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Tinubu came empty to National Assembly, forced us to debate budget proposals we haven’t seen: Lawmakers

Federal lawmakers are raising alarm that President Bola Tinubu did not submit any documents backing the 2024 appropriation bill he proposed before a joint parliamentary session on Wednesday.

Two different lawmakers informed Peoples Gazette that the president’s action was detrimental to the social contract between the parliament, the presidency and the people of Nigeria. 

“No lawmakers can say they have seen what the president presented to the National Assembly on Wednesday,” a lawmaker told The Gazette by telephone Friday evening. “They made us debate the matter yesterday (Thursday) and today (Friday) without showing us the facts and figures of the president’s proposals. This is unfortunate for the federal republic.”

Another lawmaker said “Nigerians should cry out and ask the president and his people when they would tell us what happened to his 2024 budget.”

 “He needs to present everything before us because we have the power of appropriation as members of the National Assembly,” the lawmaker added. 

Both lawmakers spoke under anonymity to avoid being victimised by the ethics committee of the assembly. One. of the lawmakers cited his ties to the president as unfavourable to his open commentary on the matter, saying it could engender a fraught relationship between him and the presidency. 

He also slammed Senate President Godswill Akpabio and other principal officers for allowing the president to get away with the deceit, insisting that “the president gave us the overhead summary, but not the details, which usually come in bulky paperwork.”

Spokespersons for the Senate, House and State House did not take questions on the matter from The Gazette between Friday night and Saturday afternoon. 

The president had on September 29 presented a proposed appropriation of N27.6 trillion to lawmakers, leaving out the breakdown of the legislation to sidestep scrutiny of lawmakers ahead of crucial votes on it. They held debates on Thursday and Friday on the budget, even though they said they were still being kept in the dark. 

The lawmakers spoke with The Gazette hours after Yusuf Galambi, another federal lawmaker, accused President Bola Tinubu of sending ’empty’ boxes without the 2024 budget to the National Assembly on Wednesday. 

In an interview with BBC Hausa Service on Friday, Mr Galambi, a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) who represents Jigawa State’s Gwaram federal constituency, said Mr Tinubu read out his budget speech, including proposals for sectors but did not give the lawmakers the documents as was the tradition by previous presidents. 

“We are confused because this has never been done before, not even in our dreams,” he said. “We, therefore, think this is deceitful; if you are not ready, why bring it before us? What you would have done is simply to tell us you are not ready, simple.”

Nigerian annual appropriation season is often packed with controversy as rampant sharp practices are detected and raised in the media. But Mr Tinubu’s failure to present a budget document to the parliament days after purportedly reading from it in a televised session of the parliament appeared to be shaping up as the most serious public ridicule the country has faced since early 2016 when a budget document President Muhammadu Buhari presented before the parliament was purportedly stolen, causing a long-drawn recrimination between the parliament and the presidency. 

A new flash drive was later sent to the parliament amid claims that it contained grossly edited items that were not in the proposal originally submitted in late 2015. The administration at the time denied any wrongdoing. 

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