The Senate, on Thursday, defended closed-door sessions by the majority of its Committees with the Ministries Department and Agencies(MDAs), on their budget defence.
Certain committees, the Senate committees on primary health, Senate committee on environment and the committee on defence have shut out newsmen from the venue of their meetings with senior officials of the respective MDAs.
Addressing newsmen, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye defended the development.
He told journalists that the presence of newsmen could be a distraction to serious discussions expected at the budget defence sessions.
He said:” It isn’t that they want to conduct budget defence in secrecy but serious issues of budget defence, looking at figures, ratifying them, adjusting them don’t necessarily have to be open to the media.
“What I am saying is that there is no secrecy but they need to do serious work. If I want to write a paper now, I want to do serious intellectual work, will I be doing it in the full glare of camera? No! I want us to believe that it is a serious matter. We want to discuss the issues seriously, genuinely, factually.
“The press can be called in but sometimes the committee needs their privacies to do their jobs. They can at the end of the day call the press to say, “this is what we have done.” If they can do their job without the searchlight of the cameras, they can get the job done. “This is what they have done, it isn’t secrecy. Do you want the committees to do everything in your presence? I don’t think it is proper. Were you there when the executive was preparing the budget, but the president came here to present it. The budget defence can be done behind closed door but then whatever has been done, the best thing is to release it to the public and I think that’s fair enough.”
He assured the media that his committee would liaise with the other senate committees to make their findings available to the public.
“There is nothing secret about this thing, they are looking at it item by item, they couldn’t have released it to the press. I am going to pass information to chairmen of the various committees to do the same on their report. They can’t be waiting for the press, or invite you for all these things. We will encourage them to brief you on whatever has been done, there is no secrecy there, the budget has been prepared, the documents have been submitted to all senators and we are looking at them, item by item.”
Prodded further by newsmen on whether the insistence of the leadership of the committees on closed door sessions was not meant to shield the Presidency, Senator Adeyeye said the measure was nothing unusual.
“When we meet with the MDAs, we queried them on some of the items, do you want us to ask such questions in the presence of the press? It is like you are marking somebody’s script in an exam and you are announcing it! There is no need for that because, at the end of the day, the results will be released.
“We aren’t shielding the executive and that’s why we are calling on ministers and heads of MDAs to come and defend their budget .”
His counterpart and senator representing Cross Rivers central, Senator Sandy Ojang Onor invoked the Official Secret Act in his defence of the closed-door budget defence.
“Even in governance, there is secrecy otherwise, why was it institutionalised? So, let us not trivialise issues. Even in our offices, there is a sense of responsibility and it includes, for instance, dealing with some matters under closed doors. Nobody is shielding anything.”
Senator Adeyeye equally said he was not aware of a media report of alleged secret recruitments into federal agencies in which certain principal officers of the senate were indicted.
“I am supposed to give you facts and honestly, I am just hearing about this matter, I will need to investigate, make appropriate contact with the committee, get the gist of their investigation and also meet with leadership of the Senate. Until then, I can’t say anything about it. I don’t want to tell you what isn’t correct.”
Asked further if he was trying to shield his colleagues who were fingered, Senator Adeyeye insisted he was not aware of any deal with federal agencies.
“It is not correct. I told you I haven’t been in Abuja, I haven’t been around for some time. In fact, I wanted the media to be briefed on Tuesday, I ran helter-skelter to get committee members to do the briefing on my behalf. I haven’t been around. I have been so busy that I didn’t have the time to even check my internet at all. That’s the truth. So, you don’t expect me to come here and give you incorrect information. That’s the truth. I need to conduct my own investigation, find out and brief you on it later.”