Notwithstanding the distortion in the Senate yesterday which took most of them to the National Hospital to visit Senator Dino Melaye, Senate on Wednesday, received a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari seeking a “Supplementary Input to the 2018 Appropriation Bill on the Purchase of Supper Tucano Aircraft from the United States Government”.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, announced the receipt of the letter tagged ‘Communication from the President’
The letter dated April 13 reads in part: “It would be recalled that for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the US government for the purchase of Super Tucano aircrafts under a direct government-to-government arrangement.
“Recently, approval was finally granted by the US government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise the contract would lapse.
“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, l granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496,374,470. 00.
“This was paid directly to the treasury of the US government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of the Senate for the sum of $496,374,470. 00 (equivalent to N151, 394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
“The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a supplementary appropriation bill, in due course.
“The Minister of Defence and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details as may be required,” the letter said.
Chairman Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Sen. Matthew Uroghide who reacted to the letter said “I was taken aback by the content of the letter because I represent a people.
“I’m aware too when I came to this chamber, I subscribe to two oaths, first, the oath of allegiance and the oath as a member of the Senate.
“That oath is very clear in the 7th schedule of the Constitution. The oath of allegiance is very clear that I have sworn to uphold my allegiance to Nigeria and to the provisions of this Constitution.
“The provisions of this Constitution supersedes any other provision or any other interest that I have to express as a member of this Senate.
“This letter that you just read with due respect to the status and office of the President, I want to say that what you just read is a violation of some of the provisions of the Constitution-Section 80 (1, 2, 3, 4).
Uroghide cited the section which is on “Powers and Control over Public Funds.”
“No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the federation except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
But the senate president prevented further debate on the issue which he said HSS not been listed for discussion but just an announcement of a communication from the president.
Saraki said: “You came under privileges and you are making a point on the subject matter, fine.
“The point is, this (the letter) has come as a communication; we will have to refer it to the appropriate committee then we shall deliberate on the matter.
“We have to always be guided by the procedure. We have to ensure that we go strictly by the procedure,” Saraki added.