From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate committee probing the N23.7 trillion spent by the Federal Government without approval of the National Assembly, yesterday, requested more time to turn in its report.
This is as the lawmakers announced it would adjourn plenary this week or latest by Tuesday next week for practical participation in campaigns.
In December, the Senate had suspended a request by President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the sum under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Ways and Means Advances.
At yesterday’s plenary, the senate said the request was not constitutional but demanded that before it could approve the request, lawmaker must have details of what the funds were spent on.
It also issued a warning to heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) needed for required details on the passage of N23.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring forwarded to it by President Buhari in December last year.
It specifically ordered the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to within three days, supply required information on the presidential request to the special committee set up for that purpose last year.
Senate’s warning followed request made by Ibrahim Gobir, chairman of the Special Committee set up to interface with the finance minister and CBN governor for details on the N27.3trillion Ways and Means Restructuring for additional three days.
Gobir, who rose through Order 40 of the Senate Standing rules under personal explanation told the Senate that series of attempts made by the Committee from December 28, 2022 to Tuesday, January 17 to meet the finance minister and CBN governor for the required details proved abortive .
He said he could not present the report of his committee because the information requested was not available.
“We were not able to get the information that we are looking for because the two of them were out of town. So, it was difficult for our committee to come up with a report as scheduled today. For required details on the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring, six vital questions were raised – five for the CBN governor and one for the Finance Minister- but their trips abroad prevented us from asking them the questions. Now that they are around, we request the Senate to give us additional three days for thorough work on the assignment and submission of report,” he said.
Irked by the submission, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his response said the Ways and Means request from the president was a serious issue that must not be taken with levity by all those concerned.
The Senate, he declared, was ready to approve the request after thorough scrutiny which can only be done if required details are provided by relevant officials from the executive arm of government.
“We must have necessary information for passage of the N22.7 trillion request and time is not on our side in the Senate now in view of coming general elections. If there is need for the Senate to sit up to Friday this week for thorough consideration and passage of the request , it will be done but the affected officials from the executive must also expedite action on provision of required information as regards documents authorising approval and disbursement of the monies totalling N22.7trillion,” he said .
President Muhammadu Buhari had in separate letters to both Chambers of the National Assembly on December 21, 2022, sought for approval of restructuring of N23.7 trillion Ways and Means .