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Monday 30th March 2020,
Hope for Nigeria

Saraki summons emergency meeting of NASS leaders

ABUJA—The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has convened an emergency meeting of the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Issues expected on the agenda of the meeting, Vanguard gathered, include the string of defections in the political space, rumoured plan to impeach the Senate President and the pending 2019 elections supplementary budget, among others.

The leadership, our sources said, might consider the possibility of reconvening the National Assembly to discuss urgent and important national issues pending before the lawmakers.

Those to attend

The meeting will have in attendance, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Yusuf Suleiman Lasun; Majority Leaders of both chambers, Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as Chief and Deputy Whips of both chambers.

Also billed to attend the meeting are the Minority and Deputy Minority Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives; the Minority and Deputy Minority Whips of both chambers.

Also to attend the meeting outside the leadership of the National Assembly are the Chairmen, Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), and Aisha Dukku (Dukku/ Nafada, Gombe) respectively.

The meeting, it was gathered, is slated for noon today.

The Agenda

According to the source, top on the agenda for discourse is the letter from President Buhari on the urgent need to approve money for the conduct of the 2019 election, with a proposal of the sum of N164 billion to be provided for through virement or supplementary budget.

The source said they will also look into the not less than N242 billion required for the conduct of 2019 general elections.

Recall that there had been calls, especially from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, that the National Assembly should reconvene from its annual recess, having adjourned two weeks ago to reconvene on September 25.

According to the source, after the meeting of the leadership of the National Assembly, they will then meet with the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and other officials at 1pm today.

Preparing for the meeting, Senate President Saraki was in the office yesterday for close to one hour.

It would be recalled that one month after the 2018 budget was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate on July 17, read a letter from the President asking the National Assembly to remove a total of N228 billion as reinstatement from the inserted N578 billion in the 2018 budget to fund critical projects.

In the letter read at plenary by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, President Buhari told the senators that not less than N242 billion would be required for the conduct of 2019 general and Presidential elections and asked for the lawmakers’ approval of the money.

Presidency raises alarm

Meanwhile, the Presidency yesterday raised the alarm that if the National Assembly failed to reconvene to consider the foreign loan request and supplementary budget made by President Buhari, it could lead to a complete shutdown of the government.

This came as the Majority Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, said as a matter of urgency, the National Assembly must reconvene to consider and pass the supplementary budget and the virement request made by the President before the two chambers went on annual vacation.

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo met behind closed-doors with the Senate Majority Leader and the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Presidential liaison officer in the Senate, Senator Enang, appealed to the presiding officers of the National Assembly to reconvene and consider the pending requests of the President, stressing that anything short of that could lead to a shutdown of government.

Enang said: “We are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene. You remember that we passed the budget with an understanding that the greater amount of it would be gotten by foreign loans.

“Although it was approved that there would be loans, the amount to get was not approved. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly.

“That letter has been presented to the National Assembly and the National Assembly has to pass that amount before the money could be obtained from foreign financing institutions.

“This is what we are asking and if it didn’t happen in the next few months, we may have complete government shutdown.

“What we are receiving from the federation accounts as the federal government share of the capital component is not enough to sustain even 15 or 20 per cent of the budget.
“So, there may be a complete government shutdown and I know that Nigerians are not going to like it. That is why we are still appealing.”

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