Politics

Buhari’s Request: Senate comes hard on Finance ministry, CBN

CHUKWU DAVID, reports that the Senate has blamed the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Minister of Finance for delaying the passage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for restructuring of the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means loan

The Ninth Senate appears to be getting more courageous and decisive in the last days of its life span to challenge and pressurise the executive arm of government on areas it seems to be failing or has tendency to derail operations of the present administration. Accordingly, the apex legislative Assembly, which ab initio, was accused of being a rubber stamp to the executive, is now raising its voice and challenging some actions and inactions of the executive arm of government.

The most recent outburst of the Red Chamber against the executive arm happened on January 17, when the lawmakers resumed plenary from the Christmas and New Year break. On that day, the Senate, raised the alarm, accusing 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 N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring forwarded to it in December last year by President Muhammadu Buhari. Ways and Means are loans or advances by the Central Bank to the Federal Government to enable it cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of fiscal deficits.

The Upper Chamber pointed out that Ahmed and Emefiele had failed to supply the required details to enable the lawmakers consider for passage the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means, and therefore, ordered the two government officials, to within three days, supply the required information on the presidential request to the Special Committee set up to handle the matter.

The Senate warned the minister and the CBN boss that in view of the presidential and National Assembly elections coming up next month, it would adjourn plenary this week, to enable members to participate in the campaigns, stressing the need for them to supply the required information, so that the request could be passed before the adjustment. The reactions of the Senate followed a point of Order by the chairman of the Special Committee and Senate Leader, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto East), who cited Order 40 of the Senate standing rules, under personal explanation. He drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that series of attempts made by the Committee from 28th December, 2022 to Tuesday, 17th January, 2023, to meet the Finance Minister and the 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 December 28 last year.

For required details on the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring, six vital questions were raised, five for the CBN governor and one for the Minister of Finance, 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 report.” Angered by the submission of the Senate Leader, the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his response, observed that 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 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 N22.7 trillion Ways and Means. Part of the President’s letter read: “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 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 laise with the Executive arm for necessary information. In another development during the plenary that same day, the Upper Chamber told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),that it would have no excuse in delivering credible elections to Nigerians during the forthcoming general polls.

The Senate stated that since funds and materials needed for smooth conduct of the elections have been provided by the executive in collaboration with the legislature, there should be no room for any excuse from the electoral umpire. The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, who emphatically stated this in his speech to mark the resumption of plenary after the Christmas and New Year recess, urged the electoral body to be on top of its game to ensure that the 2023 polls meet the expectations of Nigerians.

“INEC has gotten everything it has asked for from the legislature to aid the conduct of a credible election and as such excuses will not be entertained,” he said. He noted that security agencies had assured everyone that the environment would be safe and secured for citizens to come out and cast their votes without any hindrance, adding that the National Assembly is ever ready to support INEC and other agencies of government that will work to ensure free, fair and credible elections in February and March.

He also urged Nigerians to leverage on the window of collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) as granted by INEC to collect them for exercise of their franchise. “2023 will redefine the future of the country as Nigerians prepare to elect officers to the various positions both at the national and state levels,” he added.

 

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