The House of Representatives yesterday did a surprising volte-face to pass the controversial N98.4 billion virement requested by President Goodluck Jonathan,.
The House had stood the virement down on October 30 on the premise that it was fraudulent, coming just a few months to the end of the fiscal year.
However, the bill hurriedly passed through second reading on the floor of the House after a one hour closed session by the members amid allegations that the lawmakers received N2 billion from the Presidency to pass it.
The leadership of the House of Representatives, however, denied the collection of a N2 billion bribe to smoothen the passage of the N98.4billion virement for nine ministries.
Speaker AminuTambuwal, announced after the Executive session that security issues were discussed at the closed door session.
After the virement proposal was presented by House Leader Mulikat Adeola, it passed through second reading with all the members, who had opposed the proposal backing its passage.
Some of the aggrieved lawmakers during the previous presentation of the virement request had kicked against the debate on the 27-page proposal, which showed the virement of contentious money appropriated in the 2011 Appropriation Act in the document generated by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
These include N25,676,910 for maintenance of horses; N29,068,200 for maintenance of dogs; N10,658,340 for maintenance of the Police Band; N995,524,472 for fuelling of motor vehicles, with additional N1.08 billion for vehicle/transport; N945,540,000 for local travel and transport; N484.47 million for electricity bill; N1.944 billion for uniforms and other clothing as well as N520.33 million for stationery/computer consumables and N137.394 million for food stuff/catering material supplies in the Police budget.
President Jonathan, in a letter sent to the Speaker, explained that the virement will help focus on some key priority areas of his adminstration.
Speaking in support of the virement, John Enoh, chairman, House Committee on Appropriation,explained that it will go a long way in the implementation of the Appropriation.
He noted that over 7,000 projects had been abandoned across the country.
Tambuwal, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, referred the bill to the House Committee on Appropriation and other relevant committees for further legislative input.
The Speaker, however, noted that in the past, the Executive did not seek the National Assembly’s approval before diverting money.
House spokesman Zakari Mohammed denying the N2 billion bribery allegation after plenary, said: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve not received anything. I’ve not seen it. I’ve not collected it. So, it’s far from it.”
He challenged any lawmaker who has got the largesse to make it public.
“I think we need to get certain facts very right. The Majority Leader made us to realise why the virement had to go and we are represenatatives of the people.
“Whether we like it or not, we are not in any competition with the Executive. The only thing is that things must be done constitutionally. If the President is bringing such thing to the House, it was referred to the appropriate committee. Allow it to go through second reading, let the appropriate committees handle it; then bring the report back.
“We are not taking it on its face value; we will now see those things that we will knock off and those things we think can be sustained.”
Reps okay N98b for Jonathan