President Muhammadu Buhari has accused the National Assembly of padding debt figures to be repaid by the Federal Government to some states.
The president specifically accused the National Assembly of raising the debt repayment figure to Delta and Taraba states by N12 billion; from the original N78 billion, to N90 billion.
Buhari asked the lawmakers to send details of the amounts they approved for the two states, as well as the figures approved for payment by the Federal Executive Council (FEC); when it was sent to the National Assembly for approval.
The debt repayment in promissory notes is for projects executed on behalf of the federal government, by various state governments.
A promissory note is a debt instrument which one party promises, in writing, to pay a determinate sum of money to the other, either at a fixed or determinable future time, under specific terms.
The president’s communication was read to senators, by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at yesterday’s plenary.
“I wish to inform the Senate that we have received the approval of the National Assembly via letter referenced NASS/CNA/106/volume11/004, dated January 29, for refunds to Delta and Taraba states; through the issuance of a promissory note for projects executed on behalf of the federal government.
“In view of the approval of the National Assembly, the following was observed: While FEC approved N78 billion (78,601,631,430.16), as reimbursement to Delta and Taraba state governments, National Assembly approved N90 billion (90,236,461,031.36); which is higher than the amount approved by FEC.
“The National Assembly did not approve any reimbursement to Bauchi and Kogi states governments whereas FEC approved reimbursement for them.”
The president reminded the lawmakers of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (2007), which empowers the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to approve contracts –as he said the amounts presented to the National Assembly were duly certified for reimbursement by the Bureau before they were approved by FEC.
“Since the BPP is charged with the responsibility of approving contractual sums when there is a need for compliance with the Public Procurement Act, 2007, I wish to request that you forward to us details relating to the amount approved by the National Assembly for Delta and Taraba states, in essence of what certified by the BPP, for necessary certification approval.
“Meanwhile, the federal government shall proceed with the implementation by reimbursing the amount approved by FEC. Furthermore, I wish to suggest that you review the reimbursement in favour of Bauchi and Kogi state governments; while looking forward to timely consideration of the request,” he said.
That was the second time the president would accuse the National Assembly of inflating debts to be repaid to states.
He had, in December 2018, accused the National Assembly of approving N488 billion as reimbursement to state governments while FEC approved 487 billion. He also accused the lawmakers of approving reimbursements to 21 states after FEC approved reimbursements for 25 states.
In his reaction, Saraki told Daily Sun since the letter didn’t accuse him of padding, he could not comment.
His spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the questions should be directed at the senate spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Abdullahi said he was not in the chamber when the letter was read and could, therefore, not respond.
On his part, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone. Other senators told Daily Sun they didn’t attend plenary and had yet to be briefed on what transpired.
The president has also rejected eight bills from the National Assembly.
He refused assent to the Bill seeking for funds for completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company, in Kogi state, forwarded to him by the National Assembly, in February.
The president cited several reasons; ranging from infractions on extant laws, duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies, to financial constraints for refusing assent to the bills.
Buhari refused to sign the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill, in a March 19 letter to Saraki, wherein he said appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account, as requested for in the bill, by lawmakers, “is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.”
In several other letters of refusal of assent, the president cited provisions contained in section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as the major reason for refusing assent to it; as well as five other bills.