Budget padding: Fire-spitting Buhari unleashes detectives on suspects

Fear has gripped top officials of the Budget  Department of the National Planning Ministry as President Muhammadu Buhari returns to the country this week after spitting fire abroad over alleged padding of the 2016  Budget. This came to light on a day the President pointed out that all Nigerians must join him to prosecute the on-going war against corruption as he could not fight it alone. It was also learnt, at the weekend, that Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt.. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have rejected the N10billion voted in the 2016 budget for the building of new official quarters for them, opting for a cut in the vote.  Angry Buhari Presidency sources confirmed to Sunday Vanguard that Buhari was very angry over the alleged  doctoring of the budget by some bad eggs in the ministry, thereby trying to stifle his administration’s efforts to reflate the economy. In the meantime, it was learnt that the President  has ordered detectives to fish out  those who orchestrated the padding of the budget for immediate  punishment on his return to Abuja. Based on the directive, according to the sources, plain clothes  detectives had since swooped on the Department of Budget and some ministries, departments and agencies to fish out those implicated in the budget imbroglio. The sources claimed that more heads may roll over the addition of figures to the original budget proposals, presented  by Buhari to the National Assembly, by officials believed to be opposed to the zero-based budget system adopted by the President to cut costs and boost capital expenditure to 30 percent. Those who altered the budget were said to have opted for the “envelope system”, which arbitrarily allocates a fixed but unrealistic sum to each unit, sometimes higher or lower than what is actually required. The detectives were said  to have been scanning the initial documents used for the 2016 Budget and comparing them with the “padded budget documents”, which  caused a  spat between the Presidency and the National Assembly. A source in one of the ministries, where the detectives were sighted, pointed out that the men had been examining documents for two days running. “For two days, the detectives have been working in the Budget Department but we do  not really know what exactly they picked out”, a top official in the Planning Ministry said. “But the detectives did not molest any of the staff  of  the ministry. They went straight to look at the records and  began to input  data into their own computers”. Already, Buhari has fired the Director of Budget and appointed a new one while moving the Budget Department  from the Finance Ministry to National Planning. Some of the Budget Department officials, who were moved to other MDAs, were also being questioned by the detectives. Last week, in far away Saudi Arabia, Buhari exploded, while addressing the Nigerian community, and vowed to severely punish those who cooked  the budget to embarrass his government. The budget row between the Presidency and the NASS has, however, been thawed, raising hope it could be passed as early as  next month. I cannot single-handely fight corruption alone— Buhari In a related development, Buhari, yesterday, said he could not single-handedly fight-corruption, pointing out that it is a collective responsibility of Nigerians. Speaking at the 25th  convocation ceremony of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, the President said  he did not have the magic wand to effect the change he is championing alone, adding that youths are the greatest resource and pillar of the nation, and  that, with them, all hope is not lost yet. “As you all know, our administration came to power on the promise of  change. Changing our society from the path of corruption in high and low places is a task that we all must be committed to. It is not a magic wand that a single leader alone can use. We all have to  believe in it and we have to work for it and inculcating the virtues of honour integrity and discipline are essentially the duty of the family and educational institutions,”he said. “Nigeria still has  hope and promise because our youths -vibrant, energetic and creative citizens – are the greatest resource and pillar of this country. “Today may be rough and tough but tomorrow will be better. I have hope because I see in our youths inventors, problem solvers and leaders that will one day make Nigeria greater than my government will make it.” The President, represented by the Director of Science and Technology in the Federal Ministry of Education, Sandy Gandy Chega, stated that changing the country from the path of corruption in high and low places is a task that all Nigerians must be committed to. Buhari  then called for value re-orientation of higher education, stressing the need to improve the standards of education in the country. “We need value re-orientation as far as the pursuit of higher education is concerned. Our education would be meaningless if it does not advance the cause of humanity. We want to build a Nigeria where citizens with competencies would be proud of themselves and their country can attain heights because of what they know and can deliver.” Saraki, Dogara reject N10bn official quarters Last night, it was learnt that Senate President Saraki and Speaker Dogara, may have rejected the N10bn included in the 2016 budget proposals  of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the building of their official quarters. Saraki and Dogara, according to National Assembly sources, last week, agreed that the cost of the buildings should be reduced to one billion Naira each, to save the country N8billion. They were said to have informed the chairmen of the Committees on FCT in both chambers to reflect the decision in their report to the Committees on Appropriation. The Senate President and Speaker said in view of the economic situation in the country and the need for public officials to be frugal, building houses worth N6bn and N4bn respectively for them was insensitive. The two top legislators said the FCT ministry should scale down the cost of the projects or forget the idea until after their tenure. The Senate President was living in his personal house in Maitama area of Abuja until a fire incident last year forced him to relocate to an official guest house while Dogara stays in rented apartment.

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