Disagreement is brewing in the presidency as President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior special assistant on national assembly matters (senate), Senator Ita Enang, has publicly debunked the statement credited to the minister of defence, Mansur Dan-Ali that the president had given approval for the release of $1 billion (about N360 billion) from the excess crude account to fight insurgency in the northeast.
It would be recalled that Dan-Ali had on April 4, 2018 after a meeting of the security chiefs in Abuja announced that the president had approved the release of $1 billion from the ECA for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency.
“I can inform you that, of recent, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military, worth $1 billion,” Dan-Ali had stated.
But speaking in Abuja yesterday, Enang denied such authorisation saying the approval given to the federal government, by the national economic council (NEC), to spend $1 billion from the ECA is undergoing the normal legislative processes at the national assembly.
The approval was given at the 83rd NEC chaired by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Enang said the release of such money could not have been approved by president Buhari, as reported, and stressed that the president follows due process in the running of the affairs of the country.
“In response to several issues raised about the security fund sourced for at source, from the ECA, to combat security challenges in the country and the several misreading attending same, may l state as follows: the said sum has not and cannot be approved for spending by Mr. President.
“In accordance with best practices, Mr. President, having received approval of the sum from the NEC, made up of all the governors, now had a meeting with the minister of defence, service chiefs and the inspector-general of police, Ibrahim Idris, among others, to collate the need of each of the services and the money available for appropriation; Mr. President and the meeting may now present same to the federal executive council for detailed consideration, or, in exercise of presidential powers may communicate same to the national assembly for appropriation.
“This may be done, as usual, upon Mr. President consulting prior with the leadership of the national assembly, through the body of principal officers or the presiding officers of each chamber only, before originating the communication to the national assembly.
“As at now, the process of approving the money for use is inchoate and still undergoing executive standard operating procedure before laying same before the National Assembly for appropriation.
“In summary, the said sum can only be spent upon, and in the manner as shall be approved by the National Assembly, and assented to, in the Appropriation Act or Supplementary Appropriation Act,” he said.
Meanwhile, the senate will, this week take a position on the alleged approval of the release of $1 billion from the ECA to procure arms.
Daily Sun quotes the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki as saying that the national assembly was not happy about the planned release of the money.
Saraki disclosed that lawmakers were not consulted by the president before he took the decision.
“Just few days ago, the issue of providing funding for the purchase of security equipment came up.
“In a good environment, such an issue needed to have been discussed with lawmakers.
“Already, some senators are angry. They said they were not consulted by the Executive before such a decision was taken.
“These are the issues we are talking about,” said Saraki in Jos, Plateau State, at a three-day retreat organised by the senate press corps.
Beyond the $1 billion insurgency fund, the senate may also consider and take a position on Buhari’s request for approval of N4.6 trillion bonds from the capital market.
There were also indications that the senate will reject the request.
Expressing reservations about the request, Saraki disclosed that the leadership of the National Assembly was not consulted before the request letter was forwarded to them.
“Imagine the federal government wants to raise a N4.6 trillion bond from the capital market. The leadership of the National Assembly first heard about it through a letter written by the president. This is what is happening,” said Saraki.