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Senators Rage, Summons Sanusi, Aganga, Over Comment On NASS Finances

Source: EMMA UCHE -
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ABUJA, Nov 30, (THEWILL) - Angry Senators today openly called for the head of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Sanusi Lamido Sanusi resolving to summon him to appear before a joint session of four of its standing committees.

Tempers rose on the floor as senators one after another poured umbrage on Sanusi and stood up in unison to vehemently condemn the statements credited to the CBN boss and Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga, that federal lawmakers are crippling the country's economy with their outrageous pay packets.

While Sanusi alleged last weekend that 25 per cent of the nation's total recurrent expenditure is spent on the lawmakers' upkeep, Aganga was reported to have said on Monday that the FG was considering slashing this outrageous emolument.

Contributing to a motion on urgent public importance raised by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP, Cross River) majority of the senators described the statements made by the two officials as a deliberate distortion of facts to bring the National Assembly into disrepute.

They also likened what they considered the attack on the federal legislature by members of the executive arm of government to treason and "an attempt to arrest democracy."

At the end of the heated debate which was the only business undertaken by the senators today having stood down other items on the order paper, the Senate resolved to summon the Minister and the CBN Governor to appear before four of its committees today to clarify their statements. Also to appear alongside the duo is the Special Adviser to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mrs. Amina Ibrahim who is expected to put the records straight about the award of MDG projects, which the senators said has been erroneously placed on the shoulders of the lawmakers as outrageous budget allocation to the National Assembly.

The Special Adviser to the President on Millennium Development Goals, Mrs. Amina AzZubir, was also summoned to appear to clarify the award of contracts of MDG projects in the various constituencies.

The summons was sequel to a motion brought by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) to protest the allegation credited to Sanusi that the National Assembly gulps 25 per cent of the national budget. While senators agreed on the summoning of the federal officials, there was however a division on whether they should appear before four standing committees of the Senate, which are: Appropriation, Banking, Finance and MDGs or before the joint committee. The controversy generated by the voice vote, led to a call for a division by Senator Lee Maeba, who challenged the ruling of the President of the Senate that the officials should appear before the joint committee.

A division allows senators to vote separately, answering yes or nay when their names are called with the Clerk and the President of the Senate recording all the votes. At the end of the exercise, Lee Maeba's challenge was sustained as majority of members voted yes to refer the matter to the standing committees. Maeba argued that bringing the officials before the joint committee would amount to glorifying the officials after they had brought the legislature to disrepute.

Presenting the motion, Senator Ndoma-Egba noted that allegation credited to the CBN Governor that the National Assembly was responsible for 25 per cent of the national budget was false and misleading.

According to him, it was a calculated attempt to bring the National Assembly to disrepute. Senator Bode Olajumoke, in his contribution, said that false information published in the Nigerian news media was always relayed and reviewed by international media. He said the false information had gone a long way to damage the integrity of members of the National Assembly, portraying them as "rogues."

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, blamed the misinformation on ignorance on the part of those who should be aware of the facts. Senator Patrick Osakwe, on his part, described the allegation as an issue of "calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it."

He said Sanusi and Aganga should appear before the Senate to state their sources of information, adding that the Senate and the National Assembly should no longer take the false allegations lightly anymore.

Senator Ayo Arise suggested that the Senate should take deliberate steps at informing the public on the facts by publishing in the media the status the legislature's budget as well as comparisons between the emoluments for Nigerian lawmakers and their counterparts in other parts of the world. He said 25 per cent of the budget would run into trillions, adding that if the matter was treated well, it could constitute a security problem for lawmakers who could be seen as making so much money from the National Assembly.

Senator Dahiru Umar informed the Senate that the presentation of the news on BBC Hausa Service was severe and damaging, as commentators called for the military to sack members of the National Assembly.

For Senator Anthony Manzo, the Senate should not hesitate to sack the CBN Governor if there were reasons to do so, since it has power to executive it with two-thirds majority of senators. According to him, a situation where those who were screened and approved by the Senate were always turning around to attack it should no longer be tolerated.

Spokesman of the Senate, Ayogu Eze, said the repeated publication of falsehood against the National Assembly was becoming embarrassing to families of lawmakers. He said the allegation amounted to treason, as it was calculated to bring down the National Assembly, which is the symbol of democracy.

Mark, while doing a final ruling on the motion, said no lawmaker was involved in contract awards, saying that the continued attack on members of the National Assembly was no longer acceptable.

He said: "We have said this over and over, and yet they still keep repeating it. Once they hear it, they jump at it. I think we need to invite them to explain to us on live television."