Anyone who is familiar with the rhetoric that characterised the sudden adjournment of the Senate for its annual recess which began on July 24, would be hard pressed not to notice the ‘peace’ currently in the
National Assembly in general and the Senate in particular. The Senate reconvened on October 9, and instead of treating Nigerians with another macabre dance over which of the two major political parties; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has the majority Senators in the Red Chambers that was the bone of contention before they went on recess, the senators returned to face the job they were elected to do. Before the lawmakers went on recess there was defections of some lawmakers from the ruling APC to the PDP and other parties. The invasion of the National Assembly by Directorate of State Service (DSS) which cost the Director General of DSS, Lawal Daura, his job. The climax however was the defection of the Senate President Bukola Saraki from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP. It was a move that angered the leadership of the APC who felt (perhaps still feels) that it was improper that the minority party is controlling the Senate, wanted Saraki to relinquish the exalted seat ‘honourably’ or be forced out by the APC senators.
The national chairman of APC and former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole were all over the place telling whoever cares to listen about the impropriety of Saraki remaining the Senate President when he had defected to the minority opposition party. With the apparent determination of Oshiomhole to use the APC faithful in the Senate to impeach Saraki if need be, it was therefore with bated breath that Nigerians awaited the reconvening of the National Assembly. Even the Presidency was apprehensive, however, it was obvious that it does not want any dramas, despite the rhetoric from the APC national chairman. It wanted the National Assembly to approve the money it needed to execute its projects including money for the 2019 general elections. This may have informed the rapprochement the Presidency extended to the lawmakers on their resumption. Sen Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), in a statement welcomed the lawmakers back from the annual legislative vacation. Enang, who noted that most of the lawmakers participated in the conventions, congresses and other activities of different political parties in the course of seeking nomination for one office or the other, also wished them all the best. ”I congratulate all of them and I pray that let the result, positive, favourable or otherwise, not affect the way they will consider the nation’s business. ”Let them please appreciate that they are senators and honourable members of the National Assembly and the constitution entrusts the duty on them and they should please exercise this duty with the greatest show of patriotism, ” he said. He reminded the lawmakers of the request by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Supplementary Budget to provide for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other sources of funding which was still before them. According to him, since almost all the political parties have completed all their exercises, he appealed to them to please consider the budget expeditiously and pass it so that the nation’s electoral process can move forward.
The SSA also urged them, as they resume, to consider the Electoral Amendment Bill that would ensure the proper mode and method of conducting the 2019 elections. ”Because funding the elections without setting the proper law that is acceptable to all to guide the election will not be good,” he said. He added that President Buhari had laid before the lawmakers the request for borrowing to fund the 2018 Budgetfrom the various windows before they went on vacation. ”I also prayed them that before they proceeded on vacation, they had passed the 2018 Budget. And in the 2018 Budget, there was provision for borrowing. ”And the provision for borrowing can only be effected when the National Assembly approves it. ”We are therefore praying them to please consider this expeditiously because Nigerians are crying and shouting: shouting because the budget is not being implemented yet, because the budget passed without passing the sources of funding the budget, without approving that the loan be taken,” he said. According to him, even if the monies were on the table, President Muhammad Buhari will not touch the money unless and until they bring together the approval by the National Assembly for that borrowing to be gotten.
Enang also charged them on other issues relating to fighting corruption, economy, including approving appointments made by the executive. ”So we are appealing to the Senate in particular to let these be on their drawing board and on their fast lane, ” he enjoined.
And in apparent respect to the President the lawmakers approved the sum of N189 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the 2019 general elections.
The approval followed the adoption of the report of the Committee on Appropriations chaired by Sen Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe).
The N189bn, the Senate said, would however come from the Service Wide Votes (SWV) via virement of the 2018 budget, and not by cutting some projects as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Presenting the report before senators at plenary, Goje said the committee recommended that the sum of N143.3bn and an additional N45.6bn be approved for INEC for the conduct of the elections, bringing the total to N189bn. President Buhari had in July requested the Senate to approve the N143bn under the 2018 budget and N45.6bn under the 2019 appropriation.
The appropriations committee’s report said the source of the fund would be virement from both recurrent and capital components of the Special Intervention Programme captured in the SWV in the 2018 budget.
The report indicated that the INEC annual statutory budget of N45.5bn should be added to the elections budget to bring the total amount allocated for the commission to N234.5bn.
What is instructive is the way the senators jettisoned partisan politics and the politics of who is the right person to occupy the Senate President’s seat and deal with a matter of national interest.
This National Assembly has not lived up to the expectations of Nigerians. They have padded the budgets severally. They paid themselves humongous allowances that they are embarrassed to reveal to Nigerians. Their budget is opaque, lacking any atom of transparency.
They have frustrated some of the programmes of the executive and had not been very helpful in the war against corruption of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Most of the lawmakers are not in sync with the people that elected them, that is why many of them had no chance of returning to the hallowed chambers but for the automatic tickets they were given by the major political parties. Despite these shortcomings, we cannot lose sight of their ignoring the brouhaha of impeachment of the Senate President and did the needful. Leaders must put national interests above personal interests, this the lawmakers have demonstrated.
– Aluta Continua.
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