By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- The Senate has begun probe into alleged misuse of the social intervention progrmme fund, just as it has also agreed to probe how funds allocated to fund the Subsidy Re-investment Programme during former President Goodluck Jonathan were utilized and disbursed.
Against this backdrop, the Senate yesterday set up a seven- member ad-hoc Committee to investigate both the Intervention funds and Sure- Programme and report at plenary in two weeks.
The Committee which has Senator Ibrahim Gobir, All Progressives Congress, APC, Sokoto East as Chairman, has Senators Shehu Sani, Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, Kaduna Central; Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central; Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South; GBENGA Ashafa, APC, Lagos East and Dino Melaye, PDP, Kogi West.
Resolutions of the Senate yesterday were sequel to a motion by Senate minority leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ekiti South on alleged deployment of funds under the social intervention programme to buy Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) to promote President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential election.
Meanwile, for more than fifteen Minutes Wednesday, the Senate plenary was held amidst rowdiness over the disbursement of the disbursement of the Social Intervention Fund by the Federal government.
Trouble started when Senator Biodun Olujimi who moved the motion, drew the attention of the senate to the alleged wrongful payment of the Social intervention fund as introduced by the federal government.
Olujimi who came under Order 42 (personal explanation) and prayed the Senate to investigate the matter as a matter of urgency, said that rather than pay the N10, 000 to poor Nigerians, the money has taken a political colouration as it was being paid to supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the present government was using the money to buy Voters card ahead of 2019 Presidention.
Olujimi who displayed copies of signed forms used by an alleged beneficiary of the intervention fund, however claimed that beneficiaries were made to attach their PVCs before they could benefit from the fund.
According to her, it was unfortunate that the social intervention fund created for the benefit of every Nigerian, was allegedly being manipulated to buy PVC for President Buhari’s re-election bid.
Olujimi who noted that the Upper Chamber should insist that the social intervention fund must not be used for political purposes, however described the action as the biggest way of corruption on the part of the government.
The Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan then stood up to speak, but he was interrupted with shouts from some senators which then prevented him from speaking, but he was still standing trying to speak.
As Lawan made efforts to disabuse the minds of his colleagues about any untoward use the fund, the Senate erupted with shouts of point of order.
Attempts by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to control the situation failed for a period of time as he repeatedly told his colleagues that the entire drama was unnecessary, adding that the Senate leader should be allowed to speak and that after some minutes, it would be over.
Saraki gave Senator Dino Melaye the floor to move his point of order.
Senator Dino Melaye, PDP, Kogi West then raised a point of Order, citing Order 43 that the Senate leader can not speak when the motion raised by Olujimi was yet to be seconded.
The hallowed chamber was then divided along party lines and at this point, Senator Lawan had to request for protection and to be allowed to make his points.
At this point, there was intervention from the Senate President, Saraki who asked that Lawan should be allowed to speak.
When he finally landed to speak, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan who described the allegation as completely unfounded, said, “I listened attentively to the motion by Senator Olujimi. I want to say that the social intervention programme of this administration transparent. For the first time in the history of social intervention programme in Nigeria we have proof that any where you are in Nigeria, you can apply.”
The shout of point of order continued.
At this point, Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Albert Akpan (Akwa Ibom North East) took the floor to raise Orders 49 and 55(2) where he re-iterated Melaye’s position that Saraki should first allow Olujimi’s motion to be seconded.
According to Senator Akpan, contributions in support of the motion should be taken after which those opposed to the motion should take the floor.
But Saraki at the end of the day, did not take the positions of both Melaye and Akpan as he ruled that Lawan should be allowed to conclude his contribution.
When Lawan continued his presentation, he noted that the social intervention programme of the government was computer based which made it easy for Nigerians to apply wherever they were.
Lawan who urged the Senate President to be above board and blind to the debate, said that it was on record that the social intervention programme has been the most successful in the country.
The Senate leader said, “We inherited poverty, we inherited empty treasury. This administration is working to change the system. The social intervention fund is under the office of the Vice President who has been very transparent in the implementation of the programme for the benefit of all Nigerians.”
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Lawan said that he is not against whatever the Senate wanted to do with Olujimi’s motion “but the investigation should not be turned into a political weapon.”
He reminded the Senate that Nigerians were aware that Sure-P failed, adding that Olujimi should tender the document she has while the investigation should be party blind.
The Senate adopted that prayer that the probe should be apolitical.
There was however an additional prayer by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, Senator Jibrin Barau, APC, Kano North that Sure-P under former President Goodkuck Jonathan should also be investigated, seconded by Senator Ibrahim Gobir, APC, Sokoto East and it was also carried.
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