…Buhari seeks $2.786bn approval to finance 2018 budget deficit, declines assent to Electoral Amendment, 12 other bills
…Senate sets up technical com’tee to study rejected bills . No threat to 2019 polls funds – Dogara
Against prediction of showdown between the federal lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as regards the leadership of the National Assembly, the legislators reconvened on Tuesday without any incident.
The development, The Daily Times gathered might not be unconnected to the urgent national issues that must be resolved before the leadership change can be considered.
Though the National Assembly witnessed massive defections from the APC lawmakers to the PDP before the recess, the tension was further aggravated when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, dumped the APC, the platform that gave them the leadership position and joined the opposition PDP.
The development promoted the APC leadership to demand their resignation or face impeachment while the associates of Saraki and Dogara insisted that the APC lacked the number of lawmakers to remove the duo.
But when they resumed after long recess on Tuesday, the lawmakers were confronted with urgent issues that are above political interests.
Striving to implement the 2018 budget through fiscal deficit, President Muhammadu Buhari has requested for distinct and specific resolutions of the National Assembly to raise $2.786 billion in Eurobond and other securities in the International Capital Market.
The president said the requested amount is required for the implementation of New External Borrowing approved in the 2018 Appropriation Act for the “part-financing of the 2018 budget fiscal deficit, as well as to finance key infrastructure projects in the 2018 budget.
Buhari’s request was conveyed to the Senate through an Execution Communication read at the resumption of plenary Tuesday by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
In the letter dated 23rd July, 2018, the President also requested the external capital raising of $82.54 million to refinance the balance of $500 million matured Eurobond in the international capital market.
Meanwhile, the President has declined assent to 13 legislative bills including the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 pursuant to section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He blamed his withholding of assent on some drafting issues that remained unaddressed following the prior revisions of the bill.
The outstanding issues in the letter dated August 30, 2018, he said include “a cross referencing error in the proposed amendment to section 18 of the bill.
The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub-section (2) with the proposed sub-section (1A) while the proposed sub-section (1B) is the new sub-section (2A).
He added that “the proposed amendment to include a new section 87(14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held has the unintended consequences of leaving INEC with only 9 days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties
as well as manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections. He said this because the Electoral Amendment Bill does not amend sections 31, 34 and 85.
The president had also on June 7, 2018 declined assent to five bills No 8,13,22,24 and 28 of the fourth alteration to the1999 Constitution as amended.
Other bills that failed the president assent include Stamp Duties bill, Industrial Development & Income Tax Amendment bill, Petroleum Governance Industry Bill, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism bill,
Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency bill, Advance Fee Fraud bill, National Agric Seed Council bill and Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship bill.
President Buhari also requested the Senate consideration and passage of N346,513 billion 2018 statutory budget proposal of the Niger Delta Development (NNDC) and confirmation of the appointment of Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede as the Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Reacting to the turn over of rejected bills by the president, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said the Senate has set up a technical committee to study and understand the declined bills with the aim of understanding real reasons for their rejection.
However, Tuesday plenary was adjourned in honour of a departed member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Olufunke Adedoyin, from Kwara State, who died penultimate Friday.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday, assured that funds for the conduct of the 2019 general election is not under threat as there is already provision to take care of such contingencies that may arise in the service wide votes.
The speaker said this while speaking with journalists at the National Assembly, adding that there is about N300 billion service wide votes provision in the 2018 budget that can be used to service the forthcoming general elections.
He reaffirmed that as custodians of the mandate of the Nigerian people, the House of Representatives considers issues affecting Nigerians top priority, adding that all pending matters before the National Assembly, including the passage of the amendments to the Electoral Act would be given accelerated attention.
Speaking on pressing national issues, Dogara said, “You see we are servants of the people by our calling as representatives of Nigerians and we don’t have the right to put our interests forward before the interests of the people.
“We are here to serve the public good; these issues are outstanding and it was never going to be threatened in any way as was widely perceived because we have a provision in the budget for service -wide votes of about N300 billion and whatever was the emergency would have been met from that service – wide funds that we have allocated in the budget.
“As we are back, we have set ourselves to accomplish what is there in the interest of the people. Even if it means in a day or two, we will accomplish that, even if it means handling it as we did for the ease of doing business bills.
“There were times that within a week we went through the first, second and third reading and passed it into law just because we saw the need for us to expand the economic space and improve citizen participation and wealth creation and the expansion of our economy, especially during these days of economic recession.
“So nothing is impossible and I can assure you that as soon as we get the reports submitted from the various committees, hopefully within the week, in no time, we should be able to deal with them.
“Whether it is the Electoral Act or the funding for elections and the appropriate funds for INEC is approved and I can assure you that in no time, even if it is to be done within a day, we are committed to doing it because the only thing that guarantees democracy is free, fair and transparent elections.
“As politicians because we are aware that there are times when you will run into occasions when the will of the people in the process of transmitting their consent into government positions are truncated.
“It will not serve the interest of democracy. So whatever is needed, apart from even these two issues that we have spoken of, we are committed to passing and dealing with them in no time to ensure that we have a very credible, fair and transparent elections in 2019.”