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Friday, 22 June 2018

Crisis Brews In NASS Over Sharing Of N578bn 'Padded Budget' Projects

Crisis Brews In NASS Over Sharing Of N578bn 'Padded Budget' Projects

President Muhammadu Buhari (middle)

The controversies surrounding the national budget are far from over as the executive arm of government raises loud alarm about padding.

The stunning revelation by the Presidency that the National Assembly inserted personal projects worth N578 billion into the 2018 budget has stirred a serious dissension among members of the National Assembly, Vanguard learned, yesterday.

It was learned that many members of NASS who were unaware of the huge amount of money and phantom projects ‘built’ into the budget by the leadership, became very upset with the expose by the Presidency and have threatened to vent their anger on those who perpetrated the ‘cheating’ as soon as the legislature resumes.

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The lawmakers are upset that most of them were allocated meagre projects and services valued at less than N50 million by the leadership of NASS, whereas each of them would have gone home with at least N1 billion allocation of the N578 billion.

There are 109 Senators and 360 House of Representatives members in the NASS and given the amount of N578 billion alleged to have been inserted into the budget, each member is supposed to have received at least N1 billion worth of project amounting to N469 billion, with a surplus of N109 billion for the top leaders of the legislature.

But one of the lawmakers from the South-West, who pleaded anonymity, said he was disappointed that the leadership of the NASS ‘actively short-changed’ some other members by allocating very small amount to them to service their communities but unjustifiably set aside huge amounts to themselves.

“We have to thank Mr. President for this eye-opening revelation on the padding of the 2018 budget by the NASS and we will take it from there when we resume in short while from now.

No security vote for State House — Udoma

In the meantime, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has said there was no truth in the report by Amnesty International, entitled Camouflaged Cash: How ‘Security Votes’ Fuel Corruption in Nigeria, which “indicated, in part, that the Presidency was not only appropriating but “has also increased the number of security votes tucked into the Federal budget in the last two years.”

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Answering questions during the budget briefing session, yesterday, in Abuja, the minister said it was necessary to state clearly that there was no line item as security vote in the State House budget.

Udoma said: “There are also provisions for military interventions in the North-East (insurgency), Operation Lafiya Dole, as well as other specific operations of the Armed Forces such as Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Smile and very recently, Operation Cat Race, etc.

“Owing to the growing number of internal security issues, a provision of N75 billion was made for these exercises in the service-wide votes, not State House vote, in 2018.”

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