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Senate heads for another showdown with Presidency

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Saraki must go – Akpabio

LESS than two weeks after Senate’s resumption, the assumption that the row between Presidency and the legislators is now in doubt, with claims that Aso Rock and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) sheathed their swords over their avowed removal of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have turned false as both sides and the Senate have returned to the trenches in the frosty relationship between the two arms of government.

On Tuesday, resolution by Senate to probe Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for managing $3.8 billion exclusively without appropriation by National Assembly sparked off latest round of hostility between the two arms with senators spoiling for a showdown across party divides.

According to Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi whose contribution in plenary on point of order led to the resolution, the gale of secrecy shrouding NNPC accounting system on fuel subsidy allocations does not redound to the on-going anti-corruption crusade.

“Right now, the fund is being managed quietly without appropriation of any known law. Nobody is talking about us – Nigeria, paying subsidy. But we know that subsidy is being paid in one form or another but being covered in recovery rather than subsidy. It was also gathered that this slush fund has long been in the custody of the NNPC management without being coached well before the public.

So, the NNPC management should come to explain what the money has been used for and whether or not it has been used in paying subsidy,” Olujimi said.

However, in a swift reaction, NNPC has stopped short of alleging witch hunt to deny having received $3.5billion as subsidy fund, saying it got $1.05 billion instead which it domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as “revolving fund” earmarked for stability in fuel supply.

Spokesperson of NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, said the development was aimed at meeting a directive of the National Assembly which  instructed NNPC to find all ways possible and resolve the fuel supply crisis in the country late last year. He wondered why this would lead to a probe, adding that “whoever has an axe to grind with anyone should not use NNPC as cannon fodder.”

Yet another twist resurfaced in the uneasy calm in executive, legislative relationship, with the Upper Chamber erupting in uproar when Saraki refused to recognise former Minority Senate Leader, Godswill Akpabio.

Some senators alleged that Saraki’s refusal to allow Akpabio contribute to a point of order raised by Sen. Bassey Akpan was part of a grand design to get at Akpabio’s “principal” even though the senate president said his action stemmed by Akpabio’s choice of breaking the sitting arrangement in the chamber.

A source said that not only did Saraki incur the wrath of All progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the senate, leading to a division in which Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan stoutly defended Akpabio, but another showdown looms ahead of next week plenary in which Presidency may be dragged into the fray.

But Akpabio did not hesitate to advise Saraki to honourably resign or be forced out of office in a press conference he held after senate plenary sitting.

Calling Saraki to cue from him, he said that Saraki should borrow a leaf from him as a former minority leader who honourably resigned his position when he defected from PDP to APC to pave way for PDP to elect their minority leader, adding that it was a norm the world over that when a lawmaker resigns from his former political party, he relinquishes his office to allow the majority party form their leadership.

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