Supplementary budget: Saraki, Dogara explain delay
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday gave reasons why the National Assembly could not reconvene.
They stated that before resumption, the joint Senate and House of Representatives committees on electoral matters and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission would have to meet.
The joint committees, they added, were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request “after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.”
They pointed out that none of these meetings had been held, implying that if lawmakers had reconvened, there would have been no report for them to consider.
“Until the committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess, especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj,” a statement jointly signed by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, and the Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs) to the Speaker, Turaki Hassan, said.
The two National Assembly leaders made the clarification even as the All Progressives Congress, also on Tuesday, asked the police to monitor the activities of the Senate President very closely, claiming that it had discovered plans by Saraki and others to violently attack the APC senators.
The APC’s advice to the police is contained in a statement by its acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, on Tuesday.
The ruling party alleged that the plan to attack its senators was conceived in the home of one of the Peoples Democratic Party senators in Abuja on Sunday.
It said the aim of the attack was to prevent the APC senators from removing Saraki once the Senate reconvened.
The statement reads in part, “By this statement, we call on security agents to protect APC Senators. If any senator is harmed, the PDP and Saraki should be held directly responsible. We call on security agencies to also closely monitor the activities of some PDP leaders including Saraki because the plan to attack the APC senators is real and imminent.
“We were informed that the plot was hatched in the private residence of a PDP leader in Maitama, Abuja on Sunday night. The meeting was attended by 15 pro-Saraki senators, including the Senate President himself.
“We learnt that the PDP expressed worry over the APC’s Senate majority and considered several options to stop the APC from taking over the Senate leadership among which is attacking some APC senators to ensure their inability to attend legislative sittings.”
The APC alleged that the Senate President was planning calling a truce meeting during which Saraki would use his thugs to unleash mayhem.
The ruling party said Saraki had become desperate to remain in power by all means after his attempts to bribe the APC senators with N100m had failed.
The statement further reads, “During Sunday’s meeting, the PDP senators planned several types of attacks, one of which is to lure some of them (APC senators) out at night in the guise of inviting senators to a political settlement meeting and thereafter instigate a violent confrontation during the meeting and unleash standby PDP thugs on the APC senators, our source privy to the meeting informed us.
“This revelation has not come to us as a surprise because the Senate President through proxies has made several failed attempts to buy over APC senators with N100m each.”
Saraki’s refusal to reconvene Senate, treasonable —APC
The ruling party, while describing Saraki’s decision not to reconvene the Senate as treasonable, said it was already having talks with some PDP lawmakers to oust the Senate President.
“As a party, we don’t believe in inducing lawmakers to achieve our legitimate goal of removing Saraki as Senate President. We will get the support of some PDP senators to get the required two-thirds vote and impeach Saraki. We are already talking to some of the PDP senators who believe and support the direction of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to achieve our legitimate goal,” the APC said.
APC’s allegations, childish – PDP
The PDP, in its reaction, described allegations by the APC as childish. The opposition party described the allegations as laughable and childish. It said it showed that the Buhari Presidency and the ruling party had come to their wits’ end in their plot to illegally impeach the President of the Senate and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The party said the APC was hallucinating by linking it with any attempt to attack anybody, including its senators.
It stated that Nigerians were aware that it was the APC that had been involved in allegedly sponsoring violence and attacks on the residences of the presiding officers of the Senate.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, while responding to the allegations by the APC, said that it was amusing that the ruling party could claim that it was talking with PDP senators on how to sack Saraki and his deputy.
He said, “Equally derisory is the APC’s claims that it is in talks with some PDP senators to get a two-thirds vote to impeach the Senate presiding officers when it is public knowledge that all the PDP senators are loyal to their party and had already pledged their loyalty to the presiding officer which they elected by themselves.
“It is therefore foolhardiness for neither the leadership of the APC to contemplate a capacity to impeach the presiding officers of the National Assembly whereas they are neither senators nor members of the House of Representatives.
“It is also funny that rather than lobby senators and members on their party position, if they have any, the APC leadership toed the line of brigandage, claiming to have powers to upturn or upstage the leadership that it did not ab-initio bring into existence.”
It added, “Confronted by the realities of its shameful adventure, the APC leadership has now turned around in its trademark shambolic character to begin to look for scapegoats and who to hold responsible for their failure.
“It is necessary to impress it on the APC that Nigerians, in attracting a democratic lifestyle, have since abandoned the garrison command leadership approach of any Nigerian, no matter how highly placed.”
He noted that it was too late in the day for the APC to attempt to deploy what he described as underhand tactics that were strange to democratic norms to remove a duly elected Senate leadership.
I won’t descend into gutters with characters in APC – Saraki
In his response, Saraki’s media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the Senate President would not descend into the gutters with the APC.
In a terse text message, Olaniyonu wrote, “Let me reiterate it once again that we will not descend into the gutters with these characters in APC. It is unfortunate that these creatures who dwell in the filthiest place are administering the ruling party. No wonder it is where it is now.”
N’Assembly won’t succumb to blackmail – PDP Rep
Meanwhile, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Mr Akinlaja Joseph, said on Tuesday that he was confident the National Assembly would reconvene within the shortest possible time to consider President Muhammadu Buhari’s supplementary budget and the budget for the 2019 polls.
Joseph, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Ondo State, noted that between now and September 25, the official resumption date of the National Assembly from its current annual recess, there was ample time to reconvene primarily to consider the President’s approval.
He however criticised the approach used by the Presidency and other officials in the executive arm to compel the lawmakers back to work.
Joseph told journalists at the National Assembly that the executive opted to use “blackmail” as against discussing the matter quietly behind the scenes with the leadership of the legislature in a bid to get the members back to work.
He recalled that the blackmail approach started when the President chose to forward the supplementary budget and virement proposals to the National Assembly on the eve of the annual recess in July.
Joseph said, “The President’s letter came on the eve of the recess. This was like blackmail because the letter could have come much earlier.
“The events that happened in sequence, the pressure on the National Assembly, the blockade of the premises by the DSS and the threats of impeachment or no impeachment, all pointed to blackmail.”
However, he said members could reconvene any moment, so long as a decision was reached by the leadership and communicated to them.
Joseph added, “The drama around this reconvening is not necessary. This is not the first time a need will arise for members to reconvene from recess.
“In 2014, we did it during the fuel subsidy removal crisis. We came here on a Sunday to address that national issue.
“So, if we hear from the leadership today that we should reconvene at a given date, I am sure that members will comply.
He said impeachment threat was not necessary, stressing, “There are rules for reconvening, which I believe the leadership will follow to reconvene the National Assembly.”
No rigours in reconvening House – PSG
When contacted, the Parliamentary Support Group, a group of lawmakers working for Buhari’s re-election in 2019, said reconvening the National Assembly did not require any rigorous procedure.
The Chairman of the group, Mr Musa Serkin-Ada, told The PUNCH that a simple text message could summon members from the recess.
“We did it before in 2012. When a former Speaker, Aminu Tabuwual, wanted to call members from recess, text messages were circulated and everybody was here.
“Election is an important national duty and we must do everything possible to support its success in 2019”, he stated.
NASS invasion: Saraki seeks neutral investigation
Meanwhile, the Senate President has through his twitter handle called for independent investigation into last week’s blockade of the National Assembly by operatives of the Department of State Services.
He said, “The very serious questions about last Tuesday’s siege to the National Assembly can only be answered through a thorough and neutral investigation. I call on Mr President to immediately institute an independent judicial panel of inquiry to look into that assault on our democracy.”
INEC committee meets Wednesday
Investigations by The PUNCH indicates that the House Committee on Electoral Matters may meet on Wednesday (today) to discuss the elections budget, preparatory to making submissions to the Committee on Appropriations.
“A meeting of the committee has been fixed for Wednesday”, a committee source informed The PUNCH.
Efforts to get the Chairman of the committee, Aisha Dukku, for comments did not materialise as of the time of filing this report.
The budget for the 2019 polls, as contained in Buhari’s request, is N242.4billion.
Out of the estimate, N228bn is to be sourced through virement from the allocations of other sub-heads, particularly the new projects introduced into the 2018 budget by the National Assembly.
Crisis will destabilise Nigeria, Prof warns
In Ilorin, A professor of Political Science, Sakah Mahmud, has raised the alarm that the current crisis between the executive and the legislative arms of government can make Nigeria not to have a stable government.
He lamented that the crisis had robbed the country of good governance, adding that it was affecting the development of the country negatively and was worsening the plight of many Nigerians.
Mahmud, who is the deputy vice chancellor, Administration of Kwara State University, Malete, spoke on Tuesday on the sidelines of his presentation as the winner of the first KWASU administrative achievement award.
He urged the executive and the legislature to unite and move the nation forward.
He stated that defectors who did not harmonise with party’s objectives could continue infighting and pursuit of personal objectives to the detriment of the broad party objectives.
He said, “If they do not and we pray for God to make them realize what they are doing, we are not going to have any stable government in Nigeria and the people are going to be the ones to suffer. So, you find politicians fighting and people are suffering. We have not gone anywhere even with all these resources we have in this country.”
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