Majority Leader of the Senate, Sen. Ali Ndume, on Monday dismissed notions that the 2016 Appropriation Bill was padded in the National Assembly, insisting that lawmakers only worked on it.
He also told journalists the ongoing budget padding scandal in the House of Representatives was unfortunate.
The senator faulted a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, for exposing the leadership of the lower chamber to the media over alleged padding of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
He said the lawmaker should have filed a petition to the Committee on Ethics and privileges.
Ndume said, “I don’t want to say that there was budget padding. I don’t want to talk about something I really don’t know. But what is happening in the House of Representatives is just very unfortunate because we have processes and procedures for doing things in the National Assembly.
“If somebody has an issue, he knows what to do; it is not the press that is supposed to be where somebody would carry his grievances to. I have been trying to reach out to both sides and we are working on that.
“There is nothing like budget padding. If it is the National Assembly that works on the budget, then you don’t call it padding, because padding is like illegality. But when you tinkered and subtracted means that you are working on the budget; these are two different things.
“But if there are certain abnormalities in the budget and what transpired in the budget process, which is now an Appropriation Act. I think they (Reps) know the right thing. We have a committee. If Jibrin is aggrieved, he can write a petition and that should be referred to the Ethics and Privileges (committee) who can do an investigation.”
Jibrin, who was sacked as Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, had accused the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers of the legislature of being accomplices in the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
Jibrin alleged that chairmen of 10 committees injected 2, 000 fictitious projects worth N248bn into the budget. The lawmaker, himself, had been accused of allocating 20 projects worth N4.3bn to his constituency.
Projects worth N40bn were allegedly also allocated to the Committee on Appropriation under Jibrin’s leadership.
Ndume dismissed the alleged plans by the PDP caucus of the Senate to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari. He stated that it would take a collective move by the Senate and the House of Representatives to unseat the president.
He said, “The impeachment process is a National Assembly matter, not Senate. Senate cannot impeach the president. It is the National Assembly that can impeach the president. For the National Assembly to be able to do so, it will require a two-third (of the assembly).”
The senators pointed out that the legislature must clearly state the impeachable offences committed and serve the president a notice, while nothing could be done until he failed to respond.
Ndume added, “It is a process – a long tedious process. And in this country, we don’t even need that; we are not even contemplating it. Even if anybody contemplates it, it is not going to work because this is an APC senate; we have the majority, we have 58 to 60 senators. And you need 72 senators to start off impeachment process. Where are they going to get the 24?”