The Ekiti State Government has rebuffed the plan by the Senate to investigate utilisation of bailout funds granted the state to settle salary arrears by the Federal Government.
Generally, the Ayo Fayose-governed Ekiti said, Nigeria’s federal system does not give the Senate the constitutional power to exercise oversight over finances of the states.
PREMIUM TIMES understands the Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration led by Gumel Abubakar (APC-Jigawa), had written some states, including Ekiti, since November 3, telling them its intention to probe how the funds were disbursed.
In his letter, Mr. Abubakar told the governors that President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed his worry to the National Assembly on the application of bailouts granted to some states; and consequently, Senate President Bukola Saraki directed his committee to conduct oversight on the disbursement of salary bailouts.
“Your Excellency, it is based on this directive that the Committee will undertake a tour of all states that have benefited from bailout with the view to oversight records of transactions for the salary bailout grant,” the Senate wrote.
But Ekiti State, in a November 11 letter received on November 14, faulted the plan by the Senate.
The letter was signed by the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Owoseni Ajayi.
Mr. Ajayi said although Ekiti appreciated the intentions of the federal lawmakers, the government would not open its books to the Senate due to constitutional impediments.
The letter read in part: “It is incontrovertible that the duty of oversight of government’s financial activities by the legislative arm in Nigeria is a constitutional matter and the diligent performance of this duty in a time like this, when our nation is in economic recession, cannot be overemphasised.
“We therefore appreciate the intentions and aspirations of the National Assembly in the above regard, which, we have no doubt, are aimed at ensuring fiscal discipline, financial integrity, accountability and probity of government and its relevant agencies at all levels.
“However, we respectfully wish to observe that we are constrained, as a state government bound by the principles of federalism and the rule of law, to accede to your proposal to exercise oversight powers over the disbursement of the bailout granted to Ekiti State by the Federal Government because it is legally and constitutionally outside the powers of the Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In this regard, we wish to draw your attention to the clear provisions of Sections 121, 122, 123, 124, 125 and 125 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which vests the powers of oversight functions in respect of states’ finances exclusively in the respective state Houses of Assembly.”
On April 22, anti-graft agency, ICPC, released a report, detailing how the states diverted the bailout funds.
Pressed to comment by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Abubakar, the Senate committee chairman, sent a text, saying he was not in Nigeria and would comment on his return later this week.