The government of president Muhammadu Buhari is lucky to have a National Assembly that approves its requests even without getting details.
But the request for approval and disbursement of monies totalling N22.7 trillion which details have not been provided by the executive is now raising some dust since the 9th assembly is whining down.
The Senate had accused the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, of delaying the passage of the N23.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring forwarded to it in last December by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ways and means advances by the central bank of Nigeria, to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit.
But the apex legislative Chamber, during its plenary after resumption from the Christmas and New Year recess said Zainab and Emefiele had failed to supply the required details to enable the lawmakers consider for passage the N23.7 trillion Ways and Means.
Remember that the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, has previously made several approvals for the Buhari’s government even without getting details of the request.
But on this one, the Senate, ordered the two government officials, to within three days, supply the required information on the presidential request to the Special Committee set up for that purpose before going on break last year.
The Three days have passed and the Senate has limited time to adjourn and face the 2023 general elections coming up in February as announced by the Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
The Upper Chamber warned that in view of Presidential and National Assembly elections coming up next month, it would adjourn plenary by Tuesday next week, to enable members participate in campaigns.
The Chamber took these decisions sequel to the request made by the Chairman of the Special Committee and Senate Leader, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto East).
Gobir had raised a point of Order, citing Order 40 of the Senate Standing rules, under personal explanation, drawing the attention of the Senate that series of attempts made by the Committee from 28th December, 2022 to Tuesday, 17th January, 2023, to meet the Finance Minister and CBN Governor for the required details proved abortive.
His words: “As a special committee for urgent and thorough assignment, we hit the ground running immediately after composition on 28th of December last year. For required details on the N22.7trillion Ways and Means Restructuring , six vital questions were raised , five for the CBN governor and one for the Finance Minister, but their trips abroad, prevented us from asking them the questions.
“Now that they are around, we request the Senate to give us additional three days for thorough work on the assignment and submission of the report,” he said.
Angered by the submission, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his response said the Ways and Means request from the President, was a very serious issue that must not be taken with levity by all those concerned.
He noted that the Senate was ready to approve the request after thorough scrutiny which could only be done if required details were provided by relevant officials from the Executive arm of government.
“We must have necessary information for passage of the N22.7 trillion request and time is not on our side in the Senate now in view of coming general elections.
“If there is need for the Senate to sit up to Friday this week (last Friday) for thorough consideration and passage of the request, it will be done but the affected officials from the executive must also expedite action on provision of required information as regards documents authorising approval and disbursement of the monies totalling N22.7 trillion”, he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in separate letters to both Chambers of the National Assembly on December 21, 2022, sought for approval of restructuring of N23.7trillion Ways and Means.
The President in the letter said: “The ways and means advances by the central bank of Nigeria, to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit.
“The ways and means , balances as at 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion. I have approved the securitization of the ways and means balances along the following terms ÷ Amount. N23 .7 trillion, Tenure, 40years, Moratorium on principal repayment, three years, Pricing interest rate 9%.”
“Your concurrence and approval is sought to allow for the implementation of same.”
The efforts made by the Senate to approve the request during passage of the N21.83 trillion 2023 budget on 28th of December last year failed, thereby compelling the Chamber to set up the Senator Gobir-led Special Committee to liaise with the Executive arm for necessary information.
The Senate must ensure that Nigerians get the value of any approval of the executive requests.