Indications emerged on Tuesday that the Senate may have a running battle with the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over the cash withdrawal limit policy of the apex bank.
Although the upper legislative chamber agreed to debate the latest policy on Wednesday, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa (PDP Bauchi North), warned that the report of the Committee on Banking, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions, chaired by Senator Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central) must not be swept under the carpet.
This caused uneasy calm in the chamber, pointing to the fact that not many senators would agree to the cash withdrawal policy.
A member of the committee, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC Ekiti North) had drew the attention of his colleagues to the absence of the panel chairman, who is the APC governorship candidate in Kaduna State from the chamber due to the North West zonal presidential campaign rally of the party in Kaduna.
Senator Adetunmbi said the chairman was billed to present the report of the screening exercise conducted for the two CBN Deputy Governor-nominees, Mrs Aishat Ahmad, and Mr. Edward Lametek Adamu.
Both Ahmad and Adamu were recently reappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari who requested the Senate’s screening and confirmation for their second and final tenure at the apex bank
Ahmad, who is the CBN Deputy Governor on Financial System Stability, had explained details of the policy to the panel during the screening last Friday when she and her colleague appeared for screening.
Details of the explanation given by the CBN chief was to be presented for debate, alongside the screening exercise on Tuesday by the senators.
However, Senator Adetunmbi said the debate could not take place because of the absence of the panel chairman.
He said: “Exactly a week ago the Senate resolved that the committee on banking and financial institutions should come forth today to report on the enquiries that it was mandated to make on the new policy of the Central Bank on the withdrawal limit.
“The committee was specifically mandated to interrogate these issues based on the concern that was expressed in the chamber, with the two deputy governors that were coming for clearance.
“This took place on Thursday last week. Two candidates came for clearance and the issues were thoroughly looked into, especially in the opening remarks of the chairman.
“He specifically reported that the Senate wanted the two deputy governors to elaborate on the rationale behind this policy in view of the massive public reaction to that policy.
“The deputy governors gave elaborate explanations and the committee also requested for further evidence in terms of documented reports that will enable the committee to fully understand the issues behind this policy during the plenary appropriately.
“Unfortunately, the report is not ready today because the chairman of the committee is busy on a political assignment; he is coming tomorrow to present the formal report of the committee.”
This explanation did not go down well with Senator Bulkachuwa, who said the fact that the panel didn’t submit its report should not stop the Senate debate on the CBN Nara withdrawal limit policy.
“We should not allow this thing to be swept under the carpet, it is a very serious issue and Nigerians are waiting to see what the Senate will do like the House or Representatives.
“The House of Representatives has asked the Governor of the Central Bank to stay action on this; leaving it till tomorrow is giving him another excuse and I urge this Senate to discuss this thing today,” he said.
The Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, ruled Senator Bulkachuwa out of order and insisted that the matter would be debated tomorrow (Wednesday).
He said: “I don’t think it is fair to say we are sweeping the matter under the carpet. To sweep something under the carpet in my understanding means to avoid it.
“Nobody here suggests by action or inaction that we are avoiding discussion on this matter.
“I think it is appropriate to give the Chairman of the Committee an opportunity to come and present his report personally and Senator Adetunmbi is a member of the Banking Committee.
“The Vice of the Committee who is the Chief Whip is here and they are all in attendance.
“They have something to tell us. The chairman wants to present the report himself and when he does that, we will be better informed and we can take appropriate action.
“Tomorrow is less than 24 hours by the grace of God., Please distinguished Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, I want you to be present so that if there is anything that you want all of us to know even as all of us here feel strong about this.
“If we are going to debate it, let’s do that on the basis of information because that is when we can argue it and say no, stop it because of superior argument. So, let’s not doubt our sincerity here.”