Senate stops $1bn Boko Haram fund

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Moves by the Federal Government to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fund the war against insurgency in the North East and other security concerns across the country, yesterday, caused a row on the floor of the Senate.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, however, assured that the  money will not be spent until the Senate considers the processes involved.

Trouble started when Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, drew the attention of lawmakers to the fact that yesterday’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.

Sam Anyanwu had on Wednesday, drawn the attention of his colleagues to the fact that the planned withdrawal of the sum had become a matter of urgent national importance and demanded for a serious debate. He asked the Senate to allow him sponsor a proper motion on the matter for debate the following day which was supposed to be Yesterday.

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

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.

The announcement caused rowdiness, mostly from PDP Senators, as the next legislative day will unavoidably be in 2018.

They raised the fear that the fund would have been withdrawn and spent before it would be slated for consideration.

The Senate President, however, doused their fear by them assurance that the funds would not be spent without Senate consideration.

“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,” he said even as 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.

Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki had on December 14, announced the decision of the National Economic Council (NEC) to spend $1 billion from the ECA to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east region.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday explained that the funds would be used to execute the Boko Haram war as well as address other security concerns across Nigeria.

There has been debate on whether the National Assembly’s permission is needed before such expenditure with some like the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, arguing that it was not necessary.

Meanwhile, the Action Democratic Party (ADP), has described the over $1bn earmarked for insurgency war as a broad day robbery, adding that there is no Boko Haram to fight.

In a chat with Daily Sun, chairman of ADP, Yusuf Sani claimed the money was budgeted to gag opposition ahead of the 2019 general election.

“We know that there is no insurgency to combat. It is a case of robbing the people at the highest level of governance. The APC government knows that they haven’t done anything, so they want to rob the citizenry of their free choice.

“This government is much more corrupt. In fact, corruption is endemic. It took this administration almost two years to accept that the SGF duped the federation. And they have still refused to allow the EFCC take up the case.

“They want to bastardise the system more than what we have seen before. Even the 2017 budget suffered setback.”

Sani charged the Federal Government to be transparent in its dealings.

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