Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, met behind closed door on Monday for two hours at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Lawan, accompanied by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang, at the State House, arrived at few minutes to 2pm.
The meeting started at about 2:00 p.m. when the duo stepped into Osinbajo’s office ended at 4pm.
Lawan, addressing State House Correspondents, lamented that the Senate recess has made it impossible for the Upper Legislative Chamber to consider requests for the external loans by President Muhammadu Buhari to fund the budget.
The Federal government had earlier stated that the deficit component of the 2018 budget, amounting to about N1.95 trillion (about 1.74 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), would be financed mainly by N1.6 trillion projected to come from borrowing.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, had at the presentation of the details of the 2018 budget stated that while about N793 billion of the deficit would be sourced locally, the remaining N849 billion would come from foreign sources.
According to the Senate leader, government is grinding to a halt as a result of the break couple with the face off between the executive and the legislature.
Ahmed who lamented that the September 25th resumption date was too far declared that “Our government is almost stalled”, adding that the non- Passage of the Virement and Supplementary appropriation sent to the Senate by the President was frustrating the activities of the government.
“We are pleading that the Senate should be reconvened as this will enable the administration carry out its promises to Nigerians by executing the budget as promised” he said
He also lamented the inability of the Senate to consider and approve funding request for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, saying that it will hinder efforts of the agency to effectively plan for the 2019 general election.
“Some procurement require three to four months and INEC will need to place order that will last up to three or four months”
“Whatever our differences are, we must make sure that Nigerians are not allowed to suffer. We have our budget suffering because we are not able to pass these requests”
The Senate Leader denied knowledge of previous plans to break into the Senate Chambers by some Senators, saying that “There are processes for gaining into the Chambers.”
He however hoped that Presiding officers of the Senate will see reasons to have a change of mind and reconvene as soon as possible, adding that “I hope they will see reason to reconvene as and l do not want to contemplate, that they will not listen to us. We should be able to convene in the next few days” he said
Enang , also joined in the appeal to the lawmakers to reconvene to ensure a smooth execution of government policies
“We should plan properly for free fair election in 2019.”
Enang, reiterating his appeal to the lawmakers at the weekend in Lagos, it is not a good time for lawmakers to go on break as there are pending matters that require urgent attention.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had announced the break after security operatives laid a siege around him and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
Enang has added if the senate does not reconvened immediately, it may adversely affect the country.
He stressed the need for the lawmakers to approve a supplementary budget to fund the 2018 budget and the 2019 general election should be attended to urgently.
The supplementary funds would enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to commence preparation for the 2019 polls.
He said, “We are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene. You remember that we passed the budget with understanding that the greater amount of it would be gotten by foreign loans. Although this was approved that there would be loans, amount to be gotten was not approved. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government want 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 a complete government shutdown. What we are receiving from the federation accounts as the federal government share the capital component is not enough to sustain even the 15 or 20 percent 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.”
Enang confirmed the defection of the Senate Minority leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio to the All Progressive Congress, (APC).
“Now the leader of the Senate has said that they are 53, but I want to assure him that the APC has harvested more people from the PDP and other political parties.
“The head of the PDP in the Senate is formally joining the APC family and that will be in a big ceremony on Wednesday the 8th if August in Akwa Ibom stare.
“So, the head of the PDP who holds all the documents of the PDP, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio (CON) is coming over with a great team and other minorities will join the APC family and we are good and strong.”