President Muhammadu Buhari has sought the approval of the Senate for the reimbursement of N148bn to five states for road projects carried out on behalf of the Federal Government.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, read this in a letter addressed to the Senate at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday where he expressed concerns over waves of insecurity in the country.
The breakdown of the money is Bayelsa – N38.4bn, Cross-River -N18.39bn, Ondo -N7.82bn, Osun -N4.56bn and Rivers -N78.95bn.
Lawan also read a letter from the president seeking confirmation of eight Justices of the Court of Appeal for elevation to the Supreme Court.
They are Lawal Garba (North West), Helen Ogunwumiju (South West), Abdu Aboki (North West), M M Saulawa (North West) Adamu Jauro (North East), Smuel Oseji (South-South), Tijani Abubakar (North East) and Emmanuel Agim (South South).
In his opening remarks, Lawan lamented that Nigeria was confronted with over $14bn revenue gap due to lack internally generated revenue worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also assured of necessary amendment of the constitution and passage of the Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill 2020.
He also revealed that the senate would receive the 2021 budget from the presidency next week.
He said, “The Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted our budgetary plans, requiring the review of the 2020 Budget. We must carry out oversights to ensure that the revised 2020 Budget is properly implemented.
“The oversights are even more imperative as the Revised 2020 Budget is targeted at addressing the specific challenges occasioned by COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The Senate needs to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan. This strategic Plan is an essential means of revamping our economy, as it provides interventions in the Mass Agricultural Programme, Infrastructure, Mass Housing Programme, Investments in Healthcare Infrastructure, amongst others.
“We were confronted with an over $14billion revenue gap and the grim reality of an unwholesome overdependence on Oil. We cannot overemphasize the need to focus on other important sectors like Agriculture, Solid Minerals, and Steel Development and manufacturing, with a view to diversifying our economy.
“We need to work with relevant stakeholders to prevent our economy going into a recession, stimulate the economy, save and create more jobs through a sustainable multiplier effect.”
Lawan commended the senators for sacrificing 50℅ of their salaries in the fight against the pandemic.
“The pandemic is still very much with us. We therefore need to continue to work with the health authorities in the education, enlightenment and sensitization of our people, on the need to observe the protocols established by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and other relevant authorities.”
The senate president while commending the PTF and health workers for the fight against COVID-19, he praised his colleagues for embarking on oversight functions despite the pandemic.
He described it as a precursor to the next week presentation of the 2021 budget by the president.
“I am aware that the Executive will be presenting the 2021 Budget Estimates by next week,” he said.
Lawan said the senate would begin budget defense for MDAs from October while November and December would be dedicated to the internal processing of the budget by the National Assembly.
“The various MDAs are therefore advised to ensure that they avail themselves the opportunity of the budget defense window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their Budget Estimates,” he said.
Lawan stressed the need for continuous review of the 1999 Constitution as amended in order to improve the quality of governance and ensure stability in our polity.
He stated that the Committee on the Review of the Constitution had already invited memoranda from citizens and organisations.
“The Senate will ensure speedy work on the review exercise. Also the Electoral Reform Amendment Bills will be treated with despatch. We must ensure that we make amendments that will enhance free, fair, transparent and credible elections in our country,” he said.
Lawan lamented the security challenges confronting the nation, promising the support of the Senate on interventions that could make the nation safe.
“Distinguished Colleagues, the security situation in our country is not what we want it to be. We want a security situation that guarantees protection of lives and property of citizens.
“Today, our country is bedevilled by multifaceted security challenges. We therefore need to continously seek enduring measures to arrest the situation. In this regard, the Senate will continue to provide the necessary legislative intervention at all times to improve the situation. There can never be any more important government function than the protection of lives and property of it’s citizens,” he said.