The upper chamber of the National Assembly on Wednesday went into a rowdy session following some senators’ rejections against a request by President Muhammadu Buhari seeking approval for N23.7 trillion already spent by the federal government without the approval of the legislature.
The rowdiness followed the presentation of the report on the president’s “way and means advances” request by Solomon Olamilekan, chairman of the finance committee.
“Ways and means windows are used by the government when there is a need for cash intervention,” Olamilekan said.
“It is normal. We should even commend the federal government. The sum spans over 10 years. They have agreed to forward the document to the committee on or before Friday.”
As the finance chair continued his presentation, Rivers west Betty Apiafi, raised a point of order stating that the request was not constitutional.
But the presiding Senate President Ahmad Lawan ruled Apiafi out of order, saying: “Let me present his report first… I’m not preventing anyone from speaking.”
Most of the senators at the plenary engaged in a heated debate over Lawan’s comment.
After about 10 minutes, the order finally returned to the chamber. The senate president asked Thompson Sekibo, senator representing Rivers east, to speak on the matter.
Citing a constitutional point of order, Sekibo reiterated Apiafi’s stance, explaining that the request was not in line with the constitution.
“It will be a disservice that we have spent that money on behalf of Nigerians,” the senator said.
“It will be wrong for this senate to approve this without details of how the money was spent.”
After his submission, the rowdiness resumed and the senate president had to intervene again by asking Ibrahim Gobir and Philip Aduda, the majority and minority leaders, respectively, to approach the chair.
This made the situation worse and Lawan quickly ask the chamber to go into a closed session—a parliamentary procedure for the Senate to discuss matters requiring secrecy.
Last week, the president had written to the senate, seeking approval for the “ways and means advances”.
“The ways and means advanced by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the federal government have been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit,” Buhari had said.
“The ways and means, balances as of 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion.”
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