Plenary at the Senate on Wednesday turned rowdy when the Minority Leader , Senator Biodun Olujimi , asked the chamber to investigate the Special Intervention Fund programme by the Federal Government.
According to the Bank of Industry ’ s website, the Special Intervention Fund for Medium and Small Scale Enterprises is under the National Enterprise Development Programme.
The fund is a Federal Government of Nigeria ’ s initiative to provide subsidise loans to MSMEs at single digit ( 9 per cent per annum ) all-inclusive interest rate , ” the bank said .
Moving a motion , Olujimi alleged that beneficiaries of the fund were being asked to provide details of their Permanent Voter Cards and their loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress in an application form .
The Senate unanimously resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the SIF, as well as the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment Programme .
While the President Buhari – led administration introduced the SIF , the immediate past government of former President Goodluck Jonathan established the SURE- P.
Members of the panel are Senators Ibrahim Gobir (Chairman ) , Shehu Sani , Enyinnaya Abaribe , Danjuma Goje , Dino Melaye , Matthew Uroghide and Gbenga Ashafa .
Olujimi said , “ I bring a matter of urgent public interest and it has to do with the issue of the Special Intervention Fund . I was at home over the weekend and a few events happened while I was there. Most of them had to do with the politicisation of the fund .
“ Right now, the forms are being used for political reasons. They are being disbursed and given freely to people who can bring their PVCs and sign several copies for which the issuers are now in charge . One of the forms is here with me and it is being disbursed by the special intervention body . They are now using the form that is meant for all Nigerians for political reasons.
“ This one has ‘ I Stand with Buhari ’ on it and it also has a space where your PVC (details ) will be written , with your gender and an attachment from the Access Bank from where money will be dispensed to you . There is no corruption greater than people using our collective purse to maintain a political party .
There is the need for a committee to be set up to look into this issue and this Senate must be aware that the money that is being put there is not for a political party but for the entire nation. It is an election year and people are using these funds for reasons that are not the best ; to buy PVCs and use them on election day . ”
Before the Majority Leader , Senator Ahmad Lawan , who defended the Buhari – led administration and the programme could speak , the chamber had become noisy as APC senators engaged their Peoples Democratic Party counterparts in a shouting match .
Senators Dino Melaye ( PDP) and Solomon Adeola (APC ) particularly were seen engaging each other in a war of words , while President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, repeatedly hit the gavel to caution the lawmakers .
Saraki said , “ This drama that is going on is unnecessary . This matter … the Minority Leader has spoken and the Majority Leader has the floor . Let him speak . ”
The disorderliness , however , continued.
Raising a point of order, Melaye said Olujimi ’ s motion must first be seconded before debate .
Lawan , who was occasionally interrupted by the noise , however , said the fund was the best any administration in Nigeria had provided to the people.
He said , “ I have listened to the motion moved by the Senate Minority Leader , Senator Biodun Olujimi . Let me say from the outset that the Social Intervention Programme of this administration is computer based , very transparent ( boos from senators ) . For the first time in the history of social intervention programme in Nigeria , we have a foolproof system that anywhere you may be in Nigeria , from whichever part of this country you could be , you would apply online .
“ We listened . I don ’ t want us to go this line ( of interruption ) but if our colleagues on the left hand side and if the minority party feels we should not be listened to , then it will be unfortunate . What she showed is certainly not true . Let me say that so far …”
Lawan stopped as the noise increased .
Raising a point of order, Senator Bassey Akpan ( PDP) insisted that Olujimi ’ s motion must be seconded before a debate and that speeches for a proposal must precede those against it.
Saraki said , “I think we are wasting more time. Let us go to the substance ; we could have easily made some progress by now . Leader would have finished speaking and I would have asked somebody to second the motion . With all due respect , let us make progress with this . After that , somebody will second the motion. We will put it to vote and move on . Why are we wasting time ?”
Lawan continued, saying he expected the presiding officer to be “ party colourless. ”
He also said , “ This chamber is not our chamber , this chamber belongs to Nigerians , we are only representing them. If the Minority Leader could lay claim to certain issues and we listened, I think it behoves all of us to listen to others and that is maturity . ”
Saraki, after several minutes of arguments and counter – arguments by senators , put the prayer of the motion to voice vote and it was unanimously granted.
The prayer was to call for an investigation of the matter in a non -partisan manner .
Proposing an additional prayer , Senator Barau Jibrin (APC ) said , “The ad hoc committee should also investigate the implementation of the SURE- P policy since its inception to the end of the Jonathan administration. ”
The prayer was seconded by Senator Ibrahim Gobir ( APC).
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe ( PDP) , however , raised a point of order to argue that the lawmakers were already done with the motion and more inputs should not be allowed.
The Senate President overruled him .
It was however observed that when the additional prayer was eventually put to vote, Saraki ruled that the ayes had it and it was carried.