Nigeria: Why Senate Must Reconvene - Ahmed Lawan

Bukola Saraki.

The majority leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, says it has become necessary for the lawmakers to reconvene and pass a virement request from President Muhammadu Buhari to forestall a government shutdown.

Mr Lawan stated this Monday while speaking with State House correspondents after meeting with acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa Abuja.

Mr Lawan's statement came a few hours before news emerged that Senate President Bukola Saraki has summoned an emergency meeting of the leadership of the two cambers of the National Assembly for Tuesday noon, ahead of a meeting with Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu.

The Assembly is currently on recess till September 25.

Mr Ahmed said the leadership of the Senate should reconvene and approve a request from Mr Buhari in respect of funding of INEC's budget for the 2019 election and some foreign loans.

Mr Lawan said he met with Mr Osinbajo to brief him about the "situation in the Senate".

"You know that in the budget for 2018, the capital aspect will be largely funded by foreign facilities; loans, 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," he said.

The Senate leader also said, "It is therefore, very essential that we reconvene immediately to look into those issues because our government is almost stalled."

He said failure of the Senate to reconvene will amount to sabotage because the approval of the virement request by Mr Buhari is the only way the APC administration will continue to fulfill promises made to Nigerians.

Mr Lawan said a refusal of the Senate to reconvene will also amount to a sabotage against the country's 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?"

"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," he said.

The Senate leader said the electoral umpire needs funds immediately to place order on some important election materials which are not often found on the shelves.

"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 on the national interest," he said.

Mr Lawan, also reiterated that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), still has majority in the Senate and challenged the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to provide a list of their senators to prove it is now the majority party.

His challenge comes amidst recent spate of defections of lawmakers mostly from the APC to the opposition.

"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 65.

"Publish the names let Nigerians see where their 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," he said.

Also speaking, the Senior Special Assistant to Mr Buhari on National Assembly (Senate), Ita Enang, said the executive was simply 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, amount to be gotten was not approved," he said.

Mr Enang also said the Fiscal Responsibility Act as passed by the National Assembly requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government want to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly.

He said a letter to that effect had been presented to the National Assembly by Mr Buhari.

He said 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," he said.

Mr Enang said what the executive arm is receiving from the federation accounts as the federal government share is not enough to sustain even 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 he said.

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