â€¢ Says president is ready to present request for Nâ€™Assembly approval
Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Following the confirmation by the Senate Monday that it was going to debate the approval given by President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for arms procurement to combat the insurgency and insecurity in the North-east and other parts of the country, the presidency rushed to clarify that the president had not yet authorised the disbursement of the sum.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the weekend, had also revealed that his colleagues were angry that Buhari had given the green light on the $1 billion without recourse to the National Assembly.
But the presidency said Monday in Abuja that Buhari had not authorised the spending of the $1 billion as approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) last December.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President, National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, in a statement, said the president would not authorise the spending of such money without the approval of the National Assembly.
Enang said the clarification had become compelling in view of â€œseveral mis-readingsâ€, which followed the announcement by the defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, after a security council meeting in the State House last week, that the president had approved the release of the money to fight insecurity.
Enang, who said the presidency was conversant with constitutional provisions, which prohibit spending from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) without the approval of the National Assembly, insisted that â€œthe said sum has not and cannot be approved for spending by Mr. Presidentâ€.
According to Enang, what the president did, in accordance with best practices, was to call a meeting involving the Minister of Defence, service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police (IG) to collate the needs of each security service, following the NEC approval, but with a view to presenting it to the National Assembly for appropriation.
He added that following the collation of the needs of each security service, the president would now present the sum to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration and communicate the figure to the National Assembly for appropriation.
â€œThis may be done as usual upon Mr. President consulting with the leadership of the National Assembly, before originating the communication to the National Assembly.
â€œAs of now, the process of approving the money for use is inchoate and still undergoing executive standard operating procedure before laying same before the National Assembly for appropriation.
â€œThe processes now being worked on is to fast track these procedures so that it may be forwarded to the National Assembly while it is still considering the 2018 Appropriation Bill for incorporation as Mr. Presidentâ€™s supplementary request under the 2018 budget, or if completed after the 2018 budget, it may be forwarded as a Supplementary Appropriation Bill.
â€œThat stated, Mr. President has not approved the sum for release for procurement or application howsoever.
â€œIn any case, before any sum is released from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, there must be (a.) An Appropriation Act, (b.) vote of charge, and (c.) a warrant, which is legally predicated on an appropriation authorisation sub-head under the Act,â€ Enang said.
Prior to the presidencyâ€™s statement, however, the Senate stated Monday that it planned to debate the presidentâ€™s approval on the $1 billion once the National Assembly resumes from its Easter recess next Tuesday.
Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, in a text message to THISDAY, confirmed that the lawmakers would discuss the issue and take a position on it.
Abdullahi further pointed out that it was necessary that such expenditure be subjected to the approval by the National Assembly.
â€œSenate is yet to consider the matter. Perhaps when we resume our position will be known,â€ the text message read.
â€œBut suffice it to say that all spending shall be done in accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly,â€ it read further.
Also, Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto APC) described the approval to withdraw the funds without the National Assemblyâ€™s approval as illegal.
Danbaba, a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, speaking in a telephone interview, said the ECA was not supposed to exist in the first instance, as all funds accruing to the federation are supposed to be paid into the Federation Account.