The Senate Wednesday announced plans to consult with the House of Representatives on the way out of the logjam over President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) Bill 2021.
The position came as a sharp contrast to the earlier threat by Senators George Sekibo, Mathew Urhoghide and some others who pleaded anonymity, to override Buhari’s veto.
The aggrieved lawmakers had Tuesday said the Senate would move against the president’s decision by gathering signatures to override the president.
In fact, reports said over 70 signatures had already been gathered as at Tuesday.
President Buhari had in a letter dated December 13, 2021, explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the president, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.
However, after about 40 minutes of closed-door session, the Senate made a face- saving move by resolving to consult with the Green Chamber and their constituents before taking any action on issues raised by President Buhari in the rejected bill.
Announcing the resolutions taken at the meeting, President of the Senate Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan said: “The Senate in the closed session discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment.
“But provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not permit the upper chamber to exclusively take any action on such matters in the absence of the House of Representatives, since the latter has embarked on recess.
“The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January when both the Senate and House will be in session.
“Presently, the House of Reps has gone on recess and like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the Senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action.
“The Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January. The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile,Senate President Lawan has said the National Assembly would today (Thursday) transmit the 2022 budget passed by both chambers to President Buhari for assent into law.
Lawan gave the hint Wednesday in his remarks moments before the chamber proceeded on recess.
He said the timely assent of the 2022 Appropriations Bill into law would ensure the commencement of its implementation by January next year.
The lawmaker added that businesses operating in the country as well as the economy stand to be impacted positively by the timely passage of the nation’s budget.
Ahmad said:“For the 2022 Appropriation Bill, we are expecting that the bill will be cleaned up between today and tomorrow, and we hope that by tomorrow, the bill will be sent to Mr. President for his assent.
“(And) we are very optimistic that Mr. President will assent to the bill, like he did for 2020 and 2021, so that by January 2022, the implementation of the budget 2022 will commence by the grace of God.
“We have seen the benefits of passing and assenting to the budget in good time, especially when we had to fight COVID-19.
“The consequence of the implementation of the budget in 2021 and 2020 was very clear. For us to come out of the recession that we found ourselves in the previous period, we must have had the fortune of passing the budget and getting Mr. President to sign in time.
“So, we believe that the economy of Nigeria and Nigerian businesses especially, will continue to benefit from the passage of the appropriation bills in time and the assent by Mr. President, accordingly.
“We wish to make it clear that our desire is to provide legislations for the peace, order and good government of our country.”
On 1999 Constitution
Senate President Ahmad further hinted that the chamber would consider the report of the Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution as soon as it is presented early next year.
“When we return, we have one major legislation that has not been attended to at all as a chamber, and that is the constitutional amendments.
“Our Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution has been doing its work. But as a chamber, we haven’t finished working on it.
“We are expectant that our Committee on the review of the constitution will be presenting the report to this chamber as soon as we resume. The committee has done so much, and the report is almost ready.
“When we harmonise with our colleagues in the House, we should be able to vote on the issues that will particularly bring about peace, unity and good government in our country, before such bill will be sent to the State Houses of Assembly for concurrence.
“On the whole, we must thank Almighty God that almost all those major items we reflected in our legislative agenda as a chamber has been attended to”, he added.
He reminded his colleagues of the role of the Senate as an institution to stabilise the polity, particularly against the backdrop of issues likely to surface ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Next year, by the grace of God, will be the last lap of our tenure. So, we have a lot to ensure that we finish all the things that we have pencilled down for ourselves and, of course, there are many other issues that from time to time will be coming up in our polity.
“This Senate is supposed to play that role of stabilizing the polity in Nigeria.
“(And) I daresay, that the members of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, is a stabilising institution in the polity of Nigeria.”, he stressed.
Earlier, the Senate had passed an aggregate expenditure of N17, 126,873,917,692 trillion naira as budget for the 2022 fiscal year.
The passage followed the consideration of a report by the Appropriations Committee on the 2022 Appropriations Bill.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, said the revenue projection for the 2022 budget was predicated on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper approved by the National Assembly.
Barau recalled that the National Assembly had approved 1.88mbpd daily oil production and US$62 as against $US57 proposed by the executive arm of government.
He explained that the increase in oil price Benchmark from US$57 to US$62 was done to reflect the current market value in the international market.
Jibrin added that the exchange rate was pegged at N410.15/US$1, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Rate at 4.2 and Inflation Rate at 13 percent.
The lawmaker explained that out of the N17,126,873,917,692 passed, N869,667,187,542 is for Statutory Transfer; N6,909,849,788,737 is for Recurrent Expenditure; N5,467,403,959,863 is for Capital Expenditure; and N3,879,952,981,550 is for Debt Service.
The committee in its recommendations stated that additional revenues discovered should be provided to the Works and Housing Ministry for funding of critical projects, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for the 2023 General Elections, Defence and the National Population Commission for the 2022 Population Census.
It added also that N98 billion increase in deficit should be approved to take care of some of the additional requests from the executive arm of government.
A breakdown of recurrent expenditure shows that N61,079,757,342 was budgeted for the Presidency in 2022, N996,09 1,292,618 for Defence, N79,243,483,198 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N55,796,274,038 for Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, N257,626,461,524 for Ministry of Interior, N7,919,353,247 for Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, and N4,476,854,068 for the Auditor General for the Federation.
While the Federal Ministry of Police Affairs received N518,532,292,470, the Ministry of a communications and Digital Economy got N23,387,996,618, National Security Adviser – N155,820,2 14,009, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission – N1,344,674,257, Secretary to the Government of the Federation – N62,575,420,244, Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs – N4,439,614,685, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development – N75,544,228,649, and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning – N28,604, 104,969.
In addition, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment received N17,966,745,438, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment – N14,453,726,978, Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation – N49,683,523,165, Federal Ministry of Transport – N15,892,132,819, Federal Ministry of Aviation – N7,692,548,460, Federal Ministry of Power – N6,262,156,943, and Ministry of Petroleum Resources – N30,502,257, 191.
Also, N12,038,392,758 was budgeted for the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, N31,935,604,197 for Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, N870,534,226 for National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, N456,245,928 for Fiscal Responsibility Commission, N10,669,058,320 for Federal Ministry of Water Resources, N26,761,780,448 for Federal Ministry of Justice, and N11,655,253,717 for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission.
Others are Federal Capital Territory Administration – Nil, Federal Ministry of Niger Delta – N2,569,680,304, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development – N185,489,102,966, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs – N2,103,758,084, Federal Ministry of Education – N593,473,925,256, Federal Ministry of Health – N462,858,698,619, Federal Ministry of Environment – N22,796,647,842, National Population Commission – N8,880,618,082, and Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development – N7,669,972,542.
Other Executive bodies such as the Federal Code of Conduct Bureau received N2,343,845,401, Code of Conduct Tribunal – N830,910,644, Federal Character Commission – N3,272,871,999, Federal Civil Service Commission – N1,217,473,478, Police Service Commission – N926,505,919, and Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission – N2,337,230,632.
The Senate, after passing the 2022 budget, adjourned plenary till January 18, 2022 for the Christmas break.