The Senate has flouted an order given by President Muhammadu Buhari by holding the budget defence of the North East Development Commission (NEDC), in secret.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Special duties, Senator Yusuf Yusuf on Friday, October 25, had ordered journalists out of the session in total defiance of the presidential order that journalists should be allowed in during the budget defence.
Yusuf, through the Administrative Clerk to the Committee, Kabir Yaba Umar, ordered that no journalist should cover the session except the NTA, even when the Senate Press Corps was officially invited for the session.
The newly established NEDC and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs, were expected to tell Nigerians how funds intended to be appropriated to them would be spent.
At a point, Umar who personally signed invitation letters to media men, became unruly, insisting that the Chairman of the Committee did not want journalists to cover the defence of the session scheduled for 2 and 4pm respectively.
Members of the Committee included a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, former governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam and the Senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, among others.
Umar dared the reporters to write whatever they like when reminded that he invited them.
“I have already told your colleagues who had been here before you that you guys are not wanted here. I have the directive of the Chairman to do what I’m doing,” he was quoted as saying.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had on Monday denied that Senate committees were organising secret budget defence sessions with ministries and agencies of government.
He had said it was a misrepresentation of fact to say that journalists were not allowed to cover the budget defence sessions going on at the National Assembly.
Reacting to reports published in some dailies, Lawan had said:
“There is no shut out of the press from what we do. We need the press to tell Nigerians what we are doing. You (journalists) are our friends. That was a misunderstanding (of what happened).
I want to assure Nigerians that whatever we do in this Senate and indeed in this National Assembly is in the best interest of Nigeria. We will not compromise on anything as far as the national interest is concerned.”