‘He should have requested for more time,’ Lawmaker accuses President Tinubu of presenting empty budget boxes before NASS
A member of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Galambi, has accused President Bola Tinubu of presenting ’empty’ boxes supposedly containing the 2024 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly.
Galambi, a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) representing Gwaram federal constituency of Jigawa State, made the allegation during an interview with BBC Hausa Service on Friday.
The lawmaker, in the interview said 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.
NewsClick Nigeria reports that the president, on Wednesday, presented the N27.5 trillion proposed budget for 2024 to the joint session of the National Assembly co-chaired by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen.
Christened ‘Budget of Renewed Rope’. the proposal was designed to address economic growth, human capital development, poverty reduction and insecurity, according to Mr Tinubu.
Procedurally, after reading his budget speech, President Tinubu laid two boxes containing the budget documents on the table in front of the presiding officers.
The boxes had the colour of the Nigerian national flag of green-white-green.
Both chambers read the budget for the first time on Wednesday shortly after Tinubu presented it.
They also passed the document for a second reading on Friday after two days of debate and subsequently referred it to their committees on appropriation.
Galambi said the boxes Tinubu ‘bowed’ and kept for the lawmakers were empty.
“The president read out to us his speech on the proposed budget but we’ve not seen the document to work on.
“Of course, he read the estimates for the various sectors. But as it has always been the tradition, a document is always presented (to the lawmakers) but he (Tinubu) didn’t do that,” he said.
When the BBC reporter insisted that the president was seen laying the “document”, Galambi said when the lawmakers checked they couldn’t find anything in the boxes laid by Tinubu.
“We’ve checked but there was nothing inside. We checked it. In the history of the National Assembly, this was the first time such a thing happened.
“The constitution has made it clear (that a document must be presented) but this time, it was only a reading on paper. They didn’t provide the document for us to go through and see what is proposed for each sector. Maybe they’ll bring it later,” Galambi said.
The opposition lawmaker, who was first elected into the House in 2007, said the decision by Tinubu to present empty boxes surprised the lawmakers because “we never expected it even in our wildest dreams.”
Galambi accused the president of deceit.
“If he (Tinubu) was not ready, if the budget proposal was not ready to be presented, he shouldn’t have come and said he was done. We could have given him more time, why the haste? Why would he come and read something and even say he has kept it (document) when it’s empty,” he said.
The lawmaker alleged that the leaders of the National Assembly are covering up Mr Tinubu’s act.
“They (leaders of the National Assembly) don’t want anyone to talk about it. Maybe they were not informed or were possibly aware of what was planned and they decided not to inform us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Print Media, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz in a reaction said the allegation was aimed at misleading the public.
“It’s a nonsensical allegation aimed to mislead. The president is never expected to present the whole haul of heavy documents. What happened at the laying is like the presentation of dummy cheques at award ceremonies. The real thing always follows,” Abdulaziz said.