The Presidency last night blamed the delay in submitting the supplementary budget, containing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) estimates for the 2019 general election, to the National Assembly on the late passage of the 2018 budget by the federal legislature.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, denied the allegation by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, that the executive sent the INEC budget several months after INEC submitted it to the executive.
Saraki’s media aide, Mr. Olu Onemola, responded yesterday, saying the presidency’s excuse was an afterthought, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari was not committed to the general election.
However, Shehu insisted that Saraki should rather be blamed for putting the country under tension in relation to INEC’s budget and the preparation for 2019 polls.
He said the INEC budget did not come to the executive until after the presentation of the 2018 budget and hence, could only come later as a supplementary budget.
Furthermore, he said supplementary budget could only be submitted after the passage of the main budget and since the budget was delayed for seven months by the National Assembly, it couldn’t have been submitted earlier.
The statement read: “The presidency wishes to respond to the false to accusations by Senator Saraki who alleged that President Buhari is to blame for the delay in approving the supplementary budget for INEC.
“On the contrary, the Senate President should look into the mirror and what he will see is his own face. He is solely to be held responsible for deliberately driving the nation to this cliff edge as far as the preparations for next elections are concerned.
“It is not true that INEC submitted their draft budget to the presidency in February.
“No, it came much later but even then, this is not the real issue.
The fact that their proposals came well after the president had laid his budget for the year 2018 before the National Assembly meant that their own will be sent as supplementary budget. This was clearly stated to them by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
“A supplementary budget cannot be submitted until the main budget is passed, and so the delay in passing the main budget was the reason for the delay. The National Assembly passed the 2018 budget seven months after the document was submitted to the National Assembly by President Buhari.
“Unless someone has forgotten, the budget was submitted to the National Assembly and it took the Saraki-led National Assembly seven months to release it. There is no way President Buhari could have submitted a supplementary budget while the main one was still pending.
“It is never done. Because Saraki did not return the main budget, we could not have submitted the supplementary one. After the long delays, the President was pained to sign the much distorted, butchered and debauched document. In giving his assent, President Buhari said that he was compelled to sign the budget so as not to keep the economy continuously on a standstill.
“It is also worthy of note that this is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a government would bring together the cost of an election in one budget, with each agency involved invited to defend their portion of the budget before the National Assembly.
“It is all part of the transparency that this government is known for. In the past, governments would approve INEC budgets and funding without a breakdown, often using ways and means to fund it. Not so under President Buhari.”
The Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media, Onemola, yesterday accused Buhari of not being committed towards the successful conduct of the 2019 elections in the country.
Onemola was reacting to the allegation by Buhari’s Media Organisation that Saraki was slowing down the approval of the 2019 election budget approval.
Saraki’s aide said in a statement that President Buhari is desperate to frustrate the conduct of the 2019 polls by denying the nation the enabling law to conduct the elections.
According to him, the president has refused to assent to the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly.
“The Electoral Bill passed by the National Assembly to help legalise the various innovations that needed for free and fair elections is still absent because President Buhari chose to withhold his assent the first time it was transmitted.
“The question the Buhari Media Organisation should ask their principal is: What is he afraid of in the very progressive proposals contained in the Electoral Bill?; Why does he want to frustrate the 2019 election by denying the nation the much-needed enabling law?”
He described the Buhari Media Organisation’s attack on the Senate President as a clear example of “conscientious ignorance on full display.”