Plenary at the House of Representatives was disrupted with shouting sessions several times on Thursday during the second reading of the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation Bill, particularly the debate on the N413.36 billion emergency provision for subsidy claims.
The House stepped down its rules to first discuss the bill which was the fifth order of the day, in fulfillment of its pledge to expedite action on the bill, which passed first reading Wednesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the House, seeking authorisation for the issue of N465.6 billion from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, leading the debate, summarised the bill, and harped on the need for urgent action due to the ongoing fuel crises which could get worse if the subsidy claims are not cleared.
Other lawmakers including Hon. Zakari Mohammed (Kwara APC) and Hon. Bukar Goni (Yobe APC) spoke in favour of the bill.
But Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Abia PDP) caused a stir when she queried the timing of the bill as the 2015 fiscal year is almost over.
Several members attempted to interrupt her, but the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara ruled that she be allowed to finish her presentation.
“If this budget is passed, will they implement it? We have had issues of budget implementation,” she said.
Disruptions continued when the Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, also raised several questions with the bill. He cited the N1.5 billion appropriation for the All African Games which has already been concluded.
“We have already gone for the All African Games, which means funds have already been expended. That is extra budgetary. How can we approve funds already spent?” Ogor asked.
He described the N413.36 billion appropriation for subsidy claims as huge and urged the relevant House committees to query why so much was being spent on subsidy.
“If this government has said subsidy is alien, how come we are spending this much on subsidy,” he said.
As he continued, he was shouted down by members of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Gbajabiamila however accused Ogor of misdirecting the House.
“Let the minority leader not misdirect this House with non-facts. At no point did this government say…”
He was also shouted down by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, who refused to let him continue until the Speaker again intervened and asked he, Gbajabiamila be allowed to continue.
“It is important that when we get up to speak on the floor, we speak the truth. The President…,” he continued.
But members of the PDP shouted “no” again, when Gbajabiamila asked the minority leader to withdraw his earlier statement.
The rowdiness continued for a few minutes before Dogara intervened again. He noted that the current administration was against the removal of oil subsidy.
“I know this as a leader in this government, the president has said clearly that he is against the removal of subsidy,” he said.
Ogor made his presentation: “The voice of the government today is Lai Mohammed. Lai Mohammed has stated…”
He was not allowed to continue by the APC members who also continued their shouts of “no” despite entreaties by the chief whip, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa for order to be restored.
Dogara again reiterated that the position of the current government was not anti-subsidy. He added that the bill should not be one that would divide the House.
Despite the arguments and counter arguments, there was not a single dissenting voice, when the Speaker put the matter to voice vote.
The bill, for which debate lasted about two hours, was referred to the Committees on Appropriation and Finance for further legislative input.
In another development, the House approved the request of President Buhari on the Lagos State Development Policy Operation III under the Federal Government Borrowing Rolling Plan 2015-2017.
Lagos State has therefore received the approval to borrow a third tranche of $200 million from the World Bank.
The approval followed the request for consideration of the request by the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on the Request for Special Approval of the Lagos State Development Policy Operation III, Hon. Babangida Ibrahim.