INVESTIGATIONS: Buhari refuses assent to 2016 budget …Presidency source alleges NASS playing pranks …President leaves for Washington

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By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.

There are doubts on whether President Muhammadu Buhari will sign the 2016 budget soon as a presidency source alleged on Tuesday that only the highlights of the appropriation bill had been received by the President.

According to the source who did not want his name mentioned, President Buhari’s anxiety to sign the budget had been dampened by the failure of the National Assembly to transmit the details of the bill.

The source therefore concluded that the federal legislature was either playing politics with the budget passage or was out for outright sabotage.

The fear of President Buhari in signing the highlights, the source pointed out, was that he may have signed something that was not implementable if the details were not studied before appending the presidential signature.

The two chambers of the federal legislature passed the budget separately on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

It could not, however, be confirmed whether the conference committee of the two houses had sat to harmonize the two versions in line with the rules and tradition of the National Assembly.

The source said: “The President has just received the transmission of the Appropriation Bill (2016 Budget) from the National Assembly and is very anxious to sign it into law, but the National Assembly only sent in the highlights without the details of the budget.

“As a result, the President has been handicapped in signing the Bill because he does not know what is contained in the details and what adjustments the National Assembly must have made to the proposal sent to them.

“Although he is anxious to sign the document so that implementation of the provisions could start immediately and ease the tension in the economy and polity, he is afraid he may later discover, when the details are sent, and what is contained therein is not implementable.

“He wishes the National Assembly could send in the details speedily so that it could be considered for assent.

“Ministers are also eager that the budget be signed so they could start implementing their programmes, but they are unable to push the President to sign what has been transmitted because they also do not know what is contained in the details.

“They are particularly worried that the year is gradually aging and the provision of the law in respect of spending the previous years budget is not helping matters because of the low Capital provision for 2015.

“Because of the low provision made last year for capital expenditure, spending 50% of that provision for the first half of this year will make no impact on provision of infrastructure.

“The Budget Office cannot also work on the Budget for implementation because it is the details, and not the highlights, that they convert into implementable templates for the respective MDAs.

“This development confirms speculations that the National Assembly either did not complete work on the budget or are playing politics with the documents which affects the life of both the country and its citizens.

“The National Assembly may just have passed the bill to pass the buck to the executive and escape the wrath of the public which was gradually suspecting it of sabotage.”

Meanwhile, President Buhari will leave Abuja for Washington DC on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 to join President Barack Obama and about 60 other world leaders and heads of international organisations at the 4th Nuclear Security Summit which opens there on Thursday.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said “at plenary sessions of the summit which is dedicated to reinforcing international commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, President Buhari will insist that while Nigeria will continue to sustain that commitment, world powers must respect the right of other countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy for development purposes.”

The statement issued in Abuja further read: “The President will reaffirm Nigeria’s stance that international efforts to ensure greater security of nuclear materials should maintain a balance between nuclear non-proliferation obligations and the indisputable right of Nigeria and other countries to harness nuclear energy and technology for socio-economic development.”

It recalled that at a meeting with him in Abuja earlier this month, President Buhari told the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. Yukiya Amano that the Federal Government would welcome greater support from the agency for Nigeria’s aspiration to begin the generation of electricity with nuclear energy.

It stated also that while in Washington DC for the Nuclear Security Summit, the President and his delegation which included Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.) and the Director-General of Nigeria’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Prof Lawrence Anikwe Dim, would also hold bilateral meetings with other participating Heads of Government and high-ranking United States Government officials.

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