Funding not a Threat to 2019 Poll – Dogara
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, said on Tuesday that funding would not be a threat to the 2019 polls.
Dogara spoke in Abuja soon after members resumed from their annual recess and conclusion of political party primaries ahead of the polls.
However, the House quickly suspended sitting and adjourned till Wednesday (today) in honour of the late Funke Adedoyin.
Adedoyin, who represented Kwara State, had died on September 28 at the age of 54. The House, in keeping with tradition, suspended legislative activities to honour her.
Dogara, who spoke with reporters immediately the House adjourned, stated that the pending N143bn budget proposed for the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct the polls would be given expeditious consideration by lawmakers as they settled down for business.
The Speaker explained that a delay in the passage of the budget would not have affected the elections because the 2018 budget had a Service Wide Vote provision of N300bn, which the Federal Government could draw from to conduct the elections in the absence of the INEC budget.
However, he gave the assurance that now that the members were back to work, they would work on the budget and pass it within one week of receiving reports from the Committee on Appropriations.
Dogara stated that the controversial Electoral Act (amendment) Bill returned by President Muhammadu Buhari would also be speedily attended to by the legislature.
He spoke more, “We are here to serve the public good. These issues (INEC budget, electoral bill) are outstanding and we know funding was never going to be a threat anyway as insinuated.”
“We showed that we have in the budget a provision for Service Wide Vote which is about N300bn and whatever was the emergency could have been met from that service-wide fund that we have allocated in the budget.”
“But, as we are back now, we will set ourselves to accomplish what is there in the interest of our people even if it means within a day or two. We have done that in the area of ease of doing business. There were times within a week that we concluded the first, second and third reading of a bill and passed it into law just because there was a need for us to expand the economic space for participation of citizens in job creation, wealth creation and in rebuilding the economy especially in the wake of the economic recession in this country. So, nothing is impossible.”
“I can assure you that as soon as we have the report from the committees, probably within the week, in no time, we should be able to deal with these issues relating to elections.”
“Whether it is the electoral act, funding for INEC; we will ensure that appropriate funding levels are approved for INEC and the electoral act is passed in no time. Even if it means doing it within a day, we are committed to doing it because the key thing that guarantees democracy is fair, transparent and credible elections and we will not joke with it as politicians.”
The speaker, who also made a comment on the just-concluded primaries, described the outcome as “so far so good as far as I am concerned.”
Dogara spoke just as a senior All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Borno State, Mr. Mohammed Monguno, advised the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Dogara to resign “honourably”, having defected to the minority PDP.
Monguno, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Agricultural Services, added that without the two-thirds majority, the APC would be embarking on a futile exercise by contemplating the impeachment of Saraki and Dogara.
“My only advice is for the Senate President and the Speaker to honourably resign based on moral persuasion. But with regard to the constitution, we need a two-thirds majority to remove them and if APC can muster that majority, I wish APC, my party, good luck,” he said.
On current standing, the APC has 192 lawmakers in the House, while the PDP has 156 members. APGA has five members, while the balance of seven is shared by smaller parties.
By constitutional provision, the ruling party needs to have 240 members (two-thirds) out of the total of 360, to successfully remove the Speaker.
In the Senate, the APC needs 73 out of the 109 senators to remove Saraki, but on current standing, has 55 senators (including the two about to be inaugurated).
On the other side, PDP has 50 senators; APGA, two; and ADC two.
On his part, a PDP member from Edo State, Mr. Sergius Ose-Ogun, argued that seeking to remove the leadership of the National Assembly was a tough call since none of the parties alone could secure the mandatory two-thirds majority vote.
The Senate also resumed on Tuesday from its annual recess with a large turnout of senators. The atmosphere was calm throughout the over one hour that the lawmakers were in plenary.
Shortly after President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, entered the chamber in company with the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and other principal officers, he called for a closed-door session which lasted 20 minutes.
The chamber returned from the executive session with Saraki reading 16 letters from President Muhammadu Buhari to the members.
The executive communications included those seeking confirmation of appointments and legislative approval for budgets, as well as those in which the President expressed his decisions to withdraw assent to 11 bills passed by the National Assembly.
In another letter, the President requested for the resolutions of the National Assembly for “the implementation of the new external capital raising of $2.786bn from the International Capital Market approved in the 2018 Appropriations Act; and the External Capital Raising of $82.54m to refinance the balance of $500m matured Eurobond in the International Capital Market.”
The statutory budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission for 2018 totalling N346.5bn was also presented to the lawmakers in a separate letter for consideration and approval.
Meanwhile, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti-South) took the seat of the Minority Leader at the chamber on Tuesday.
Shortly before his defection from the opposition PDP to the ruling APC, Senator Godswill Akpabio had resigned as Minority Leader.
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