The Senate yesterday agreed with the House of Representatives that President Muhammadu Buhari should brief a joint session of the National Assembly on the state of the nation’s economy.
The House had on September 22, 2016 urged the president to hold an emergency joint session with the National Assembly with a view to formally presenting to the legislature and by extension all Nigerians, information on the true state of the economy and measures being taken to remedy what it called the country’s worst economic predicament since independence.
It is the belief of the lawmakers that the president’s appearance before the National Assembly will provide Nigerians, including all government functionaries an opportunity to have equal knowledge and perception about the state of the economy and how to resolve the crisis.
The House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had read an address which the lawmakers adopted as their resolution but required the concurrence of the Senate to make it effective.
Dogara said: “The recent retreat by Mr. President with his cabinet and sundry statutory appointees is most commendable. It is in this regard, that I urge Mr. President to consider holding a joint emergency session of the National Assembly to brief both the legislature and indeed Nigerians of his plans to pull Nigeria out of recession.”
The decision to concur with the House of Representatives’ resolution in the Senate yesterday followed a motion by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ibn Na’Allah, which drew the attention of the upper legislative chamber to the resolution of the House on September 22.
After moving the motion, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, put it to a voice vote and was accordingly passed without any dissenting voice.
But it is left for the president to decide on whether to honour the invitation or not.
The House of Representatives also yesterday queried the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) for expending N258.1 million on the clearing of weeds in Yobe State.
PINE had awarded the contract for the removal of 250 kilometers of invasive plant species along the river channels and simplified village irrigation scheme (Phase11) in Komadugu basin in Yobe State in favour of Messrs Josman Technolgy Limited for N258.132.735.00.
PINE’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Umar Farouk, who told the lawmakers that the N5 billion budgeted to his outfit had already been released to him, explained that he approved the use of N258 million to clear the weeds to pave the way for a free flow of water required by farmers in Jacusco, Bade and its environs for productive activities.
But the execution of the weed removal contract within a month did not go down well with members of the Mohammed Sani Zorro-led House Committee on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and PINE who had an interactive session with Farouk at the National Assembly complex.
A member of the committee, Igariwey Idumu Enwo (PDP: Afikpo: Ebonyi) questioned the rationale for the issuance of the weed removal contract since it had no direct relationship with the rehabilitation of the IDPs. Enwo also faulted several other jobs contracted out by PINE, arguing that the outfit fell short of compliance with the provision of the Public Procurement Act.
Gyang Istifanus Dung (PDP: BarkinLadi:Riyom: Plateau) who recalled the committee’s visit to Damboa and Bama expressed disbelief that PINE had in its kitty N5 billion to cater for the needs of the IDPs in the north east. “At the time we visited the IDPs centres in Damboa and Bama, it was unbelievable that this is happening in Nigeria. I found it difficult to understand how you went out of your way to prioritise the removal of grass over attending to the dire situation our IDPS found themselves. It beats my imagination, “ he said.
Ismail Gadaka (APC: Fika: Yobe) who described the expenditure as a clear waste of resources disclosed that there had been budgetary provision running into hundreds of millions of naira for the clearing of such weeds in the past 15 years.
Zorro decried the absence of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, who should have explained how he expended N12 billion allocated to his office to cater for the IDPs. He upbraided PINE for expending such money to clear weeds.
Meanwhile, the House has expressed readiness to assist in the repatriation of $458 million from the United States.
The House position was sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Johnson Agbonayinma at the plenary session presided over by Dogara.
The lawmakers resolved to interface with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami to meet with the U.S. Congressmen and women who initiated the resolution for the $458 million to be returned to the Nigerian government.
Agbonayinma while moving the motion explained that the money was part of the $550 million traced by the U.S. authorities as part of its kleptocracy asset recovery initiative in 2013.