…Over N10bn service wide vote
From Fred Itua, Abuja
THE executive and the Senate may be heading for a showdown over plans by the upper legislative chamber to allocate N10 billion under service wide vote for the relocation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) returning to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
Service wide votes are funds set aside for special intervention projects. It is usually managed by the executive.
The Senate’s decision to appropriate the sum followed a motion tagged: “Interim financial and material support/assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and returnees in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.” It was moved by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume and co-sponsored by eight other Senators from Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
The Appropriation Committee is expected to expedite action on the resolution of the Senate, but a lawyer, Socrates Ehigiator said the action is illegal.
Mr. Ehigiator said the Senate’s action will not stand arguing that the Upper Legislative Chamber could only recommend to the executive, but lacked the powers to appropriate service wide vote, outside of what was originally sent to it.
“By doing that, they will be arrogating too much powers to themselves. If that is allowed to happen, what will then happen to checks and balances in the system?
“Section 81, 82 and 83 give the National Assembly powers over public funds. But those same sections do not unilaterally give the National Assembly the powers to make fresh allocations. That contravenes their powers. It is a complete violation because they do not have the powers to do that,” Mr. Ehigiator said.
Beyond the appropriation of N10 billion for the resettlement of the IDPs, the Senate also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Refugees Commission to make special arrangement for the repatriation and resettlement of Nigeria refugees in Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
The managers of the Victim Support Fund have been directed to allocate reasonable amount of money from the fund for immediate relocation and resettlement of the IDPs, pending the short and medium term plans they may have.
Other IDP centres across different states of the federation are expected to benefit from the proposed N10 billion fund when it eventually comes on stream.
Senators who supported the motion said the returning IDPs need immediate and interim financial and material assistance in terms of cash transfer and food relief to start their lives all over again in the short term before the intervention from the proposed North East Development Commission (PINE).
Nigeria is said to have no fewer than four million internally displaced persons (IDPs), the largest in Africa and the third highest number of displaced persons in the world behind Syria and Colombia.
A report by a global organization attributed the IDPs situation in the country to a combination of factors which include activities of the extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram, heavy-handed counter insurgency operations and ongoing inter-communal violence in the northern region.
After Boko Haram militants were pushed out of major towns in the North East following the declaration of a State of Emergency, they focused their attacks with increased brutality on towns and villages close to Nigeria’s borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad.