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War in APC over Buhari’s N30 trillion Ways & Means

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War in APC over Buhari's N30 trillion Ways & Means

…as President Tinubu’s faction seek probe

Signs that the All Progressives Congress, APC, may be experiencing internal convulsions surfaced when the current administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu decided to muster up courage to investigate what and how and who were responsible for the current economic malaise that country is going through.

Although, the probe, which focused on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and its former governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, indications emerged on Tuesday February 20, on the floor of the Senate, that all may not be well with the ruling party, when the factions took opposite positions on the matter.

There was almost a stand-off between the Senate president, Godswill Akpabio and his immediate predecessor, Ahmed Lawan, as the matter was being debated by the upper house. While Akpabio wanted the issue throw open for further discussion by members, Lawan insisted that the matter has been closed and should be forgotten. Nigerians were scandalized by such arrogance and impunity.

Tinubu had decided to set up the Presidential Investigative Team to look into past financial transactions in the CBN under Jim Osayande Obazee,
the former Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN).

Many analysts at that time interpreted the move by the new government as the beginning of schism in the ruling party, since a look at CBN books will invariably implicate the former president Muhammadu Buhari and his cabinet.

The probe as predicted turned out to be an opening of Buhari’s Pandora box, which allegedly brought to the fore a lot of financial impropriety against the past administration.

“Now, I can tell you that the Obazee probe panel showed that Tinubu’s government was not going to take the blame for a comatose economy, so he decided to set up the panel so that Nigerians can know the source of the shoes that pinched them came from”, Prof. Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, told Business Hallmark. He stated that both the executive and legislative arms of the current administration have been at the lacerating end over the state of the economy, and this may have forced the Senate to this action of indirectly probing the Buhari administration for causing grievous economic harm to the country.

However, Senators on Tuesday, set up an ad hoc committee to look into the books of the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari over the N30 trillion Ways and Means Loans Advances from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was approved by the Ninth National Assembly.

The federal lawmakers believed, the current economic challenges the country is facing with unprecedented hardships on Nigerians have to do with the way the Buhari administration ran the economy aground. The Senators bemoaned Nigeria’s current social and economic crises , laying the blame squarely on the borrowing culture of the Buhari’s administration, which they described as reckless and irresponsible.

The Senate voiced their anger and disapproval during a debate on the report of the Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance & Other Financial Institutions (BIOFI) Finance; National Planning; Agriculture and Appropriation. The panel’s report was an offshoot of its members’ interaction with the federal government’s Economic Management Team on the state of the economy, which took place last week.

Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, Chairman of the Joint Committee, who forwarded the report stated that the Ways& Means loan was one of the chief factors that led to the current economic hardship. Abdullahi, a Peoples Democratic Party senator representing Kebbi North, advised the federal government to settle the N30 trillion debt in order to reduce money supply. He implored the CBN to make sure that beneficiaries of various intervention programmes, amounting to N10 trillion, who refused to utilise the funds judiciously, should refund the monies appropriated to them.

The Committee in its report frowned at monetary policy under Buhari, especially the W&Ms Advances, which it maintained instigated the current inflationary pressures on the nation’s economy.

At the plenary, the Senators took turn to debate the report and picked holes at the reckless financial malfeasance under Buhari. The red chamber adoption of the joint panel’s report led to a resolution to set up an ad hoc committee to carry out investigation into what the N30 trillion W&Ms were spent on by the immediate past government since details of such spendings were, allegedly deliberately, not made available to the National Assembly.

The adhoc committee, which was constituted on Wednesday would also probe the N10 trillion expended on the Anchor Borrowers Programme. Part of its remit was also to take a critical look at the $2.4billion forex transaction out of $7 billion obligation made for that purpose as well as other intervention programmes.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Ali Ndume, who led the charge in attacking Buhari, in his own contribution, stated that details of the W&Ms Advances were not presented to the Ninth National Assembly for proper scrutiny.

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He referred his colleagues to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states that the National Assembly has no power to review expenditures made after approval, by ministries, agencies and departments of government.

He said, “Mr President, I was not part of the plenary that gave the nod for Ways and Means but the detail of funds spent were not provided. This is illegal.”

Deputy Senate President, Barau Jibrin, who incidentally was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation in the Ninth Senate, corroborated Ndume’s submissions. He said, “It was approved for emergency, when they were brought, it was due to emergency.

“They told us that it was urgent. We said we are going to pass it but that they must bring the details, which they never did.”

But the immediate past President of the Senate, who presided over the Ninth Senate, Ahmad Lawan, disagreed with his colleagues on aspects of the submission of the report. Lawan, it would be recalled led the National Assembly to approve the alleged illegal expenditures. He voiced strong reservations about the lawmakers’ decision to investigate the Ways and Means Advances.

He stated that the Senate under his leadership approved N22 trillion, not N30 trillion, which the report of joint 10th Senate Committee stated.

The former Senate President claimed that the probe of the Ways and Means advances would not serve any useful purpose, and insisted that what was paramount in the minds of Nigerians was how to put food on their table.

“If we have a ways and means that is N30 trillion today, that means something happened between then and now and it is for the National Assembly to find out what happened,” Lawan said.

He, however, urged his senator- colleagues to conduct investigation into the approval and disbursement of funds and execution of projects under the ways and means advances.

“If there were expenditures done wrongfully in contradiction to the provision of the constitution, the National Assembly could look at the expenditures and if sanctions were needed for unlawful, wrong or unauthorised expenditures, the National assembly can provide the sanctions.

“Nobody in this chamber should suggest that we should not look into anything that we feel is in the public interest but let me say this very clearly, what Nigerians want today is food and security. How are we going to provide food for Nigerians and protect their lives,” he added.

Akpabio, however, noted that the nation was experiencing economic challenges because of illegal financial transactions undertaken by the previous administrations. He said, “We are where we are today as a result of illegal things and I think it is necessary that details of Ways and Means be provided.”

This probe may have quietly caused discontent in the unity of APC as a ruling party.

Prof. Eniola Abereoran, a political economist, told Business Hallmark that “CPC arm of the ruling party is not happy about this probe. One of them is the former Senate President Ahmad Lawan. But, of course, it’s not all of them that will go Lawan way, as shown in Ali Ndume, who is also of CPC stock. Ali is independent-minded. The general consensus in the Senate is that Buhari is responsible for the economic challenges, and that it is unfair to wholly blame Tinubu. ”

Seyi Odetola, London-based public affairs analyst and entrepreneur, told Business Hallmark that “it’s good that the Senate has woken up from its slumber to say the truth. Of course, they had no choice because the heat from Nigerians is on it too.

“The party was definitely going to bust at the seams because Buhari ran the country to the bottom, and there is no way the current administration can continue to cover him because of anger of Nigerians, who are passing through hardships as a result of the mismanagement of the economy under Buhari. Though Tinubu’s hasty removal of subsidy without well laid out palliative measure created another problem.”

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