Facts emerged yesterday why the National Assembly opted to give accelerated consideration to President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for N180 billion virement to fund 2016 budget. The lawmakers are likely to approve the virement next week.
The National Assembly leadership met on Tuesday to consider Buhari’s $29.96 billion loan request considering the fact that the Presidency may have released N100 billion for the lawmakers to execute their constituency projects.
It was that spirit that informed the swift consideration of the virement request.
Subsequently, the request was referred to the Committee on Appropriations and other relevant committees for further legislative action.
The unanimous adoption of the motion for Request for Virement of Funds Appropriated in the Appropriation Act, brought to the floor by House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, was the major fallout of Tuesday’s meeting of the principal officers of the Senate and the House.
Daily Sun also learnt that the swift adoption of the request at yesterday’s plenary chaired by Deputy Speaker Yussuf Lasun, caught many lawmakers by surprise.
Lasun didn’t give room for a debate as he simply put the motion for a voice vote and it was passed by the lawmakers on the floor without a single dissent.
According to a senior legislative source, who was privy to Tuesday’s meeting, it was agreed that the leadership of both Houses should ensure the virement request scales through.
He also disclosed the leadership is most likely to push for a compromise on the President’s request for approval for a $29.96 billion loan.
“Principal officers from both the Senate and the House are aware of recent capital releases for constituency projects in deviation from the earlier stance of the executive that it will not fund intervention projects.
“So, the National Assembly by starting the process of approving the request for virement wants to reciprocate the goodwill showed it by the executive”, the source said.
President Buhari had in a letter dated October 24, 2016 sent to Speaker Yakubu Dogara, disclosed that the sum of N71,800,215,270 is for Public Service Wage Adjustment; N35 billion is for Amnesty Programme, while N19,792,018,400 is for mobilisation of corps members.
Others include N14,667,230,014 for foreign missions; N13,933,093,000 is for Operation Lafiya Dole; N12,708,367,476 is for Nigerian Air Force; N5,205,930,270 is for internal operations of the Armed Forces; N2 billion for margin of increase in cost while N1.5 billion is for Presidential Initiative on North-East.
Under the contingency subhead, N1.2 billion is for salary shortfall for Public Complaints Commission; N932,400,000 is for Cadet Feeding of Police Academy, Kano while N900 million is for augmentation of meal subsidy for Unity colleges.
Buhari had explained that the request was in respect of virement of funds appropriated for special intervention (Recurrent) and special intervention (Capital) to fund some critical recurrent and capital items and the request was necessitated by a number of reasons, including shortfalls in provisions of Personnel cost, the inadequate provision for the Amnesty Programme, the need to sustain the war against insurgency and the depreciation of the Naira.
The request for virement was sent with the $29.9 billion, while the Senate rejected the letter, saying it lacked details, the House has maintained that it was still consulting on the matter.
Senate also yesterday, commenced the consideration of the virement request.
Buhari sent a letter to the Upper Chamber, saying money would be transferred from special intervention (recurrent) and capital in Federal Government’s intervention programmes (capital supplementation).
“This request has arisen due to a number of reasons including; shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs; inadequate provision for amnesty programme, continuing requirements to sustain the war against insurgency and depreciation of Naira,” he said in the letter.
Moving the motion yesterday, Senate Deputy Leader Bala Ibn Na’Allah, said: “The Senate do consider the request of Mr. President virement of funds appropriated for Special Intervention (Recurrent) and Special Intervention (Capital) for funding of critical recurrent and capital items.”
The virement request has been referred to two committees, Appropriation and Finance. They are both expected to report back to the Senate next Wednesday.
Buhari had requested the lawmakers to urgently consider the proposals in order to support the efforts to improve the well-being of the citizens.
“I assure you that these proposals have been diligently evaluated, and are truly exigent,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives is facing an uphill task convincing members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Caucus to support the passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, (MTEF), the virement and the $29.9 billion loan request.
Sources at the APC caucus’ closed-door meeting held at the National Assembly yesterday and chaired by Lasun said not only was attendance poor, the Deputy Speaker and Gbajabiamila had a tough time convincing those around to support the move by the leadership of the National Assembly to get a soft-landing for Buhari.
APC lawmakers expressed disappointment that the request for virement was passed at yesterday’s plenary with only a few members on the floor, while others who were at oversight visits only heard about the decision of the House through phone calls.
The lawmakers said they were still not happy with the state of the executive/Legislature relationship, saying the executive has not shown its readiness to work with the National Assembly as members are hardly consulted on key issues.