INEC Budget: Fresh Hurdles As National Assembly Pushes Resumption To Oct

Members of the National Assembly have called on the leadership of both chambers to extend their resumption from September 25 to the second week of October.

A cross section of the federal lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH on the issue, explained that the September 25 earlier fixed, was no longer feasible

They argued that it would not be possible for the joint committees on electoral matters and those on appropriation to conclude their assignments before the end of September.

They also said it would not make sense for members of the two chambers to abandon the primaries of their parties in their various constituencies to resume plenary.

The Vice-Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, said the date of the resumption was not yet in view because the joint committee on INEC had yet to finish their assignment.

Ayorinde stated, “If there are differences in their decision, the principal officers of the two houses would sit and harmonise the differences and take it to plenary for approval.

“it is is also not feasible that we would resume in September owing to the fact that primaries of the parties are scheduled to hold between now and the end of September.

“The dates of the primaries of the ruling party extend till the first week in October. Do you now expect someone, who is campaigning for his election, to now rush down to the National Assembly for plenary?

“So, the plenary to consider the reports of INEC may not come up until after the primaries.”

Asked if it was not possible for the two chambers to announce a date and jointly sit in plenary to approve the polls budget request, Ayorinde said, “There is no provision for a joint sitting to approve budget.

am very optimistic that within a week or two after our resumption, we would sort it out. The principal officers of the two chambers can even sit and harmonise positions before the reports are presented at plenary to make the process faster.”

Some of the senators, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH, are Enyinnaya Abaribe, Shehu Sani, Adesoji Akanbi, Mao Ohuabunwa and James Manager.

Abaribe explained that with the pace of the committee’s work and the timetable of the primaries, the National Assembly would not be able to reconvene in September.

He stated, “The joint committees still have a long way to go. The joint committee on INEC after their assignments will pass everything to the appropriation committee which will bring the report to the leadership.

The leadership of the two houses would have to meet and decide on when to reconvene and it must be on the same day.

“From the way we are seeing it, there is no way we could reconvene until after the primaries which will even extend to the first week in October.”

Akanbi noted that there was no point reconvening for plenary now when all the parties were holding their primaries .

He added, “Since we have the joint committees of both chambers working on the document, the outcome of their task could represent the position of the whole house while the leadership of both houses could also have a joint sitting and approve the INEC request.

“There is no big deal about it since it is not the annual national budget. We did not sit at plenary before the leadership directed the joint committee to start work on the document. Why should we reconvene to receive their report?”

Sani believed that no member of the federal legislature would resume until after the primaries in October.

“Nobody would come back to the Senate or House of Representatives when primaries are ongoing. Reconvening the chambers is going to be an exercise in futility,” he said.

Ohuabunwa declared that the lawmakers would not resume on the scheduled date.

He said, “If the parties are holding primaries and we also want to return (reelected) to represent the parties at the parliament, then, it is going to be that the resumption will be extended.

“If my primary election is on the 25th or even 28th (September), what would I be doing in Abuja? Definitely, if the dates clash there will be an extension (of resumption)”

Manager said President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, would take a decision on the issue.

“The leadership of the Senate and the leadership of the House of Representatives know what to do. I am sure that they know what to do,” Manager said.

Another lawmaker from one of the North-East states, who declined to be named for fear of negative reactions from his colleagues, argued that the lawmakers could resume despite the primaries.

A senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his group members are pushing for an early reconvening of the Senate, also said there was no way members would reconvene when the party primaries were taking place across the country.

He said, “We have suggested that the leadership of the two houses should authorise the executive to make necessary withdrawals from the Service Wide Vote to take care of any emergency procurement that INEC may want to take care of before resumption.

“The senators, who demanded the immediate reconvening of the Senate, knew that the INEC budget would not be ready until late September. They have their own agenda.

“Senators on our side are against joint sitting. So, those on Saraki’s side are really not bothered about sitting. They had already devised another means of extending the resumption beyond the earlier agreed date.

“The anti-Saraki senators want the Senate to reconvene so that they could remove the presiding officers with the two-thirds of the members at plenary, which is illegal. I have warned them against such move anyway.”

N’Assembly must reconvene to pass INEC budget — Senate Leader

Meanwhile, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the National Assembly must reconvene to consider and pass requests by President Muhammadu Buhari pending before the legislature.

Lawan stated, “We need to reconvene before then (September 25) to pass the very essential requests by Mr. President, particularly the budget of INEC (for the elections) and the foreign borrowing request to finance the capital budget for 2018 as well as some confirmations (of executive appointments) that are also time-bound.

“We had yet to confirm the appointments of nominees for the board of the ICPC and others. It (delaying the confirmations) will be undermining what this administration considers very important, significant and central to its campaign promises.

“I will also agree with my colleagues who feel that we can extend (the recess) beyond the 25th because the primaries of almost all the parties will have to take place towards the end of September and early October.

“Within that period we should be fair to ourselves; that even if we reconvene from recess on the 25th, we would hardly be able to form a quorum because many senators, if not all, would be in their senatorial districts or participate in the primaries of other candidates of their choice.

“I agree with them on that. But before then, we need to reconvene.”

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