Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate wednesday kicked against the Senate’s approval of the refund of N10.06 billion to the Kogi State Government for road projects it executed on behalf of the federal government.
According to the opposition lawmakers, the refund should be delayed by one week so that the money will not be diverted to fund the state governorship poll due for Saturday.
The legislative approval followed the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, headed by Senator Clifford Ordia, seeking approval for the issuance of N10.06 billion promissory notes programme to the state government and a bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations for projects executed on behalf of federal government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter a fortnight ago to the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, requested for an approval for the refund to be made to the state government.
Presenting his committee’s report, Ordia, said “the approved sum is in capital expenditure, which has to do with refund to the state government for monies spent in the execution of federal government projects in the state.”
According to him, key officials of the state government were invited to brief the committee during its legislative work. Ordia added that the committee also assessed all submissions made by the Federal Ministry of Finance, alongside documents from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the state government.
He said the committee undertook an oversight visit to Kogi State to assess the projects and ascertained that they met the required standard by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
The projects inspected by the committee were: reconstruction of Shintaku-Odugbo road, reconstruction of Ganaja-Ajaokuta road, reconstruction of Idah-Onyedega road and dualisation of Lokoja-Ganaja road.
Other executed federal projects were: reconstruction of three-span bridge along Shintaku-Odugbo road, reconstruction of four-span bridge along Shintaku-Odugbo road, and reconstruction of Iyamoje-Igagun-Ifeolu-Kptun-Ponyan-Jegede road.
But in his objection to the approval, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while raising a point of order, urged the Senate to delay the approval until after the governorship election.
He said: “I have the mandate of the minority party to request that the payment be delayed till next week as we feel this is not the right time to release the money with Kogi governorship poll few days away.
“The delay will ensure that the refund is not misused so it can be delayed for only one week and after election they can get their money as it is meant for the good people of Kogi State.
“States that have done the work of the federal government should be paid. I agree they should be paid, what I don’t want is the misuse of this fund. I have the mandate of the minority to say this can wait until next week. Let’s delay for only one week, after elections then they can be paid.”
In a counter argument, Lawan explained that the state was entitled to be paid all monies it spent on the execution of federal government projects.
According to Lawan, the state was denied an approval for refund while 24 other state governments got theirs under the Eighth Senate.
“Kogi State applied for this refund in the last Senate. All the states that applied were approved here by the last Senate. Now as the Ninth Senate, we have seen the necessity and are doing justice. We have done justice to others, and we have to do justice to Kogi State. When it is done is not the matter,” he added.
The Senate eventually approved the president’s request for a refund to Kogi State government after a voice vote called by Lawan.