The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; the Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and the Presidential Liaison Officer (Senate), Dr. Ita Enang, on Monday met behind closed doors over the need for the National Assembly, especially the Senate, to reconvene to consider some urgent national matters before it.
The major issue for now is the supplementary budget submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 elections, which bulk affects the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Department of State Services.
Lawan, who spoke with State House Correspondents after the meeting, said: “I have come to visit the acting President to brief him on the situation in the Senate and the discussion also considered the need for the National Assembly to convene immediately for us to pass the virement on the supplementary budget sent 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 of this administration, will lead to sabotage of 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.”
Asked what the response of the Acting President was, Lawan said: “Well, I briefed the Acting President on the situation in the Senate.
“There is conflicting information coming out from the Senate caucuses.
“We said we are the majority, the APC (All Progressives Congress) 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 senators’ 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 (Peoples Democratic Party) 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.
“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, to 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.”
On the likely consequences of not reconvening the National Assembly, Lawan said: “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.”
On the allegation that some members of the APC in the Senate tried to force themselves into the chamber to impeach the President of the Senate, Lawan said: “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.”
Asked what the next step would be if the presiding officers fail to reconvene the Senate, Lawan 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.”
Enang said: “Just in line with what the Senate Leader had 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, 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 doesn’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’s share of the capital component is not enough to sustain even the 15 or 20 per cent 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.”
On the division in the Senate, Enang said: “Now the leader of the Senate has said that they are 53, but I want to assure him that the APC has harvested more people from the PDP and other political parties.”
According to him, the head of the PDP in the Senate is formally joining the APC family in a big ceremony on Wednesday in Akwa Ibom State.
He said: “So, the head of the PDP who holds all the documents of the PDP, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, is coming over with a great team and other minorities will join the APC family and we are good and strong.”