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Emefiele, Ahmed stall Senate’s probe into CBN’s N23.7trn loan, lawmakers give ultimatum

The Senate on Tuesday directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, to liaise with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and submit details of President Muhammadu Buhari’s N23.7trn Ways and Means request, within three days, for scrutiny.

The red chamber, upon receiving the presidential request, set up an ad hoc committee chaired by the Senate Leader, Ibrahim Gobir, to carry out necessary legislative actions on it.The panel then sent out invitations to the finance minister, the CBN governor and other heads of federal ministries, departments and agencies that had direct connection with the fiscal document.

However, at the resumption of plenary after the New Year recess, yesterday, Gobir informed his colleagues that the ad-hoc panel had not been able to sit because details of the Ways and Means Advances had not been provided by the executive arm of government.The chamber, therefore, ordered the minister of finance and the CBN governor, to within three days, supply the required information on the request to the ad-hoc panel.

The red chamber warned that in view of presidential and National Assembly elections coming up next month, it would adjourn plenary this week or latest by Tuesday, next week, for practical participation in campaigns.Senate’s warning followed the request made by Gobir for additional three days.

Gobir, who rose through Order 40 of the Senate Standing Rules under personal explanation, told the Senate that series of attempts made by the committee from December 28, 2022 to Tuesday, January 17, 2023, to meet the finance minister and CBN governor for the required details proved abortive.

He said: “As a special committee for urgent and thorough assignment, we hit the ground running immediately after composition on 28th of December last year.“For required details on the N22.7trillion Ways and Means Restructuring, six vital questions were raised, five for the CBN governor and one for the Finance Minister, but their trips abroad, prevented us from asking them the questions.

“Now that they are around, we request the Senate to give us additional three days for thorough work on the assignment and submission of report.”Obviously angry with Gobir’s submissions, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, in his response, said the Ways and Means request from the president was a very serious issue that must not be taken with levity by all those concerned.

He said the Senate was ready to approve the request after thorough scrutiny which could only be done if required details were provided by relevant officials from the executive arm of government.Lawan said: “We must have necessary information for passage of the N22.7trillion request and time is not on our side in the Senate now in view of coming general election.

“If there is need for the Senate to sit up to Friday this week for thorough consideration and passage of the request, it will be done.
“However, the affected officials from the executive must also expedite action on provision of required information as regards documents authorising approval and disbursement of the monies totalling N22.7trillion.”

Buhari had in separate letters to both chambers of the National Assembly on December 21, 2022, sought for approval of restructuring of N23.7trillion Ways and Means.The president, in the letter said: “The Ways and Means advances by the Central Bank of Nigeria, to the Federal Government had 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 19th December 2022 is N22.7trillion.I have approved the securitisation of the ways and means balances along the following terms ÷ Amount. N23.7trillion.Tenure is 40 years, moratorium on principal repayment, three years; pricing interest rate is 9percent.Your concurrence and approval is sought to allow for the implementation of same.”

Attempts made by the Senate to approve the request during the passage of the N21.83trillion 2023 budget on 28th of December last year failed.The development forced it to set up the Gobir-led special committee to liaise with the executive for necessary information.Meanwhile, the Senate has said it would adjourn plenary next week to enable lawmakers embark on rigorous campaigns in their various constituencies in preparation for the forthcoming National Assembly elections.
The Senate President stated this during plenary in Abuja.

He said the break would enable lawmakers contesting for various offices during the 2023 general election to interact with their constituents and canvass for their votes.
He, however, said the Senate may possibly close this week if it was able to deal with urgent issues requiring its attention so that it would not have to sit next week.
He said: “We are prepared to sit up to Friday this week to attend to all urgent issues requiring our attention, so, we don’t have to sit next week in view of the forthcoming elections.”


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