Fire Scare Forces Senate to Suspend Plenary

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• Committee queries alleged diversion of $100m from power sector

•Summons finance minister

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

There was a fire scare at the National Assembly premises thursday which forced the Senate to suspend its sitting for the day.

The fire occurred in one of the technical rooms at the Senate Wing of the White House: SB 63, with smoke emanating from the room.

The fire which was quickly put out, blew out the circuit for the air conditioning system in the Senate Chamber.

The House of Representatives wing was however not affected by the incident as the green chamber was able to hold its sitting.

The Senate had initially resumed for plenary at about 11a.m. with its President, Bukola Saraki, presiding.

Senator Abdullahi Gobir (Sokoto APC) raised a point of personal explanation over the unconducive environment due to the faulty air conditioning system.
“The chillers are not working,” he pointed out, and called for an adjournment of proceedings until Tuesday next week.
Saraki upheld the point of order, and directed that the necessary repairs to the system be effected during the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Senate Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy has frowned at the alleged diversion of $100 million counterpart funding intended from a $600 million loan facility for the power sector to the remodelling of the Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano international airports.

It therefore summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, her Transportation counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and the Director- General of the Debt Management Office, (DMO), Mrs. Patience Oniha.

The committee, at its sitting yesterday which had in attendance the Permanent Secretary of the Transportation Ministry, Mr. Sabiu Zakari, noted that the $600 million eurobond facility from the Chinese government was meant for the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s ailing power sector.

Chairman of Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Uroghide, said the aviation sector was not listed as a beneficiary of the loan, which was secured by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“We need to establish the desirability of the loan, it was for the power sector, to develop the sector, it was for the Nigerian Electricity Bulk Trading Company (NBET), the Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN) among others. Aviation was not in the picture, Aviation did not apply for it and was not in the list of agencies to benefit. There was no presidential approval, Aviation was not listed as a beneficiary,” he said.

He queried whether there was a formal memo to Adeosun from the aviation ministry requesting for the funds.

“We also have to know if it was approved by the National Assembly,” he said.
In another development, the joint committee also directed the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr. Uche Orji, and his NBET counterpart, Dr. Marilyn Amobi, to submit statements of accounts and other evidence to prove that the $350 million power fund is safe.

The NSIA boss in his submission, said the money was safe.
“The NBET funds are intact with the NSIA. As of our September statement, it has grown from $350 million to $397.5 million. $13.5 million was recalled by NBET to service the interest. So what we have at the moment is $384 million. So the funds are with us and they are safe,” he explained.