Abuja — Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki has refuted reports credited to National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu on padding and delay of national budgets.
In a statement issued yesterday by his Media Adviser, Yusuph Olaniyonu, he asked Tinubu to either substantiate his allegations or immediately withdraw them.
Describing the APC leader's statement as another effort to sell a concocted narrative on the Eighth National Assembly and its leadership, he also alleged that Tinubu "treats legislators like hapless pupils receiving orders from a cane-wielding headmaster.
"First, he alleged that national budgets were delayed, distorted, padded, new projects introduced and funds for projects reduced to halt progress of government.
"It is unfortunate that a man like Tinubu who had served in the Senate (albeit for 22 months under a military regime) lacks a better understanding of how the legislature works."
He added that the passage of budgets was not the exclusive responsibility of the Senate leadership. Committees headed by senators from different parties do most of the work on budgets.
"It is the level of co-operation between the committees and ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in timely defence of budget proposals and National Assembly ability to reconcile their figures that usually determine how soon budgets are passed.
"To put the blame of budget delay on the Senate President or Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, can only be mischief, or at best, playing to the gallery," Saraki explained.
He also regretted that if a man like Tinubu could spread falsehood about budgets passage and delay as being deliberately orchestrated by the National Assembly leadership, "one wonders whether he tries to even understand what happens in the federal legislature at all or is it that the only thing that is of interest to him is jockeying and maneuvering for influence, as he puts it?
Saraki challenged Tinubu to look at the records of the time of submission of budgets and their passage since 2010 and he will see that with the exception of the 2013 budget, which was passed on December 20, 2012, all the budgets have been passed between March and May of the same fiscal year.
He added: "In all the three budgets passed by the National Assembly, we challenge Tinubu to make specific reference to where Saraki and the leadership of the National Assembly "sought to pad with pet projects," as he alleged.
"Tinubu should be graceful enough to substantiate this allegation. We consider his allegation careless, irresponsible and callous. We, therefore, demand that he should withdraw it."
The statement also wondered why Tinubu claimed that the Senate leadership "stymied APC legislative initiatives, while attempting to hoist noxious reactionary and self interested legislation on the nation."
He revealed that the Senate under his watch has passed 282 bills, the highest any Senate had passed, adding that most of the bills received international and national endorsements from stakeholders.
Saraki also argued that failure of Tinubu and APC cabal who felt they could decide leadership of the ninth Assembly for senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect was another reason for the attack on the National Assembly.
"When they failed after their grand-standing that they could always get whatever they desired, they resorted to undermining the legislature and waging a campaign of calumny against the lawmaking body.
"It is now clear that those who took senators away from the chambers contrary to the directive in the proclamation signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 9, 2015 are 'mistake personified'. It is obvious that if they repeat that arrogance during the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly, they will fail again because Nigeria is greater than them," the statement further reads.
"Tinubu and his mob have been sponsoring the narratives in the media that the emergence of the present leadership of the National Assembly was a mistake, but Saraki and the other National Assembly leaders were democratically elected."
"And it is because they are the choice of their colleagues that they have remained in office for the past 46 months, in spite of all the plots by anti-democratic, reactionary and fascist elements pretending to be 'progressives'," it added.