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Senate rejects CBN withdrawal limit, threatens 100 agencies with zero  budget allocations 

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The Senate Wednesday threatened 100 federal government owned agencies with zero budget allocation in 2023  for not  honouring invitations of its committee on Public Accounts for explanations on service wide vote expenditure from 2017 to 2021.

The red chamber also kicked against plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to limit cash withdrawal by any individual to N100,000 and corporate bodies to N500,000 per week from January 9, 2023.

Hammer of the Senate on the affected 100 agencies which include the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry  of Finance, Nigerian  Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, etc, was sequel to complaint lodged against them by the Chairman  Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Mathew Urhoghide (Edo South).

Urhoghide had through orders  42 and 95 of the Senate Standing Rules, rose to complain on alleged recalcitrance of heads of the affected agencies to honour invitations sent to them by his committee for required appearance before it for explanations on service wide vote given to them by the Presidency totaling N1.9 trillion.

Service Wide Vote according to him, is extra budgetary spending made to fill shortfalls in capital and recurrent expenditures, which are not audited by the Auditor General for the Federation and not known to various standing committees of the National Assembly.

Urhoghide who hinged his complaints on provisions of sections 62, 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), said heads of the affected agencies failed to honour several invitations sent to them to make required explanations on service wide vote spending from 2017 to 2021.

He said the affected agencies were also those who refused to appear before the committee to answer queries slammed on them by the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged financial infractions.

“Mr. President, heads of agencies totaling about 100,  indicted in various  reports forwarded to the Public Account Committee  by Office of  Accountant General for the Federation on disbursements and spending of Service Wide Vote from 2017 to 2021, in line with provisions of sections 62, 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, have repeatedly failed to appear before us.

“This to us, is against the Constitution and policy of accountability and transparency of the federal government.

“I crave your indulgence that we invite through your order either by way of warrant of arrest or anything so that these agencies can come so that we can complete our report and submit to this Senate”, he said.

Miffed by the submission, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan , requested for the list of the affected agencies, read them out to all senators and ordered that they should appear before the committee within one week or risk zero budget allocation in 2023 as far as capital expenditure component is concerned.

“Your point of order are sustained fully and completely, you are right on the dot to bring to the plenary your grievances.

“Reading this list at plenary,  gives the agencies opportunity to now know if they were not aware before for those that may claim ignorance and I am taking the opportunity here to advise that in the next one week, if the name of any agency is here that agency should reach the committee on public account of the Senate to sort out when the agency would appear before the committee.

“If there is no communication whatsoever and no cogent and verifiable reason are given, we will slash the budget of the agencies as far as capital component is concerned.

“Heads of the affected agencies must take this very seriously because any serving  public officer must be ready to render accounts  on public funds and if not ready to do so, should quit, since nobody should be above the law”, he thundered.

Other affected agencies aside ones earlier mentioned are: Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Interior,  Budget Office of the Federation, Nigeria Bulk Electricity  Trading Plc, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Emergency Management Agency, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps , Ministry of Defence and Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs.

Others are Ministry of Petroleum Resources,  National Inland Water Ways  Authority  Lokoja ,  Federal Ministry of Health, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Civil Service Commission,  Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority, National Health Insurance Scheme, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy,  Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sport Development, Ministry of Environment,  Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Revenue Mobilization Allocation Fiscal Commission, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nigeria Defence Academy, National Human Rights Commission, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control,  National Security Adviser, etc.

Trouble for the planned N100,000 withdrawal per person per week came through an attempted motion by Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda (FCT).

Senator Aduda in the aborted motion sought for debate from all senators on the planned policy before the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan intercepted him that it was too early to debate the policy.

However, Lawan in stopping him said “as good as the cashless policy may be, it shouldn’t be jumped at, at once.

“The way CBN is going about the policy, many Nigerians would be cut off and that won’t be accepted.

“Motion on the policy will be thoroughly debated in Senate on Tuesday next week after adequate information has been gotten on it.

“Before Tuesday next week, our committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions mandated to screen the re-appointed Deputy Governors of Central Bank should focus its questions on the planned policy.

“The CBN Deputy Governors must be thoroughly drilled on the policy after which extensive debate on it will be made by senators on Tuesday next week”, he said.

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