Senators allege padding of Army budget by N80bn

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*As c’ttee chair is accused of incompetence

By Sam Odeh

Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator George Akume (APC Benue North West), have been accused by some of his members for single handedly increase the 2017 and 2018 budget allocations of the Army by N80billion each in the two years in alleged connivance with the Army authority.

This is even as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba (PDP Sokoto South), yesterday shocked the Senate with allegation of incompetence against the chairman.

A source in the committee, who pleaded anonymity, said none of the members was happy with the development when the budget padding was eventually exposed to them.

“The chairman ganged up with the Army authority to add N80billion to the Army budget. This happened in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years and when this was discovered, none of our members was pleased with the development.

“How can the chairman single handedly increased the Army budget by N80billion in 2017 and still repeated same in the 2018 budget without recourse to members of the committee.

“It was Senator Akume as the committee chairman who defended the Army budget before the Committee on Appropriations, but never allowed the Army appear before our committee (Army) to defend its budget in both 2017 and 2018”, the source stressed.

Meanwhile, the committee vice chairman, Senator Danbaba while alleging incompetence on the part of the chairman, through Orders 14 and 15 of the Senate standing rules, said the committee has not carried out any oversight exercise on Army formations within the last two years.

According to him, even a draft bill forwarded to the committee about two years ago is still gathering dusts at the secretariat of the committee.

He said: “We were all elected by our constituents to come ad represent them here and also by extension represent the entire Nigeria. We as senators are supposed to have our roles that we need to play in the national assembly.

“Fundamentally, we are supposed to legislate and we are to support our constituents and also undertake oversight with respect to projects that are being executed by the executive arm of government.

“I want to say that a committee that I am as a vice which has been constituted over three years has not been actually performing as a result of leadership.

“The committee Mr. President since its inception and constitution we have not over sighted any army project. In fact the only oversight that has been said to be oversight was our visit to the Army headquarters in 2016.

“Beyond that, we have never done or undertaken any proper oversight with respect to the activities of the Nigerian army. In fact, Mr. President, the senate is completely detached from the Nigerian Army.

“We in the senate do not know what the Nigerian army is actually doing. I want to say this again, there was a draft bill that was referred to about two years ago.

“That draft bill is still lying down on the table of the clerk of the secretariat of the committee because the leadership of the committee has not been able to give direction on what to do with the bill.

“So, Mr. President, in view of all these anomalies, I hereby call for the committee on ethics and privileges to ask to investigate as to the conduct of the committee and why the committee leadership is allowed to stand as it is because the name of the senate is going to be brought to disrepute.

“The situation at hand as far as the committee is concerned under the leadership of Akume is worrisome and embarrassing to the Senate and as a senator elected to serve my people and Nigerians , my conscience is no longer allowing me to keep quiet”.

Consequently, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki directed the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, (APC Yobe North) to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter by inviting Akume, the vice chairman and other members of the committee, with a view to getting the authenticity of the issues raised by Danbaba and report back to the Senate at plenary.

Saraki, who considered the issue as a very serious one, said that the committee is a very strategic one that must play its role.

“I know that for you to have brought this matter up, it must be something that is of great concern to you. What I will consider is let the leader of the senate meet with the chairman, the vice chairman and members and report to us on some of these points that have been raised. The committee is a very strategic committee as such we must be seeing to play a role”, he stressed.

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