By Emeka Ejere
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has said that the 8th Senate was ready to reconvene to consider the N242billion INEC budget pending before it.
Saraki said this during a World Press Conference on Wednesday, in the aftermath of the blockade of the National Assembly by operatives of the DSS.
Reacting to questions from newsmen after the official briefing, Saraki said that the National Assembly was committed to the smooth running of the government and would not do anything that will negatively affect the operations of government.
He argued that the Senate in recognition of the importance of the INEC budget, had scheduled a meeting with the leadership of the Commission on Tuesday but the planned meeting was botched by the blockade of the National Assembly.
Saraki however knocked the executive for failing to bring the budget since January knowing fully that there would be an election in 2019.
“We want to reassure Nigerians that, on our part, we remain committed to working for a country governed by the rule of law. Our desire is to have a society where there will be equity and justice, not oppression.
“We stand committed to doing our utmost as lawmakers to ensure that the responsibility and functionality of governance are met. Although we are on annual break, we are daily reviewing the situation and are alive to the responsibility to take action as necessary.
“Unfortunately, yesterday’s shutdown prevented us from meeting with INEC, as scheduled, to address their request. We will continue to do all to ensure a smooth and successful 2019 election.
“In the spirit of that we also appeal to Mr. President to sign the new 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill in line with his recommendations, which has been sent for his assent.
As at the time of this report, the National Assembly was already meeting with the INEC leadership over the Budget.
Speaking during the question and answer session, Saraki said that the leadership of the Senate would be meeting with the INEC leadership over the budget.
“I do not understand how when we go on our recess there would be a government shutdown. We were to adjourn on a Thursday but we adjourned on a Tuesday, that is two sitting days.
“Before we adjourned we realized that the electoral Bill had not been passed and we decided to wait, take the electoral bill and pass it.
“The issue of the INEC request: it is amazing, is it the day that we were leaving that INEC realized that they will present their budget.
“They had January, February, March, April, May and June, nothing came from the executive to say they needed money for INEC until July when we were leaving”.
Since we went on recess, both myself and speaker have been in touch with the chairman of INEC to tell us what the issues are.
We will do all that is necessary and I have said, it has not even gone to the committee yet, it was only read on the floor, but if it needs us coming back, with the support of our members, we will do that.
That was the plan yesterday but the conditions were not conducive for us to hold the meeting.
Even today as were coming in, myself, Speaker and the leadership said that since we are here, we have already sent for the INEC Chairman to come so that we can hold the meeting.
If after discussion with the INEC Chairman there is need for us to reconvene so that we can send it to committee, we would so that. We want a free and credible election.
What we don’t like is when the wrong message is being sent out, the Executive knew from last year that there would be election, why was it not included in the 2018 Budget.
Even after the 2018 Budget was sent, they had December to June to send the INEC Budget and it was not sent. So to say today that it is the National Assembly that does ot want election is not true. I want to reassure you on that,” he said.
He assured that if the outcome of the meeting would require the Senate to reconvene, he would not hesitate to reconvene the senate to pass the budget.