President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, said that he would not hurriedly give his assent to the 2016 Appropriation Bill as there is need for its thorough review to ensure that its contents was the same with the authentic budget proposal presented to the National Assembly.
According to a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, he said it will be done against the backdrop of of the contentious stories of alterations and budget padding trailing the budget proposal.
The budget proposal that kept the nation waiting for months was passed by the National Assembly on March 23rd but was forwarded to the President without its details. Members of the National Assembly explained that there was nothing wrong with signing the bill into law without the details but Buhari maintained that he must receive it before the bill will be assented by him.
The story of likely delay of the presidential accent of the 2016 Appropriation Bill consequent upon the non availability of the details kept the media abuzz on Wednesday. But reacting to the story, the National Assembly on Thursday said that the details would be made available in two weeks.
Speaking at a meeting with the United States Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, in Washington DC on the sideline of the 4th Nuclear Security summit in the country, Nigeria’s president stated that the review of the 2016 Appropriation Bill would be done Ministry by Ministry to find out for sure if there were additional inputs different from its original contents when he submitted it as he feared that the original contents of the document may have been altered. He said:
“Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced it with what they wanted. I have to look at the bill that has been passed by the National Assembly, ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission.”
Stating solemnly and emphatically the commitment of his administration to forge ahead with the war against corruption, Buhari asked for America’s help in repatriating Nigeria’s stolen funds saying: “It will greatly help our country if you assist us to recover all our stolen funds which we can establish within your financial system,” and in response, Mr. Kerry gave an assurance that the government of the United States would ensure the smooth repatriation of all stolen Nigerian funds located within the American banking system, adding that he had already been informed that the funds were in “billions of dollars.”
The US Secretary assured Buhari:
“It’s not easy to hide that amount of money and we are pretty good in tracing them.”
He also added that the relevant US government officials will meet with the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to discuss further co-operation in that regard.
United States Secretary of State praised the administration of Buhari over the success in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists, adding that the United States will not cease to give all possible support to Nigeria in order to ensure that the terrorist sect was finally eliminated as a threat to national and regional security. Kerry further commended Buhari’s clear order that the Nigerian Armed Forces must show high regard for the human rights of persons in the theatre of operations against Boko Haram while combating terrorism.
Admitting the immense help of the United States to his government in the retraining and re-equipping of the Nigerian Armed Forces that has given rise to the significant success already achieved against Boko Haram, President Buhari said the Federal Government was now doing everything possible to ensure that life in the North Eastern states returns to normal. The President told Mr. Kerry:
“Boko Haram no longer holds any local government area. We are reconstructing damaged facilities and preparing the police to take over and reassert civilian control over areas affected by the insurgency.”