There was tension in the Senate yesterday when senators disagreed over the request of the president for the approval of N23.7 trillion Ways and Means Advances.
Buhari had last week demanded the restructuring of N23.7 trillion Ways and Means advances given to the federal government by the CBN.
The president had in his letter explained that Ways and Means were advances from the central bank to the federal government for emergency funding of delayed receipt of fiscal deficit.
But trouble started when Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers State raised a point of order to stop the presentation of the report by Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola.
Apiafi argued that the Nigeria’s constitution did not recognise the use of ‘Ways and Means’ to request National Assembly approval for extra-budgetary spending. She insisted that Buhari should instead forward a Supplementary Budget request for the consideration of the legislature.
The senator said constitutionally, Ways and Means expenditure was not known to Nigeria’s constitution. She was, however, ruled out of order by Lawan for allowing the report to be presented before kicking against it.
The anger of the senators against the report was expressed in negative background noise against its presentation by Adeola.
Adeola presented his report, despite the uproar. Attempts to make the lawmakers maintain decorum were ignored.
He recommended that the senate should invite the executive arm of government to provide further information on the request by Friday.
Hardly had Adeola concluded his presentation than the red chamber became chaotic with senators engaged in hot arguments among themselves.
Lawan hurriedly called for a closed-door session when the tension inside the chamber became unbearable
Determined to kill the report at all costs, Senator Thompson Sekibo, also from Rivers State, rose through constitutional orders by citing Sections 80, 83, Section1,13(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 38 of the CBN Act to kick against the request.
Sekibo said, “Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that all revenues or other monies raised or received by the federation, not being revenue and other monies payable under this constitution or any act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the federation established for a particular purpose, shall be paid into and for and form one consolidated revenue fund of the federation
“No money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund or where the issue of those monies has been authorised by an appropriation act, supplementary act or an act passed in pursuance of section 81 of the constitution
“No money shall be withdrawn from any account other than the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation unless the issue of those monies has been authorised by the Act of the National Assembly.
“Section 80 (4) states that no money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund or any other fund of the Federation except by the approval of the National Assembly, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly .
“Section 38 of the CBN Act states ‘any money collected by federal government as loan or emergency fund in form of Ways and Means Advances, must be refunded before collection of another one.’”
He added, “Mr. President, the relevant laws quoted clearly show that the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Advances already spent by federal government without informing the National Assembly was wrong and it will be unfair as representatives of Nigerians to approve this request.”
Efforts by the senate president to make senators back down proved abortive as many of them, left their seats and were shouting, “No, No..”
The development caused Lawan to call for a closed session that lasted about one and a half hours to try to douse the tension.
After the closed session, the senate, following the amendments to Adeola panel’s report, resolved to step down the restructuring of N22.7 trillion Ways and Means.
The red chamber set up a special committee to summon the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; and heads of other relevant agencies, to provide further details on expenditure made from the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Advances.
The committee headed by Senate Leader, Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East), was to submit its report on January 17, 2023, when the senate resumes plenary after the New Year recess.