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Monday , 26 June 2017

Tension As Osinbajo wields power; refuses to sign bills, floats $500m Eurobond.

The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is showing with each passing day that he is capable of decisions.he shocked the National Assembly hours ago by  withholding assent to four bills already passed by the National Assembly..the senators are unhappy,feeling he is going beyond his limit..

..  and on Wednesday he made another bold move when he wrote the National Assembly, seeking approval for the executive to float another $500m Eurobond.The request came just weeks after the Federal Government floated a $1bn Eurobond.,even though a separate request by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 to borrow $29.96bn has yet to be approved by the National Assembly.

The bills he refused to sign into laws  are Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016, National Lottery (Amendment) Bill 2016, Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016, and the Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) (Amendment) Bill 2016.

 In the four letters sent to the Senate, dated February 7, 2017, the Acting President gave various reasons for his decision “Pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution.”

On the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016, Osinbajo said, “The reasons for withholding assent to the bill are the concerns surrounding board composition, funding arrangements, limitation of liability of funds, and proposals to increase levels of un-collaterised loans from N5,000 to N250,000.”

For withholding asset to the Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Acting President said, “The rationale for withholding assent to the bill is the concern regarding modalities for the communication of asset forfeiture orders.”

Osinbajo also said the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 could not be assented to, saying, “The rationale for withholding assent to the bill are the concerns regarding certain words and phrases utilised in the draft bill that may be inconsistent with the Principal Act (for example, Section 6 of the bill with Section 21 of the Principal Act) and the spirit behind the proposed amendments.”

Also, the Acting President said he withheld assent to the National Lottery (Amendment) Bill 2016 due to “the existence of pending legal challenge to the competence of the National Assembly to legislate on the subject matter.”

After the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, read Osinbajo’s letters to senators at plenary on Wednesday, Senator Dino Melaye, who sponsored the National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, raised a point of order and dismissed the Acting President’s reason for not assenting to it.

Citing Section 4 of the constitution, the senator described the court process and the decision by Osinbajo as against the principle of separation of powers.

Melaye said, “Mr. President, the explanation for withholding the assent as stipulated in the letter by the Acting President is because there is a pending litigation on this matter. Mr. President, democracy is standing on the basic principles of separation of powers and it has divided this into three; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

“Mr. President, the role of the executive is to carry out its fundamental objective by signing anything that has been passed by this House and anyone who has a problem with it can go to court in compliance with the provisions of Section 6 of the constitution. May it not be a bad day for democracy if we keep quiet and allow the powers of the legislature to be usurped by the non-compliance to the provisions of the constitution.”

Saraki, in his response, said the chamber would seek legal advice on the matter as it had to do with separation of powers.

He said, “I think the procedure is that we will refer this (issue) to our legal department to give us advice on interpretation on some of the things that you have said, for us to be properly guided. But, I agree with you that it is a matter that we must take seriously because it goes down to the issue of separation of powers. We would get the opinion of the legal department.”

But Senator George Sekibo, rose up to say that the National Assembly had the powers to override the veto of the President.

He said, “The way the constitution is framed, they have their own roles to play and we have our own role to play. We check each other. I know that the matter is in court and based on our rules, we cannot discuss it; it is a different thing. But if it is just that the President did not give assent, we have to look at the merit of the particular bill if it meets the standards and if the court matter is not going to impede what we are going to do. Then, we can override the veto of the President.”

Again, Saraki stated that the issue should be referred to the legal department for interpretation and counsel.

Mainwhile,the acting president is seeking approval for the executive to float another $500m Eurobond. The money will be used to fund the “implementation of the 2016 budget, which is still ongoing.”

The period for the implementation of the 2016 budget had earlier been extended to March 31, 2017 by the National Assembly.

The request came just weeks after the Federal Government floated a $1bn Eurobond.

Osinbajo said the government had taken advantage of the fact that the $1bn bond was  over-subscribed and was seizing the opportunity of the favourable market conditions to issue the new $500m Eurobond.

The request was contained in a letter he wrote the legislature in Abuja.

At the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, read Osinbajo’s letter to members during Wednesday’s plenary.

The acting President recalled that the 2016 Appropriation Act had a deficit of N2.2tn and a borrowing window of N1.8tn.

The letter read in part, “The Act also provided for domestic borrowing of N1.1tn and external borrowing of N635.8bn in items 245 and 246, respectively. The Speaker may also wish to note that whilst the approved domestic borrowing has been fully incurred, the N635.8bn external borrowing has not been fully accessed.

“The external borrowing incurred to date consists of $600m from the African Development Bank and $1bn Eurobond from the international capital market only. Thus, based on the 2016 appropriation and applying the average exchange rate, there is headroom to access further international funds.”

There was no debate on the letter on Wednesday. But, the document will be listed on a later date for debate.

 

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