Fred Itua, Abuja
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, have disagreed over a request from President Muhammadu Buhari that the sum of N10.069 billion promissory note programme to repay Kogi State Government for the execution of Federal roads.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Clifford Ordia, had just rounded off the presentation of his panel’s report when Abaribe raised some objections.
Ordia, while presenting his report, told his colleagues that project sites were visited in Kogi State. He further explained that relevant government officials were on ground to clarify grey areas.
The Edo Central senator said the Bureau of Public Enterprise approved the payment, while the Ministry of Finance and National Planning also gave an evidence that the job was executed.
Ordia urged his colleagues to approve the issuance of the bond to enable the Federal Government repay the money without delay.
As soon as he concluded, Abaribe who earlier raised a point of order to challenge the concurrent submission and consideration of the report, questioned the timing of the request.
He urged his colleagues to suspend the approval until next week when Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Kogi State would have been conducted.
He said the approval of the funds with barely few days to the election will send the wrong signals that the funds maybe used to fund the poll.
Abaribe who said he spoke on behalf of members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said they will not support the approval of the request.
He said: “I speak on behalf of members of the opposition here. We think that the timing of this request and plans to hurriedly approve it is questionable. Why are we in a hurry?
“Gubernatorial election in Kogi State is this Saturday and we are approving money today. How are we sure that these funds will not be used to fund the election. This money is for the people of Kogi State.
“We don’t have to be in a hurry. We are suggesting that we step this material down until next week when elections would have been concluded. One week will not kill us.
“But if the Senate decides to approve this request, members of the opposition will not support it. Let us wait until next week before we approve it.”
However, Lawan who presided, countered Abaribe’s request. He said the Senate was going to approve the request without any delay. He claimed that the 8th Senate where he served as Leader, refused to approve the request.
Lawan said it was a mere coincidence that the approval is coming few days to the conduct of the gubernatorial election in Kogi State.
Lawan said: “I have heard your points and they’re valid. But you need to know something here. We are not approving this money because of the election in Kogi State. It just happened that it is being approved now.
“Kogi State Government applied for this money a long time ago. The 8th Senate didn’t approve it. In fact, it was only their request that was not approved by the last Senate. So, we need to approve it.”
When the request was subjected to a voice vote, it was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, despite the earlier stance of the opposition.