Senate spokesman Dr Ajibola Basiru on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that senators and members of the House of Representatives may not be able to sit for the mandatory minimum of 180 days due to the National Assembly’s cash crunch.
He explained that the speculation was inappropriate because lawmakers were not paid a sitting allowance to attend the plenary sessions.
Basiru said this while speaking to reporters in Abuja. He was responding to an article published by the national daily (not the PUNCH) that the legislature resorted to holding plenary sessions once a week due to financial constraints.
He assured Nigerians that the National Assembly would meet the constitutional 180 sitting days this year just as it achieved it last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Basiru said, “We are in the 9th of March and we have a 12-month calendar. There is nothing that says we won’t sit for 180 days.
“It is therefore irresponsible for anybody to insinuate that we would not sit for 180 days.
“Those who are saying we won’t achieve the mandatory 180 days sitting are just creating unnecessary tension where there is none.
“Nobody can predict that we won’t sit for 180 days, it is too early in the year to determine that. Despite last year’s lockdown, we achieved our mandatory 180 days’ sitting.
“There was no circular that we have reduced sitting to once in a week. We have been having sitting three times a week since the beginning of this year at the Senate.
“We have also had sitting twice a week. There is a second wave of covid – 19 pandemic. We are very brisk in our business these days. When it was necessary, we had had occasions to sit on a Monday this year.
“The issue of cash crunch hitting the National Assembly is the figment of the imagination of the writers. Sitting at plenary does not require money. It just requires printing of order papers. We are not collecting sitting allowances.
“There are no pecuniary financial requirements for us to sit. I don’t see how finance can hinder our sitting. We are not collecting sitting allowance; we only collect salaries at the end of the month.
“We are in March and all our February salaries have been paid. The only thing we need during plenaries are printing of reports and the Committee on Business and Rules which is being adequately funded by the management is handling that.
“We are merely observing COVID-19 health and safety protocols and we won’t do anything that would be hazardous to the health of our members. We have never amended our rules to sit once per week.”
“It is totally wrong to say that the National Assembly is relying on the ministries, departments and agencies to fund its committee works.
“The National Assembly does not rely on the MDAs to fund our activities. We have budget for our committees and oversight.”