Nigeria: NASS Recess - Presidency Raises Alarm Over Possible Shut Down

Traffic and the Nigerian police
6 August 2018

The Presidency on Monday raised the alarm that if the National Assembly does not reconvene to consider the foreign loan request and supplementary budget made by President Muhammadu Buhari, it could lead to a complete shutdown of the government.

This is as the Majority Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has said that as a matter of imperative and urgency, the National Assembly must reconvene to consider and pass the supplementay budget and the virement request made by the President before the two chambers went on annual vacation.

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo met behind closed-doors with the Senate Majority Leader and the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang at the Presidential Villa Abuja.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Presidential liaison officer in the senate, Senator Enang, appealed to the presiding officers of the national assembly to reconvene and consider the pending requests of the President, stressing that anything short of that could lead to the shut down of government.

Enang 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 it would be gotten by foreign loans.

"Although this was approved that there would be loans, the amount to be gotten was not approved. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government want 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 of 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.

Conflicting number of APC, PDP senators

"Now the leader of the Senate has said that they are 53, but I want to assure him that the APC have harvested more people from the PDP and other political parties. The head of the PDP in the Senate is formally joining the APC family and that will be in a big ceremony on Wednesday the 8th of August in Akwa Ibom state.

"So, the head of the PDP who holds all the documents of the PDP, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio (CON) is coming over with a great team and other minorities will join the APC family and we are good and strong."

We must reconvene immediately

Also briefing journalists, the Senate Majority Leader, Lawan (APC, Yobe) urged the presiding officers of the two chambers of the national assembly to reconvene immediately to pass the supplementay budget for the 2019 general elections and the virement request by the President.

He said that if the supplemrntary budget for the election was not passed, it could stall preparations for the election as well as the government.

He said, "I have come to visit the acting president, you know this is our administration. I have come to brief him on the situation in the Senate and the discussion also considered the need for national assembly to convene immediately for us to pass the virement and the supplementary budget request by Mr. President.

"You know that the budget for 2018 the capital aspect will be largely funded by foreign facilities, loans. Now we need to approve that. We also need to approve other important and essential requests especially that of INEC and other security agencies for our security to be improved.

"It is therefore very essential that we reconvene immediately to look into those issues because our government is almost stalled and I believe that if we are able to pass the supplementary budget and virement request from Mr. President, this will enable our administration to provide the various infrastructure that we have planned to provide for Nigerians and also all the other aspects of national development.

"To do otherwise will lead to sabotage this administration, will lead to sabotage democracy itself because if we cannot provide the essentials for Nigerians, if we cannot provide funds for INEC to plan for the 2019 elections, what do we call ourselves?

"Certainly, in the case of INEC for example, INEC could pick some items on the shelves but there are so many important and essential items that INEC will have to place order that could take about two to three months.

"So it is very imperative that we do the needful, we should convene the national assembly immediately and as legislators, as representatives of Nigerians, we will do what is best in the national interest."

Asked what was the response of the acting President, he said, "Well, I briefed the acting President on the situation in the Senate there are conflicting information coming out from the Senate caucuses.

"We said we are the majority, the APC caucus, that remains so because we remain 53 senators in the APC caucus and we have given the media the list of everyone. I read it about a week ago, every senator's name was there and his state or her state and the PDP caucus will tell you they are in the majority, I will take this opportunity for the third time to challenge the PDP caucus to publish the names of the PDP caucus members.

"They have never done that, they will only tell you that they are 55, they are 60, they are 75. Publish the names let Nigerians see where there senators are. We have done our own and it is also important that whatever crisis we have in the Senate and indeed in the national assembly, that Nigerians don't suffer.

"We as politicians can do anything, it is a parliamentary practice. In fact, in Parliament, worse things could happen but Parliaments that are responsible and responsive will always take into account the national interest, work assiduously to ensure that the country does not suffer.

"Here in our case, we have our budget suffering, we are not able to implement anything today because, we are not able as a legislature, the national assembly pass the request of Mr. President. So I believe that we should be on the same page with Nigerians, we are not aliens we are representing Nigerians.

"Therefore, what Nigerians want today is for this administration to provide those essentials that it has promised and it has started providing. That, we should plan properly for free, fair and transparent elections in 2019.

"If we don't reconvene and pass the request, what that means is that we have turned against this country, we are stalling the administration and invariably, fighting the people because the people want us to do those things that will make them happy. So I believe that my colleagues are listening and we should be able to reconvene in the next few days for us to pass the budget request of Mr. President as quickly as possible."

Also fielding question on the allegation that some members of the APC in the Senate tried to force themselves in the Senate to impeach the Senate president, he said he was not aware of any such attempt.

He rhetorically asked, "Did you use the word that some senators attempted to break into the Senate Chamber? I am hearing it for the first time. There is a process going into that chamber, I didn't hear it before that some senators attempted to break into that chamber.

"Possibly, you must have the names of senators but I want to tell you that we are law abiding and that we will do everything possible in the national interest but we will try to keep within our processes and our procedures."

On what could happen if the presiding officers didn't heed to the request to reconvene the Senate, he said that the presiding offers were people like any other person and also Nigerians that have the ears to listen to the demands of the people.

He said, "The presiding officers are people like you and I, they are Nigerians they listen or they should listen. So I don't even want to contemplate that the presiding officers will say they will not reconvene the chambers of the national assembly based on the fundamental and primary request of Mr President of passing the budget.

"So, I believe that the presiding officers should do the needful to reconvene the two chambers of the national assembly to give us the opportunity to pass the supplementay budget and virement request of Mr. President as quickly as possible."

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