Rowdy Session As FG's N98.446B Virement Proposal Divides House
ABUJA, October 13, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives was today divided over federal government’s proposal of N98.446 billion virement for nine Federal Ministries forcing the leadership to step down debate on the money bill to another day.
The sitting was however characterized by rowdiness as members interrupted one another with shouts of 'no' each time a point that is not favourable to them was made.
Deputy Speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who presided over the session had a hectic time controlling the proceedings. While ruling in favour of the suspension of the debate, he said, “there is a consensus on this matter. The leader of the House and major opponents of this bill have made a consensus. The consensus is that this bill be stepped down.”
Although, his pronouncement was greeted with shouts of ‘no’ ‘no’ ‘no’ signifying dissatisfaction with the decision, he was decisive as he hit the gavel promptly.
Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola had presented the virement proposal and pleaded with his colleagues to approve it. While leading debate on the virement, the House leader told her colleagues that the virement was necessary to enable the executive address the current security challenges in the country. She explained that there was also need to give approval to the virement for some new projects to be executed by the government.
Surprisingly, the Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) was not on the same page with the leader as he rather proposed that the bill be referred to the committees on finance and appropriation to study and make appropriate recommendations to guide the House in taking decision on the proposal.
Chairman of the House committee on electoral matters, Hon. Jerry Manwe (PDP, Taraba) in opposing the bill said it was important for the House to have details of the level of implementation of the 2011 budget before delving into discussing any virement from the Executive. He argued that without details, the proposed virement should be returned to the Executive.
Chairman, committee on sports, Hon. Godfrey Gaya (PDP, Kaduna) supported the virement proposal saying, ‘if this virement is intended to address the security issues in the country we should approve it’. He was however shouted down by opponents of the bill.
Also opposing the bill, Minority Whip, Hon. Samson Osagie, (ACN, Edo) expressed disappointment with the proposal asking the wisdom behind the Executive attempting to vire money meant for instance, NAPEP to the police for purposes of security arguing that Nigerians were languishing in abject poverty and it will be foolhardy to take money meant for their welfare to the police.
Also opposing the bill, Hon. Moshood Mustapha (PDP, Kwara) advised that the virement proposal be sent back to the Executive so that they could build whatever project they intend to do in the 2012 budget instead of asking for a virement.
While opposing the bill, Chairman of the House committee on Education, Hon. Faruk Lawan averred that the virement should not be allowed to ‘see the light of day’. He argued that there was no wisdom in the Executive bringing a virement proposal in mid October when the House should be debating the 2012 appropriation bill.
“Mr. Speaker today is the 13th of October 2011 and it is expected that by now the provisions of the 2012 appropriation bill be presented to us. It is expected that MDA’s present budget performance of the 2011 budget.
“My opinion is that if the Executive designed anything it should be built in the 2012 budget and we would look at it. We should make a point and tell the Executive that they should be more responsible in implementation of the budget and must respect the House too.”
When it became clearer that the members were not in the mood to entertain the bill, the House Leader moved that the Speaker step down debate on the proposal for another day. The Deputy Speaker subsequently ruled in her favour without a voice vote.
Meanwhile, the House desolved into an executive session shortly after suspending debate on the bill. Although, details of what transpired at the closed door session were sketchy, our correspondent gathered that the leadership of the House lobbied the lawmakers to consider voting in support of the virement.
THEWILL however gathered that members at the meeting told the Deputy Speaker plainly that they will not be part of any virement at this time of the year.