•Saraki calls urgent meeting with stakeholders
•Why NASS won’t reconvene now – Reps group
By Lawrence Olaoye, Ikechukwu Okaforadi, Musa Adamu, Umar Muhammad Puma and Christiana Ekpan
The Presidency yesterday raised an alarm of possible shutdown of government activities should the leadership of the National Assembly not reconvene for plenary to consider the supplementary budget laid before it by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Briefing newsmen after a meeting with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo yesterday, alongside the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate) Senator Ita Enang, told newsmen that failure of the lawmakers to pass the budget and the virement request by the President on time could be catastrophic.
“The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly.
This is what we are asking; and if it didn’t happen, in the next few months we may have a complete government shutdown,” said Ita Enang.
However, news reaching us at the time of going to press last night revealed that the leadership of the two changers of the National Assembly will today meet in the Senate building to consider the N242 billion 2019 election budget proposed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
President Muhammadu Buhari had last month, before the National Assembly went on its ongoing recess, forwarded to it for approval, N242billion budget estimates from INEC for conduct of the elections.
President Buhari in the virement seeking letter , explained that out of of the proposed N242, 445, 322, 600.00 billion estimated funding of the 2019 general elections , N164.104billion should be appropriated for by the National Assembly through virement while the balance of N78.340billon would be provided for in the 2019 budget provisions.
He explained further that the N164bn needed by INEC this year , should be expeditiously appropriated for by the legislature for early and effective preparations for the elections.
Recall that the National Assembly had proceeded on a two-month annual recess without passing the N242 billion supplementary/virement request presented to it by the President.
Initially, the lawmakers of both Chambers are expected to officially resume plenary by September 26th. But there have been several calls from the Presidency and All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers, especially from the Senate, on the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, to reconvene the Senate, and by extension the National Assembly, for the lawmakers consider the budget.
Briefing newsmen, Enang explained that the budget was purposed to be financed largely by foreign loans and the inability of the National Assembly to approve the loan requests, in line with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, could spell doom for the country.
He said, “We are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene. You remember that we passed the budget with understanding that the greater amount of the money would be gotten by foreign loans. Although this was approved that there would be loans, amount to be gotten was not approved.
“The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly. That letter has been presented to the National Assembly and the National Assembly has to pass that amount before the money could be obtained from foreign financing institutions.
“This is what we are asking; and if it didn’t happen, in the next few months we may have a complete government shutdown. What we are receiving from the federation accounts as the federal government share the capital component is not enough to sustain even the 15 or 20 percent of the budget. So there may be a complete government shutdown; and I know that Nigerians are not going to like it. That is why we are still appealing.”
In what appears to be a heed to the various calls, the leadership of the two changers of the National Assembly will today meet in the Senate building to consider the N242 billion 2019 election budget proposed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) among other issues.
According to information from the Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media, Bakole Omisore, the meeting will be followed by another meeting between the leadership of both chambers and the chairman of INEC, Mahmud Yakubu, who is expected to be grilled by the lawmakers to defend the N242 billion budget for the 2019 general election.
He further disclosed that the meeting of the joint leadership of the National Assembly and INEC Chairman, at 1:00pm, will pave way for possible reconvening of sittings of both chambers this month for consideration and approval of the N242b budgeted for conduct of the elections.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, eventually yield to pressure to convene the Senate to consider the INEC budget for the 2019 general election and other issues pending before them. But a source close to the leadership of the Senate confided in our reporter that the meeting is aimed at eliciting commitment from the APC senators that they will not do anything towards the much talked about plan to impeach the Senate leadership.
Members of the NASS leadership expected to converged at today’s meeting slated for 12noon, before meeting with the INEC boss, are the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy , Ike Ekweremadu, the Speaker of the House of Representatives , Yakubu Dogara, his Deputy , Hon Yusuf Lasun and the remaining 16 principal officers from both chambers.
On one hand, the meeting would put to rest the rumoured forceful reconvening of the Senate by APC Senators, and whether the entire National Assembly need to reconvene before the September date for consideration of INEC’s budgetary request for the 2019 elections.
On the other hand, a group of national law makers known as Parliamentary Democrats Group (PDG) in the House of Representatives has vowed to stop any attempt in reopening both chambers of the National Assembly if the intention is to change leadership.
The group, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Rep Timothy Golu (PDP Plateau), yesterday in Abuja said although their leaders were meeting to consider the appeal from the Presidency, the two chambers will reconvene only if there are assurances that no attempt will be made to impeach either the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara or deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu.
The statement said, “We are worried by the statements from some anti Saraki senators, like Adamu Abdullahi and Ali Ndume, to the fact that the Senate President must be changed. Talks are ongoing; and as long as there is no threat to our democratic peace, we can reconvene to attend to issues.
“We want peace and stability for our democracy to grow and produce more good fruits; and if among ourselves we are found guilty of any form of sabotage for personal reasons, then we are not fair to the people.
Golu maintained that the leadership of the legislature can only be determined by lawmakers and not the executive or leadership of any particular party.
“The legislature is an independent arm of government; and as legislators, nobody can dictate for us. So, we advice the Presidency and the ruling APC to allow us decide our fate. Our presiding officers are doing well, and we have no cause to complain. Those stoking embers of discord in the Parliament should kindly stay off,” Golu advised.