• Says polls postponement will delay minimum wage bill, 2019 budget
By Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The National Assembly, which last month adjourned plenary to Tuesday, February 19, has shifted the resumption of plenary by one week.
This is coming as the lawmakers have condemned the postponement of the general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), stating that passage of the 2019 Appropriation Bill and the New Minimum Wage Bill will also suffer further delay.
The lawmakers, according to a one- page statement entitled “Postponement of Resumption of Plenary,” issued yesterday by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. M. A. Sani-Omolori, attributed the shifting of the reconvening date of the federal legislators to Tuesday, February 26, to the postponement of the national elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to Saturday, February 23.
The statement enjoined all senators and House of Representatives members to resume plenary by 10 a.m on Tuesday, February 26.
The Senate had on Thursday, January 24 adjourned plenary to February 19, after considering the National Minimum Wage Bill transmitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, which passed through second reading.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, had said the Senate will adjourn plenary on Tuesday , February 19 after listening to the motion moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
The Senate had earlier this month attempted to hold a special session in the wake of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari, but had to put it off at the last minute.
The Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, had invited the Senators to an emergency plenary through a two-paragraph statement personally signed by him.
But Ayewoh in another letter titled “Cancellation of Senate Resumption Plenary,” informed all senators of the National Assembly that the resumption for Tuesday, January 29, had been cancelled.
According to him, “the scheduled date of resumption in Plenary earlier fixed for Tuesday, February 19, remains, please”.
The Senate rather than reconvening decided to approach the apex court of the land, the Supreme Court, to seek its interpretation of whether President Muhammadu Buhari acted within the provisions of the constitution in his suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen .
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have condemned the postponement of the general election by the INEC, stating that the passage of the 2019 Appropriation Bill and the New Minimum Wage Bill will suffer further delay.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Saturday evening, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, lamented that the postponement had more implications beyond the elections.
Namdas said one of the implications was that the National Assembly, which was billed to resume plenary on Tuesday to work on the national budget and the wage bill, among others, would be forced to extend its recess.
The House’s spokesman said, “For us in the National Assembly, we are really saddened by this event. We had supported INEC to the extent that we decided to postpone some of our recess and holidays just to approve the commission’s budget for this election. And we approved N189 billion for INEC, in addition to the budgets of security agencies, totalling N242 billion, so that the situation today could be averted.
“That is why we feel that it is not fair, after the support, both from Nigerians, the National Assembly and the Executive Arm of Government, for INEC to cite logistics as a reason for postponement. This is really unfair on the part of INEC.”
Namdas added, “more importantly that we are having budget 2019 before us, this postponement will have a multiplier effect. We are supposed to resume on Tuesday, but with this, I am not sure that this will be there; but that depends on what our leaders will tell us.
“However, you can understand that nobody will leave their constituency to go (to Abuja) on Tuesday for sitting and come back on Friday for election. With the terrain of this country, some people, before they can access their areas, they require close to two days. This will be a very difficult scenario.
“If it happens that the resumption is postponed, it means that the deliberation on the budget is also affected. But Nigerians will be fighting us; that we are delaying the budget, not knowing that these are some of the issues. I hope it will not occur and this will be a blessing in disguise.”
When reminded that the wage bill was also pending, the lawmaker said, “Yes, it is there. So, you can imagine!”