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Protest in Senate over $1bn insurgency fund

Moves by the Federal Government to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to fund the war against insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country, on Thursday, caused a protest on the floor of the Senate.

Senators expressed disappointment that the leadership refused to open a debate on the contentious proposal.

Senate President Bukola Saraki almost could not persuade his colleagues that the Senate would debate the matter upon resumption from Christmas and New Year recess.

For over one minute, Saraki’s appeal was rejected. Lawmakers grumbled in an apparent display of disapproval.

Trouble started when the Deputy Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, drew the attention lawmakers to the fact that Thursday’s Senate Order Paper did not list a motion on the $1 billion, despite the fact that the Senate had, on Wednesday, agreed to debate it, on Wednesday.

Sen. Sam Anyanwu had, on Wednesday, drawn the attention of his colleagues to the fact that the planned withdrawal of $1 billion had become a matter of urgent national importance. He had demanded for a serious debate by the upper chamber.

He asked the Senate to allow him sponsor a proper motion on the matter for debate the following day which was supposed to be on Yesterday.

Shortly after Ekweremadu raised the matter, many lawmakers started agitating and wanted a positive response from Saraki.

On noticing the mood of his colleagues, Saraki made frantic attempts to explain why the motion could not be taken.

Saraki did not explain why the motion was not on the Order Paper, but stated that the fact that Anyanwu was not in the chamber made it difficult for the debate to commence.

His explanation failed to stop the push as the grumblings grew thicker. Saraki thereafter opted for another means. On a lighter mood, he said his present political party would not agree that monies be spent without due process.

He assured senators that immediately the Senate returns from the New Year holiday, a debate would be opened on the motion.

Saraki said: “This matter should have come up today (yesterday) but Sen. Sam Anyanwu was not able to present his paper today. He sought for more time and I agreed with him that it will be taken care of in the next legislative day.

“No, no, no, no. As you can see he is not here. And unfortunately, we have put it down. (Murmur from senators). Our next legislative day is…. When we resume, it will be the first item on the Order Paper (more jeers from Senators).

“He (Anyanwu) is not here. We cannot take it when the person who moved it is not here. And it is a very important motion that needs to be delivered very well. It cannot be delegated.

“We are pushing for the next legislative day but we will take it. I can assure you that we will take it. I give you assurance that we will take it (jeers from PDP Senators continued).

Realising that Senators were insisting, Saraki added: “No no, no, no, no. Our party does not do things like that. We will not spend money that does not follow due process. I am assuring you that that money will not be spent until we come back here and debate it.”

Curiously, Anyanwu who was said to have been absent, resurfaced shortly after the Senate adjourned session till January 16, 2018 to attend a committee meeting without a word on why he stayed away from the chamber to present his motion.

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