• Buhari, Osinbajo for joint executive-legislative retreat
Fred Itua and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Strong indications have emerged that some senators are spoiling for a fight with Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, over his style of leadership, specifically the centralised payment system.
Daily Sun gathered that lawmakers were also protesting what they described as skewed appointments in favour of a section of the country, contrary to the principles of Federal Character.
Senators who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence complained that the system adopted by Lawan, where every expenditure by committee chairmen are routed through him for approval was slowing down their functions.
A senator from North Central said approvals as low as N100,000 for committee exercises like placement of adverts, printing of banners and purchase of tickets for oversight were approved by Lawan. He said some requests sent for approval have been pending for over a month in the office as files from over 70 committees were piling up.
“Some of us are mere senators without any form of control. We don’t even control our what we spend as committee chairmen or members. We apply and keep calling for reminders before things get done.
“Sometimes, we even defend some requests as if we are babies. Lawan as president of the Senate is first among equals. Sometimes, we don’t even place adverts. Instead, we just write letters to the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“Sometimes, committee chairmen compel heads of MDAs to pay for adverts. How are we supposed to oversight them when they pay our bills? In many instances, senators raise funds to pay for adverts. We have to wait for several months before we are paid back the money.”
He said oversight functions of MDAs was at its lowest ebb since 1999. He attributed the decline to non-release of funds for the exercise.
The ranking senator who heads a ‘juicy committee’, said MDAs they oversight purchase their air tickets and fund their hotel accommodation, despite the yearly budget of billions of naira for the exercise.
“In the 2019, we didn’t carry out any oversight of MDAs to know the level of compliance of the expenditure. Last year was an election year. We didn’t carry out any exercise before the election. The budget was passed after the elections. In June last year, we had a new Senate. As soon as soon as we took oath of office, we went on our annual recess. By the time we returned, committees were set up and before we could settle down, the 2020 budget was brought to us.
“The same thing is happening to the 2020 budget. We make yearly budget for oversights, but we don’t ever know what they spend the money on. We are worried and Lawan is not talking to us.”
Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, said there was nothing wrong with the style adopted by Lawan. He said the move was to ensure accountability in the system and avoid wastage.
He said senators who were complaining could explore other options to express their misgivings.He dismissed claims that the system adopted by Lawan was frustrating activities of committees. Instead, he said lawmakers who are aggrieved, can seek redress through the right quarters.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari will Monday attend a two-day joint executive-legislative retreat designed to promote harmonious working relationship between the two arms of government.
Also expected at the workshop are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and all principal officers of the National Assembly.
The retreat according to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Umar El-Yakub, underscores the desire to further cement the relationship with lawmakers after recent disagreements between ministers and federal legislators.
Topics slated for discussion include effective communication and collaboration between the two arms of government; building effective partnership for good governance and delivery of government’s priority agenda; finding a balance between the law and operational realities in legislative oversight duties.