•It’s a lie, say Senate President’s loyalists
From FRED ITUA, Abuja
SENATE President Bukola Saraki and Senator Kabiru Marafa are at loggerheads over claims made by the latter that the delay in the passage of 2016 budget was a deliberate plan by the embattled Saraki to humiliate President Muhammadu Buhari over his Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial.
But reacting to Marafa’s allegations, one of Saraki’s loyalists, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said the claims were baseless. He said the readjustment of the new date for the passage of the budget had nothing to do with the trial.
Marafa, who spoke with journalists at the weekend, said the Senate President’s action was meant to force the Presidency to discontinue his trial by the CCT.
He said it was the duty of the Senate to prune the budget and remove areas that are alleged to have been inflated by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
According to him: “honestly speaking, if I have to comment on the controversy that has been trailing the 2016 budget in the Senate, I will say it is all the work of the Fifth Columnists there. You remember we woke up after 15 days or also of the receipt of the budget in the National Assembly.
“We woke up one day and the Senate President just came and said there is no budget, that the budget is stolen and he embarrassed everybody. But the following day, the Speaker said it is not stolen and that their own was there.
“Next, they said the budget is doctored, next, they said the budget is padded, next, they said there are discrepancies all over the place. We knew how they came into the leadership of the National Assembly or the Senate. Was it a coincidence that the issue of padding and everything just came up after the Supreme Court said go and face your trial?
“Suddenly, we started hearing that we cannot pass the budget as we promised because there are discrepancies and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, all the noise about the budget are all about this issue of corruption trial or CCT trial that is all. No more, no less.”
But Senator Ibrahim replied: “Let me say that as much as the Senate President will not like to join issues with Senator Kabiru Marafa who is billed to appear before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public petitions on issues bordering on ethics, decorum and uttering of unguarded statements unbecoming of a distinguished Senator, I, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim will like to state as follows for the purpose of clarity.
“How can anybody reduce the issue of the controversies bordering on budgets to the creation of just one person, the Senate President? The questions that arise from this claim are: were there versions of the budget? Yes, there were. The President himself on January 15, 2016 wrote to admit that there were versions of the budget.
“Also, after the various irregularities pointed out and openly admitted by the Ministers during Budget Defence sessions, the Chairmen of the Committees on Appropriation in both Chambers on February 10, 2016 jointly addressed the press that the February 25 date set for the passage of the 2016 budget would not be feasible. In fact, it was the House Chairman who first gave the indication to that effect. How is Dr. Saraki now being dragged into it?,” he said.