Again, Senate rejects FIRS budget, criticises own committee

Nigerian Senate
Nigerian Senate

The Senate on Thursday rejected the report of its Finance Committee on the 2016 budget of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, asking the John Enoh-led team to go do a better job.

The Senate had referred the request of President Muhammadu Buhari on the budget of the FIRS to its committee on finance in July.

More than three months afterwards, Thursday, the report of the committee was presented by Mr. Enoh, accused of having his child as one of the new staff illegally recruited by FIRS.

But the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and few other senators raised concerns about the report, saying they discovered loopholes and “fake” items.

Mohammed Hassan (PDP-Yobe) emphasised the need for the Senate to get full details of items in the budget.

“The descriptions of some of the items on the budget are fake,” said Mr. Hassan dismissively.

Bassey Akpan (PDP-Akwa Ibom) also questioned the “drastic” increment in the proposed expenditure of the FIRS on personnel.

During a budget defence session in April, Mr. Enoh’s committee had queried the FIRS Chairman, Babatunde Fowler, for proposing N16 billion for salaries of 1,250 staff it planned to recruit then; N1.6 billion for retired staff; and N700 million for staff medicals.

Consequently, the duo of the Deputy Leader, Bala Ibn Na’allah and the Minority Whip, Philip Aduda, canvassed for rejection of the report.

“It is not helping the Senate in any way”, they said while flipping the John Enoh report into the trash, describing it as a “copy and paste budget”.

The senators also condemned the timing of the report – a time the country is preparing for another budget process.

Expectedly, the report was rejected, following the voice vote called by Mr. Saraki.

Mr. Saraki ruled that the finance committee should “go back and tidy up issues raised”.

The committee is to report back in one week, the Senate President ruled.

In his remarks, Mr. Saraki expressed worry the committee okayed the exact projections made by the FIRS at the beginning of the year.

He added that the Committee “agreed 100 per cent” with all the recommendations of the FIRS.

“As part of our oversight function, we must check correctness of figures and ensure thorough investigation at all times,”

“Capital projects that are ambiguous keep reoccurring in the Budget, we must ensure these projects are carefully examined,” he said.

With how the finance committee queried the FIRS in April, it came as a surprise Mr. Enoh’s report approved the proposals of the agency totally.

A group of protesters, including writer Chido Onumah and Aisha Yesufu, in July accused Mr. Fowler of illegally hiring staff, including Mr. Enoh’s child, for FIRS, during protest to the presidency in July.

The committee had through its rejected report, recommended that a total expenditure of N143.7 billion be approved for FIRS in 2016.


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