Why the missing budget news is no cause for alarm

In what was a show of shame to Nigeria’s Senate Assembly, reports yesterday claimed hundreds of pages of the 2016 Nigerian budget went missing. President Buhari presented the 2016 Budget last month at a joint session of the Nigerian Senate, which was the first time in three years a Nigerian President would present the budget at the National Assembly. President Buhari presented hard copies of the budget document, placed in a green-coloured box, to the National Assembly. Yesterday, the Nigerian press declared that the this document was allegedly stolen when the Senate sat to commence deliberation in a closed session.

The reports were followed with uproar on social media as people expressed incredulity and disappointment at the Nigerian Senate and the Federal Government, with the hashtag #missingbudget. However, there were still a few Nigerians who expressed doubt as to how Nigeria’s budget could be stolen. Their doubts were justified this morning when the Nigerian Senate confirmed that it was not stolen.

Ventures Africa spoke with Dr. A.O. Ogunyemi, a budget Historian and lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife, Nigeria who said it was not possible for the budget document to be stolen from the Nigerian Senate without the knowledge of people in the Senate. “The Budget document is an 800 page document, with 3 parts. For what purpose would stealing it serve for the thief?” he said. He also called it a non-issue, suggesting that people were eager to make a big deal of nothing. “Even if it is missing, it can always be collected from the lower parliament. The office of the President has its own copy; the Senate and the Parliament both have their own copies too,” he said. The Senate deliberated on the 2016 budget today and the debate for its appropriation has been set for the 19th of January 2016.

Senate leader Ali Ndume, who allegedly announced that the budget document was stolen yesterday, also declared this morning that it was impossible for the budget to be stolen or missing. “The budget cannot be missing. A copy can be laid, it is a symbolic copy, the budget will be in custody of both Chambers. It cannot be stolen, it cannot be missing. Once the budget is laid in the National Assembly, it has become the property of National Assembly,” he said. The Speaker of the House of representative, Yakubu Dogara also called the missing budget news an “April fool stunt”, further saying the budget was in the custody of the clerk to the House of Representatives. This whole furor begs the question of who leaked the fake story to the media.

BBC Africa reported that a member of the parliament who requested anonymity apparently gave them the news. However, Nigerian media failed miserably. Perhaps the document was missing during yesterday’s session- but instead of contextualising the news, the reporting resorted to sensationalism. Shouldn’t fact finding trump reporting for the sake of reporting?

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