The lawmakers had resumed from their annual recess on Tuesday to suspend the leadership tussle between the caucuses to attend to “urgent issues of national importance.”
On Wednesday, the Senate considered Buhari’s request for approval of the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission and security agencies for the 2019 general elections at the plenary, with the plan to pass the aspect affecting the commission on Thursday (today) while the budget of security agencies for the exercise is scheduled for passage on Tuesday.
Buhari, however, wrote the Senate asking that the N189.2bn as proposed by INEC be approved and all the funds should be drawn from the 2018 budget. This, he said, was based on the request by the legislature.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read Buhari’s letter dated September 19, 2018, to members on the floor.
Entitled ‘Re: Request for Virement/Supplementary Budget,’ the letter partly read, “In the light of the current realities, and in order to ensure that the 2019 general elections are not affected by any delays in the passage into law of the 2019 budget, … I, therefore, wish to formally request that the total amount of N242,445,322,600.00 requested by INEC and the security agencies, be considered for inclusion in my virement request under the 2018 Appropriation Act.”
After reading Buhari’s letter, Saraki referred it along with the report laid by the committee on INEC on the elections to the Committee on Appropriations.
Members of the Committee on Appropriations left the chamber while plenary was ongoing to meet, where they overruled the N143.3bn earlier approved by the Committee on INEC for the commission and adopted the N189.2bn proposed by Buhari.
The Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, who said the report on the INEC component of the budget would be laid before the Senate on Thursday (today), announced that the budget of security agencies would be treated on Tuesday.
Goje said, “During our recess, the INEC Committee – the two committees of the two chambers – held joint sittings with the Chairman of INEC and they (the commission) defended their request item by item. And the committee has submitted their report. They have jointly concluded action on the issue of INEC’s request. That is why we don’t need to call the Chairman of INEC again. But for the other aspect of the security agencies, whose requests have not been defended, they need to defend the requests before us.”
A member of the committee, Senator Matthew Uroghide, asked from what part of the 2018 Appropriation Act would the funds for the elections be taken?
“I think the bigger challenge really is that, is this total sum of N245bn supposed to come from virement, which the President alluded to in his previous letter. He wants to vire the 2018 budget. It is now for this committee to agree on which areas of the approved budget of 2018 we are going to get the N242bn from,” Uroghide said.
Goje, however, said discussions on the virement would be held behind closed doors.
He added, “Based on the powers vested in this Appropriations Committee, we can accept, amend or reject the recommendation by the INEC Committee. Since Mr. President has requested that we should now give him everything in 2018, we are going to combine the recommendation of INEC Committee plus what Mr. President earlier requested in 2019 and grant him all.”