The Senate was on Wednesday thrown into a rowdy session after some lawmakers opposed a request by President Muhammadu Buhari for the Senate to approve N23.7 trillion taken from the Central Bank of Nigeria by the federal government.
The lawmakers were considering the president’s request on “ways and means advances” during plenary when angry lawmakers disrupted the session demanding details of the request.
The Ways and Means are advances (or funds) from the CBN to the federal government for emergency funding of delayed receipt of fiscal deficit.
In a letter to the Senate last week, the president sought the Senate’s approval of the N23.7 trillion advances.
He said the amount has 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.
“The Ways and Means balances as at 19 December 2022 is 22.7 trillion,” he said in the letter. “I have approved the securitisation of the ways and means balances along the following terms – Amount, N23.7 trillion; Tenure, 40 years; Moratorium on principal repayment, three years; Pricing interest rate, nine per cent.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Adeola Olamilekan, attempted to present the report of the president’s request when Rivers senator, Betty Apiafi, raised a Point of Order and said the president’s request was not constitutional.
She was, however, ruled out of order by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who asked that Mr Olamilekan present the report before contributions are made.
This was followed by noise and chaos from senators who were seen shouting and leaving their seats. This lasted about 10 minutes.
Amid the noise, Mr Olamilekan continued.
He said the Ways and Means window is used by the federal government when there is a need for cash intervention.
The N22.7 trillion was spent in the last ten years and the committee has agreed with relevant agencies to forward details of the expenditure on or before Friday, he said.
He, therefore, recommended that the Senate approves N22.7 trillion and an additional N1 trillion for the ways and means advances.
“It is normal. We should even commend…,” he said before he was interrupted again and this time, with louder noises and angrier senators.
When Mr Lawan restored order in the chamber after about 10 minutes, Rivers senator George Sekibo stood up to speak.
Citing relevant laws from the Constitution, the CBN Act and the Senate Standing Rules, he said the request is not in line with the Constitution.
“It will be a disservice that we have spent that money on behalf of Nigerians,” he said. “It will be an abuse of our personal sense and against our privileges, if we approve this request without details of the expenditure.”
He wondered why the National Assembly was not notified when the money was taken by the federal government. He also advised that the report be stepped down to another legislative day.
Another rowdy session followed and this time lasted several minutes prompting Mr Lawan to call for a closed-door session.
The executive session was still underway at the time of this report.