SenateThisWeek: Akpabio, Saraki face off as election budget is approved

OrderPaperToday – In the week gone by, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio stole the show as the duo engaged in a dispute over seats in the chamber. Also this week, the sum of N242 billion was approved for virement ahead of next year’s general elections even as several nominees of the President received confirmation of their appointments.

242 billion approved for elections

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the virement of N242, 245, 050, 100 for funding of the 2019 general elections. This amount will be shared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and 5 security agencies.

A breakdown of the approved virement shows that the sum of N189, 007, 272, 393 was approved for INEC while the Nigeria Police Force got N27, 341, 317, 433. Also, the sum of N10, 213, 282, 455 was approved for the Department of State Services; N9, 481, 500, 000 for the Office of the National Security Adviser. Furthermore, the Nigerian Immigration Services has an approved sum of N2, 628, 143, 320 while the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has N2, 628, 143, 320.

Akpabio seat brouhaha

The red chamber experienced a rowdy session on Wednesday following an altercation over seating arrangements. Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Senator Gowdswill Akpabio were at the centre of the controversy after the former initially prevented the latter from speaking from a new seat following his defection from the PDP to the APC.

Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa-Ibom), sought to speak on a point of order raised by Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) who accused the APC in Akwa-Ibom of planning to disrupt the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state.

However, the Senate President Bukola Saraki prevented Akpabio from making his contribution, insisting that the Senator return to his former seat among the PDP Senators before speaking.

The situation led to a heated exchange between PDP and APC Senators which lasted for several minutes before calm was restored following an exchange of apologies from the actors in the drama.

Flurry of confirmations and approvals

Confirmation of Presidential requests stepped up a notch this week. Apart from the election budget which was approved, many nominations were confirmed as well as a Eurobond request.

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Abdulmalik Danburam as a Commissioner for the National Population Commission (NPC) amidst controversy surrounding his certificate which had earlier delayed his confirmation.

Also this week, Muhammed Isah from Jigawa State was confirmed as Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) while 6 others were confirmed as members. The Senate however, rejected the nomination of Danjuma Sado from Edo State as a member of the Bureau.

According to the Chairman of the screening Comitteee, Sam Anyanwu, Sado was rejected because he is 39-years-old and not up to the minimum age of 50 required by law to serve as a member of the CCB.

“We discovered that he was 39 years, below the age of 50, as prescribed in the CCB Act. The Act specifies that the Chairman and nine others shall at the time of appointment be not less than 50 years,” he explained.

Furthermore, President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to raise $2.78 billion from the International Capital Market was approved by the Senate. The loan will serve as part-funding of the 2018 budget and will be gotten from Eurobonds and other securities.

NNPC scandal as Disability bill phoenix continues

On Tuesday, Minority Leader Abiodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) called for a probe into a report stating that a $3.5 billion budget recovery fund for subsidy is being single-handedly used by the Managing director and the Executive Director of Finance of the NNPC without recourse to the National Assembly.

During the debate on the matter, Senator Ali Ndume and Senator Kabir Marafa traded words, after Ndume hinted that Marafa and his Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) may have been compromised and should be excluded from handling the probe.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Senator Theodore Orji (PDP, Abia) blamed the NNPC and the Police for a pipeline fire outbreak that claimed 150 lives in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia state. The red chamber also resolved to probe the matter.

The Disability Bill which was sent for presidential assent was recommitted to the Conference Committee that initially worked on it on Tuesday after the Directorate of Legal Services raised “fundamental issues” that needed to be addressed before the bill could be transmitted for assent.

Senate President Bukola Saraki however expressed his disappointment with the development, insisting that the Directorate should have raised it concerns much earlier.

Relief for ATM users

On Wednesday, the Senate urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Card Maintenance Charges being deducted from people’s accounts, while they await the outcome of an investigation by the committees on illicit charges.

This followed a motion raised by Sen. Olugbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos) over frivolous charges by Nigerian Banks on their customer’s accounts, particularly through absurd ATM card maintenance fees and steep withdrawal charges.

Abuja varsity bill and reduction of Hajj fares

On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to establish the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) University of Science and Technology, Abaji. The same day, the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Accommodation, Logistics, and Feeding of the Onshore and Offshore of Nigerian Pilgrims recommended a reduction of Hajj fares from 1.4 million to 1 million.

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