Forced into executive session to avoid fisticuffs
Bows to pressure, rejects Buhari’s request for lack of details
By Henry Umoru, Abuja
The Senate was confused for several hours yesterday on how to restructure the payment of N23.7 trillion “Ways and Means” obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over the last 10 years.
Senate President Senator Ahmad Lawan forced lawmakers to meet behind closed doors to prevent the chaos from turning into a brawl.
“Ways and Means” are loans or advances from the CBN to the federal government to enable it to provide short-term or emergency financing to fund the government’s expected delayed receipt of budget deficits.
The trouble started when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West) released a report last week on Ways and Means 2022, as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Shortly after Adeola’s presentation, Senator Apiafi (PDP, Rivers West) introduced a point of order, making a very strong argument that President Buhari’s request was unconstitutional and what the Senate intended to do by considering the request , is unknown in Nigerian law.
The Senate became tense when Senate President Lawan removed it from office on the grounds that the report had to be presented and read by the committee chair for lawmakers to contribute to the debate.
President Buhari had written a letter to the Senate last week asking for approval of the restructuring of N23.7 trillion Ways and Means advances given to the federal government by the CBN.
The president explained in a letter read by the Senate President at last Wednesday’s plenary session that the ways and means on December 19, 2022 amounted to N22.7 trillion.
‘Ways & Means securitized’
President Buhari further stated in the letter that he had approved the securitization of the roads and resources on the following terms: Amount N23 0.7 trillion; Tenure 40 years; Moratorium on principal repayment, three years; and Price Interest 9%.
The Senate, in accordance with parliamentary procedure, dealt with the request as a matter of urgency by adopting it for second reading and instructing its Finance Committee to work on it.
Lawan’s statement angered Senator Apiafi and some senators, leading to a charged atmosphere in the room.
At that point, Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) filed a point of order calling on Lawan to halt consideration of the report until lawmakers got more details about what the money was being used for.
In a strong effort to block the passing of the report without scrutiny, Senator Sekibo advanced through constitutional orders citing Sections 80, 83, Section 113(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 38 of the CBN Act to deny the request.
Sekibo said, “We entered this room today (yesterday) and got the report on N22.7 trillion, which has been issued in the last 10 years. Whether it is 10 years or five years, whatever it is, the issue is that such payment, when the loans are drawn, the Senate must be informed, we must be aware of the information that such money will be taken because it’s taken on behalf of the people of Nigeria and we’ve been entrusted with the power to make laws.
“According to the constitution we are allowed to appropriate. They brought this up with no details for us to approve.
“Section 80 of the Constitution of 1999, as amended, provides that all revenues or other monies collected or received by the Federation, other than revenues and other monies payable under this Constitution or any law of the National Assembly to any other public funds of the Federation established for a particular purpose shall be deposited into and shall constitute and form one consolidated income fund of the Federation.
“No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, except to meet expenses charged to the Fund or where the issuance of those funds is authorized by an appropriation law, supplemental law or law passed pursuant to Article 81 of the Constitution.
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“No funds shall be debited from any account other than the Consolidated Income Fund of the Federation, unless the issuance of those funds is authorized by law of the National Assembly.
“Section 80 (4) No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other fund of the Federation except with the approval of the National Assembly, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly
“Section 83 may provide for the National Assembly to establish a federation fund for the federation and to authorize the president, if satisfied that urgent contingencies have arisen, to make advances to meet needs.
“Section 38 of the CBN Act states that ‘any money collected by the federal government as a loan or emergency fund in the form of road and resource advances must be repaid before any other is collected.’
“Mr President, the relevant laws cited clearly show that the N22.7triillion advances already issued by the Federal Government without informing the National Assembly were wrong and that as representatives of Nigerians it will be unfair to allow this request to approve.”
The Senate then went behind closed doors for an hour and the request was withdrawn at the end of the day for lack of details.
Spirited efforts by the president of the senate to push back senators failed, as many of them left their seats shouting “No!” ‘No!’ while they went into closed session for about an hour and a half.
After the closed session, as announced separately by Senator Adeola and Lawan, the Senate decided to scrap the restructuring of N22.7 trillion ways and means.
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