Buhari, Saraki, Dogara meet over 2016 budget

The first official meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the leaders of both houses of the National Assembly held yesterday at the Aso Rock presidential villa.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, led principal officers of both Senate and House of Representatives, consisting of 20 members, to the meeting, a reliable source close to one of the leaders of the National Assembly was confirmed by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

He said it was just a “familiarisation meeting” between the president and the lawmakers.

Sources who spoke to journalists said the meeting was slated to enable Mr. Buhari enlist the support of the leadership of the National Assembly for the 2015 supplemenatry budget.

Also, the meeting will allow Mr. Buhari familiarise with the lawmakers, especially as he will count on the support of the Senate to confirm ministerial nominees he sent last week, the source said.

“You know since the leadership tussle that rocked the National Assembly, there has not been opportunity for the president and leaders of the National Assembly to formally familiarise,” the source said.

Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, jointly led the leadership of the National Assembly to the meeting with the President.

Others who attended the meeting from the Senate included the Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume; the Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah; Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio and Minority Whip, Philip Aduda.

Those who attended from the House of Representatives included the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; and House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.

They all arrived the venue in a convoy at about 8.45pm.

Conspicuously missing at the meeting however was the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.

The meeting however started at about 9.15pm when Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some top government officials arrived at the venue.

Journalists were barred from covering the meeting which was held inside the First Lady’s Conference Hall inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

But findings by The PUNCH indicated that Buhari’s plan to send a 2015 supplementary budget to the National Assembly was a key item on the agenda.

A senior National Assembly official informed the paper that the performance of the 2015 budget also featured at the meeting.

“First would be to look at issues surrounding the main 2015 budget and why there is a need for a supplementary proposal.

“Of course, this will dovetail into talks about the 2016 budget,” the source stated.

The Presidency had two weeks ago hinted of a plan by Buhari to forward a supplementary budget to the legislature.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had signed a 2015 budget of N4.4tn shortly before he exited office on May 29.

The National Assembly had passed the budget in April with a crude oil benchmark of $53 per barrel.

However, oil has sold far below the budgeted figure for months.

The development has and created seeming implementation bottlenecks for the budget.

It was also learnt that the meeting might discuss the leadership crisis occasioned by the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President.

Saraki, who is currently being prosecuted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false declaration of assets, emerged the President of the Senate against the party’s choice of Ahmed Lawan.

Since the elections in the Senate, Saraki has been having a running battle with the leadership of the governing All Progressives Congress.

It was also gathered the meeting was one of the steps being taken to resolve the crisis and reconcile Saraki with the leadership of the party.

It will be recalled that Dogara had on Monday evening met with Buhari on the Saraki issue.

The Speaker met with the President following a resolution by the House that he should intervene in the crisis.

The meeting might also be aimed at securing smooth passage for ministerial nominees whose names were sent to the Senate by the President last week.

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