. Definitely, that may not be enough because there are many other aspects which the government can delve into especially as we learnt that government has been having talks with the organised Labour, and I think the Federal Government is going to do something in that area. 

"But in the immediate, what is the stopgap for especially the dependent Nigerians so as to lift them up before other palliatives come. We feel the problems too, and that is why we believe that the average Nigerians must be assisted because we are running a human face government. When we are running face government, then everything that will be done must be targeted at Nigeria. That is why we expeditiously acceded to the request of Mr. President because appropriations belong to the National Assembly. So, no Kobo can be spent without appropriating it by the National Assembly. It took us time to pass it because we have all pointers that this palliative is going to yield result. It is going to touch those people that it supposed to touch. So, that is why it was passed. 

"Then, on the issue of $800 million, which is like a social security scheme, which the Federal Government has sourced for because we know that the N500 billion cannot do the magic; so the $800 million will follow in and assisting Nigerians overcome the economic hardship in the country. So, that is why we approved these requests by Mr. President."

On what measures are in place to ensure that the palliatives get to those who ought to get it, the Senator said, "You know we were not part of the previous palliatives, and for this 10th Senate, when we asked questions because all of are concerned; my town is concerned, my Senatorial District is concerned and my State is concerned, and every other person. So, we were not part of any previous palliatives and we are not concerned about what was given before. I am not aware of whatever palliatives that had been done before but what is on ground is that when we asked questions about data, data was supplied; and when we asked questions about modus operandi was supplied.

" Therefore, there is no reason and there is no point that we should doubt the veracity of those explanations, empirical one for that matter. Another thing is that, even when you talk about palliatives in the past, fuel subsidy had never been removed before. So, this one is that fuel subsidy had been removed and everybody knows that one. And this one is targeted to cushion the effect of an action of government, to shore up the economy of Nigeria. Therefore, this one cannot go the way of the others. We all know that there had never been a time the government came to the National Assembly to ask for palliatives. It used to be through a Ministry such Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. But this one is a direct Federal Government dealing with the citizens and we don't have any reason to doubt the genuineness of the scheme."

When asked on why the Federal Government removed fuel subsidy only to start seeking for a loan of $800 million to cushion the effect in the system, Senator Adaramodu said, 

"We are all journalists, we know that this issue of $800 million came up towards the end of the last government. The opinion of many Nigerians was that, when it was just few days to go, where will you expend it? Can you bring up a very good agenda of how you are going to expend it? And if any such money is coming to the coffers of Nigeria, it has to be legislated and it must be targeted at something. And you know that it is a World Bank facility. It has been on before the advent of this government. 

"So, it is not borrowing, it is for the national social safety net. So, it is very different from the palliatives targeted specifically at Nigerians and to be sourced among Nigerians. It is not borrowing; it is not a loan, we are not approving a loan for the Federal Government. It is a World Bank assisted facility that has been there before the 10th Senate. 

"But any money that is coming from outside or that is being taken out of Nigeria coffers must be legislated upon, so that is what we did today. I have always being recommending something. When ever appropriation is done, let us avail ourselves of the opportunity of reading through. So that oversighting does not reside only with Assembly people even we as journalists can oversight. So if we oversight very well we know that, not a new thing as a budget. 

"When you look at all items here they were part of 2022 budgetary provision. The only one that is new is that N500b which had to be sourced for within the budget that had been in existence. So any other budget tittle or heading that is there. Because of the N500b we now first line charge towards the next budget of 2024 which have to start from September. That is the implication. I always say one thing. Even if it is 10k in the budget they write National Assembly that is what Nigerians will first talk about.

" The would have forgotten that National Assembly is not only about senators or house representatives members only. We cannot give ourselves salary, it is not possible, it is illegal. That person will go to jail,there is an organ RAMFAC that do that. Either salary or allowance National Assembly cannot give themselves kobold. They can't add or even subtract. RAMFAC will never do it for only National Assembly. When they are doing it they will do it for everybody and they have no reason to do it and it has never been done. Nothing like that has ever happened. Even when I read sometimes ago, 831% increase, whatever. I said where'd did that one come from.

" When they gave me my salary for May, I found out it did not change, it was the same thing with 2019 salary of June 2019. That 4 years, my salary never changed. But it is good that we are very alive to it, we have even forgotten that NASS includes all those people that work here, messengers and all sorts. You don't know if I senator Daramodu is not here many Nigerians too will not be here. They will be unemployed too. Those people who sweep the office, they are there because I am there. There will not just include them to start sweeping outside there, the drivers, the sweepers, and several others and consider even the energy, power and so on. 

"When you look at it, it will be paid by the budget allocated to the National Assembly. So when you see National Assembly it is not definitely members. If we avail ourselves of having looked at 2022 budget very well you will find out that nothing there is new. The only thing that is new there is that N500b. Why all other things must be brought forward is that we must show it in appropriation to make it a law that yes, these have been like this, these have been like this, we remove N5 from here N2 from there and N3, we joined them to make N10, that is that N10 that we are spending but everything must still come together. So it is not anything to anybody. Our salary, has not increased, allowances have not increased. If it is going to I will clap for myself."

On how the budget would be funded, he said, "Now, first of all I want to crave your indulgence about this, maybe One or two years back, we were told the number of litres of petroleum Nigerians are consuming everyday, few weeks ago after the removal of subsidy We now had almost the actual number that Nigerians are consuming. 

"Now when you subtract that over bloated number from the real number now and you multiply by how much a little is that is money. When you see these fake astonishing merchants who carried only brief cases and call themselves petrol bridgers who made sure to locust on the resources of Nigeria through oil subsidy, when that one is removed, omnipotently you know that there would be savings. 

"That savings, 2023 budget is already on, that saving be like an extraneous gain over the budget which had already, when you make budget estimates you will now tell us where the funding will come from but this one now, instead of that N500b which would be available to fund the existing, for bridge  or gader there, we are pulling together because of the emergency, whatever, whatever, then you are pulling that together now in the emergency and giving it to the people. 

"Look we can afford to be giving you liters of fuel because it is your own property, your own inheritance but let us turn it to Naira and give that to people, that is the issue of this one, let us turn it to Naira and give that monthly. The issue of where money will from does not arise because they have not come to us to say they want to borrow money. If they come to us and say they want to borrow then we can ask that question, where is the money coming from. So whoever, It is like a blind man who threatens you that he is going to throw a stone at you. If the stone is not in his hand, he has put his leg on top of the stone. So it is a blind man that want to throw a stone at you, where is the stone, the stone is in his pocket".

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