Senate clears National Assembly of budget padding
• Upper chamber says it can’t impeach Buhari alone
• Reps deputy whip faults allegation
• I’ve been vindicated, says Obasanjo
Protesting its innocence, the Senate yesterday declared that it could not have been complicit in the alleged padding of the N6.06 trillion 2016 budget by the House of Representatives when the National Assembly is the authority statutorily empowered to produce the nation’s fiscal plan.
Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume who made the assertion at a press conference in Abuja, also said the Senate cannot impeach the president because impeachment is not a one- man-show as the procedure will involve both chambers of the National Assembly and the Judiciary.
Also, the Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Pally Iriase yesterday faulted the allegation by the former chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumuni Jubrin that lawmakers actually padded the 2016 budget, saying Jubrin wanted to paint the house in bad light to save his face from the “economic murder he had wanted to perpetrate.”
But Jubrin seems to have found an ally in former president Olusegun Obasanjo who told State House Correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa that he has been vindicated by the fresh allegations of budget padding against two key actors in the House of Representatives.
Ndume who promised that the Senate might intervene in the crisis bedeviling the lower chamber said: “I don’t want to say that there was budget padding and I don’t want to talk about something I really don’t know but what is happening in the House of Representatives is just very unfortunate because we have processes and procedure of doing things in the National Assembly.
“If somebody has an issue he knows what to do, he is not supposed to be going to the press about it in such a manner.
“There is nothing like budget padding. If it is the National Assembly that works on the budget, then you don’t call it padding because padding is like an illegality.
But if there are certain abnormalities in the budget, I think they know the right thing to do. If Jibrin is aggrieved he writes a petition or whatever and that should be referred to Ethics and Privileges who can investigate,” he said.
On the alleged impeachment plot against the president, Ndume said: “The impeachment process is a National Assembly matter not just the Senate’s. Senate cannot impeach the president, it is the National Assembly that can impeach the president.
“It is a long, tedious process and in this country, we don’t even need that, we are not even contemplating it and even if anybody does, it is not going to work because this is an All Progressives Congress (APC).
“We have 58 to 60 senators and you need 72 senators to start off an impeachment process. Where are they going to get the 24?” he asked.
Speaking to journalists in Benin City, Iriase urged Nigerians to disregard Jubrin’s insinuations, saying it was a deliberate ploy to cast aspersions on the integrity of members of the house.
Iriase who represents Owan Federal Constituency said: “Jubrin should not be taken seriously. You know me, if you remove integrity from me, I am a nobody and I pride myself on integrity. I could easily fold my hands and say he never mentioned me among the so-called culprits. But as a Christian I feel so bad when innocent, decent, honest people are being vilified by somebody who is the antithesis of what they are.”
Obasanjo who arrived at the State House clad in a blue attire with a black Yoruba cap to match, was driven in a black Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with a registration number ABJ 425 PY, accompanied by some aides, including one of his daughters at 12:54 p.m. He left at 2:15 p.m.
On the exchanges concerning the allegation of budget padding between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Jubrin, Obasanjo said his position had been confirmed.
The former president had written to the leadership of the National Assembly, alleging corruption among members.
Obasanjo’s words: “If you say I said it in the past and there were people who didn’t believe me, now see what has happened.”
Asked if there was the need for an investigation into the allegation of budget padding, the former president said: “It is not a question of investigation, we should get men and women of integrity in the place, and the president should be very vigilant so that whatever should not pass should not be allowed to do so.”