Former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has denied a claim that the 8th Senate he led rejected request of $1 billion from President Muhammadu Buhari to purchase arms to fight insecurity in the country.

He said they merely insisted that the Executive follow due process provided by the nation’s Constitution. This is contained in a statement issued yesterday by Oluwole Onemola, a media aide to the immediate past President of the Senate.

The statement titled ‘MURIC Lied: 8th Senate Aided, Not Hindered President Buhari’s Fight Against Insecurity’, described the claim allegedly made “by one Prof. Ishaq Akintola,” as “unenlightened propaganda piece disguised as a ‘press statement,’ which was published on Thursday, April 8th,” and that the claim of the professor, who acted “under the one-man operation group known as MURIC, is factually and constitutionally incorrect.”

Akintola’s statement, the former Senate president’s aide said “intentionally attempts to re-write history by falsely suggesting that the Saraki-led 8th Senate “rejected the President’s request for $1billion for the purchase of arms. However, the truth is that the 8th Senate never rejected any fund request for security but only insisted that the due process provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic should be adhered to even by the Executive branch.”

He recalled details of what transpired at the time, stating that it was important to do so “to enlighten the public about the facts, and once again put it on record for posterity’s sake.

“On Wednesday, the 25th of April 2018, the then-President of the Senate, Sen. Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, which stated that he had granted ‘anticipatory approval’ for the release of $496,374,470. These funds were said to have been paid directly to the Treasury of the United States (U.S.) government.

“However, in line with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the overarching legal framework on which our republic is founded, the powers of appropriation are specifically and only conferred on the National Assembly in Sections 80 to 84. Additionally, nowhere in our Constitution is the principle of ‘anticipatory approval’ provided for. This means, that Mr. President did not follow the proper procedure during this Constitutionally-flawed and thoroughly unprecedented ‘anticipatory approval.’ Still, the National Assembly went ahead to approve the money that the executive has started disbursing without approval. Thus, $1billion was approved by the 8th National Assembly.”

Onemola said the situation was also compounded by the fact that Nigeria was under arms embargo by the United States on account of perceived human rights violation by the Military.

According to him, “We all need to remember that at this time, based on allegations of human rights violations by the Military, there was a U.S. Government ban on the sale of offensive equipment to Nigeria in compliance with the Leahy’s Law. “However, it was only after the U.S. Congressional Delegation met with the Nigerian National Assembly delegation in Nigeria on Monday, August 28th, 2017, that reassurances were made by the Nigerian Senate President on behalf of the National Assembly — that the Nigerian National Assembly delegation promised that it would look into the allegations of human rights violations, and work to prevent any future recurrence.

“It was at this time that the U.S. Congressional delegation, which was led by Senator Chris Coons and Ambassador Symington agreed to make the lifting of the U.S ban on the sale of military hardware to Nigeria one of their priorities. It was after this meeting that the U.S. Congress recommended the sale of the Tucano Jets to Nigeria to President Trump.”

Another step taken by the 8th Senate, he said was to invite the then Service Chiefs on several occasions to discuss funding of their operations with them at plenary.

“It is important to note that in order to ensure that the Nigerian Armed Forces were properly equipped, the 8th Nigerian Senate invited the Service Chiefs on several occasions to the plenary to discuss funding for their operations, and to ensure that they were well-equipped to handle the necessary security challenges.” According to him, dates and occasions to recall were “February 3rd, 2016, when the leadership of the Senate and chairmen of committees relating to security agencies held a meeting with heads of the military;

“On the 8th and 12th of February — when the Senate held a special security summit attended by the Service Chiefs, the NSA, and Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo and other key stakeholders in the national security architecture and the international community to discuss the security situation in the country;

“On the 23rd of May 2018, when the Senate asked the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Service Chiefs to present it with its funding requirements — giving our armed forces an almost ‘blank cheque.’ This Security Summit came up with a 21-point recommendation which were subsequently forwarded to the Presidency for implementation.”

He said, “The public, especially Prof. Ishaq Akintola of MURIC, should be well aware that the 8th Senate has a clear-cut track record of working to tackle issues related to insecurity head-on.”

He also listed the number of times the 8th Senate focused on insecurity to include when they considered over 101 security-related motions/point of orders in 4-years; the 8th Senate referred 57 security-related matters to its relevant committees; the 8th Senate decided 42 security-related matters on the Senate Plenary floor; the 8th Senate had 38 security-sector interventions in the form of Bills; and it also held 14 public/investigative hearings on security-related issues over its 4-year tenure.”

He then advised the public “to disregard MURIC’s utterly biased and totally factually devoid statement. This is because: Men can lie. Women can lie. But dates, facts, and numbers don’t.”

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