The debate on the general principles of the 2017 Appropriation Bill entered the second day on Wednesday, and the exercise took a dramatic twist when a former Majority Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, tackled the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for allegedly skipping his name on the list of lawmakers billed to speak on the budget.
Saraki had announced at the beginning of the debate that 39 senators had been listed for the exercise for the day.
After Senator Dino Melaye made his contribution, Saraki, who presided over the plenary, had called on three senators, John Enoh, Abiodun Olujimi and Adeola Olamilekan.
Ndume, however, raised a point of order, alleging that his name had been skipped on the list.
The Borno South senator stated that he wrote his name immediately after Melaye, after whom two other senators had been allowed to speak.
He said, “My point of order is Order 15. When you announced the debate on the budget, you asked us to write our names and I wrote my name and my name is listed after distinguished Senator Dino Melaye. I was prepared and I was following but I didn’t hear you call my name. So, I don’t know when I will contribute again.”
Saraki, however, replied Ndume, stating that the list that mattered was the one with him (Senate President).
“Senator Ndume, as I sit down here, I didn’t write this list. I take the order in directing the affairs of the chamber and the list I have is the list I am going by. I don’t know about that list. So, follow my list and you will be called in due time. I don’t know the list you are talking about. The only list that matters is the list I have in front of me and I am going with that list,” Saraki said.
Ndume had recently been removed by the All Progressives Congress caucus in the Senate as the Majority Leader, making him to fall out with the Like Minds faction of the caucus, which is loyal to Saraki.
Saraki, later called on Ndume after two more senators had spoken, but the former Senate Leader was no more in the chamber.
Ndume, who was given a second chance after his return to the chamber, dismissed the 2017 budget as lacking details.
He stated that the lawmakers had no clue on what their budget was.
He said, “We come here to pass the budget without seeing the details. This is a government of change and this must change. The details of the budget report should, and as required, be considered holistically. Last year, we had several issues with the budget: in fact, to some extent, very embarrassing. And that is because some of us were even innocent; we didn’t know what was in the budget because the details of the budget were not provided and this should be not done this year.
“The budget of the Senate is not known to the senators; it should be known this year. This is very important because we cannot be taking blame or hold credit for what we don’t know. Mr. President, if you look at the 2016 budget, yes, we have been given the budget performance but what budget 2016 contains in relation to 2017 budget is not available.”