• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Saraki to Tinubu: Provide proof of budget padding

Saraki

The National Assembly has described the allegation credited to APC National Leader and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, where he accused the Eighth National Assembly leadership of padding national budgets with ‘pet projects’ as careless, irresponsible and callous.

It therefore urged the APC National Leader to either substantiate his allegation or withdraw it.

The development comes as the nation’s apex legislative chamber has revealed thatPresident Muhammadu Buhari has only forwarded 11 bills to the Eighth National Assembly since its inauguration about four years ago.

A statement on Monday by Yusuf Olaniyonu, Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki, however, explained that this excludes the routine annual appropriations and supplementary budget proposals.

“Two of these bills, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill, have been passed. One of the bills, the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (amendment) Bill was withdrawn by the Executive following the disagreement between the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Also, another one, the National Water Resources Bill was rejected because it infringed on the rights of states to develop their water resources. The remaining seven which are the National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Establishment Bill, Federal Institute of Industrial Research for the Development of Micro, Small and Large Industries Bills, the Suppression of Piracy Bill, Communications Service Tax Bill, 2015; Federal Institute of Industrial Research Bill, 2017; Raw Materials Research and Development Council (Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2018; Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (Establishment etc) Bill, 2018- are at various stages of passage,” Saraki said.

According to the statement, the Eighth Senate has passed an unprecedented 282 bills so far, surpassing the achievements its predecessors.

He listed some of the bills to include the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Act, which enabled the country to be re-admitted into the Egmont Group; the Police Reforms Bill, Police Trust Fund Bill, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Public Procurement Act (amendment) Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, Nigeria Railways Authority Bill, Company and Allied Matters Act (amendment) Bill, Secured Credit Transactions Act, Whistleblowers Protection Bill, constitution amendment bills, Discrimination Against Persons With Disability Bill.

Others include Electronic Transaction Bill, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, North East Development Commission (NEDC) Act, Witness Protection Programme Bill, Credit Bureau Reporting Bill, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institution Bill and Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill, National Financial Intelligence Agency Act, Federal Audit Services Commission Bill, among others.

Saraki said the approval of the bills made the National Assembly under his leadership receive national and global commendations from individuals and organisations like the Financial Intelligence Database Agency (Ultrascan); the Nigerian Police leadership; Bill Gates; World Health Organisation (WHO); World Bank; Pakistani child education campaigner and youngest Nobel Laureate, Yousafzai Malala; National Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) among others.

On Tinubu’s allegations that Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara delayed national budgets “to halt progress of government”, Saraki described this as baseless and untrue.

He attributed the delay in National Assembly approval of budget to three factors: early submission of the appropriation bill by the Executive, willingness of heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies to defend their budgets before relevant sub-committees as well as the timely agreement on the budget figures by both chambers of the National Assembly.

He stated: “The passage of budgets is definitely not the exclusive responsibility of the leadership of the Senate. Most of the work is done by the various committees. These committees are headed by Senators representing different parties. It is the level of co-operation between the committees and the MDAs in the timely defence of the budget proposals and the ability of the two chambers of the National Assembly to reconcile their figures that usually determine how soon the budget is passed. To put the blame of budget delay on the Senate President or Speaker can only be mischief, or at best, playing to the gallery.

“It is also a known fact that any so-called delay in the passage of budgets under the Eighth National Assembly is traceable to the refusal of heads of MDAs to defend the budget proposals for their agencies on time. Last year, the President himself had to direct the Secretary to Federal Government to compel heads of MDAs to appear before the National Assembly committees following the report made to him by Dr. Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. So, if a man like Tinubu is spreading this falsehood about budget passage and delay being deliberately orchestrated by the National Assembly leadership, one wonders whether he tries to even understand what happens in the federal legislature at all or is that the only thing that is of interest to him is “jockeying and maneuvering for influence”, as he puts it.

“To further make the points here clear, we invite Tinubu to look at the records of the time of submission of budgets and their passage since 2010 and he will see that with the exception of the 2013 budget which was passed on December 20, 2012, all the budgets have been passed between March and May of the same fiscal year. This should give him a better understanding of the fact that the date the Appropriations Bill is submitted to parliament and the readiness of the MDAs to defend the proposals submitted as well as timely agreement on the figures by both chambers of the National Assembly are the main determining factors in when the budget is eventually passed. So, Tinubu should see that the facts cannot support his spins and fake narrative.

“In all the three budgets already passed by the National Assembly, we challenge Tinubu to make specific reference to where Dr. Saraki and the leadership of the National Assembly ‘sought to pad with pet projects’ as he alleged”.

He accused the former Lagos State Governor of nursing presidential ambition in 2023, hence his attacks on the leadership of the Legislature.

The lawmaker also warned that should the APC repeat the mistakes of 2015 wherein the APC wanted to foist its preferred candidates for the leadership positions in the Eighth National Assembly, on lawmakers, their preferences may not emerge as National Assembly leaders in the incoming Ninth Assembly.

“Tinubu and his mob have been sponsoring the narratives in the media that the emergence of the present leadership of the National Assembly was a mistake. We hereby submit that Saraki and other leaders of the National Assembly were democratically elected by their colleagues. And it is because they are the choice of their colleagues that they have remained in office for the past 46 months, despite all the plots hatched by anti-democratic, reactionary and fascist elements pretending to be ‘progressives’.

“In fact, Tinubu should know that if there was any mistake made on June 9, 2015, It was the miscalculation by himself and his small cabal in the APC who felt they could decide for the Senators-elect and House of Representatives Members-elect. When they failed after their grand-standing that they could always get whatever they desired, they resorted to undermining the institution of the legislature and waging a campaign of calumny against the law making body. It is now clear that those who took Senators away from the chambers contrary to the directive contained in the proclamation signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 9, 2015 are ‘mistake personified’. It is obvious that If they repeat that arrogance during the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly, they will fail again because Nigeria is greater than them. The institution of the legislature is bigger than the over-bloated egos of these power mongers and dirty schemers.

“Let us repeat again that we know that a Machiavellian politician like Tinubu will forever agonize over his erroneous belief that Dr. Saraki frustrated his ambition from becoming running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari through a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015. In his usual cavalier manner, he will stop at nothing to punish Saraki for that. We know that this attack is not about the interest of the nation or that of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is about his 2023 ambition and it is obvious in the statement as he struggled to explain this away.

“However, Tinubu should leave Saraki out of his schemes and manipulations towards 2023. It is obvious his arbitrary and tactless interference in the process for the emergence of the leadership of the Ninth Assembly is already falling through. The frustration from this experience might have been responsible for this needless and baseless outbursts. Our only advice for him is that if he is interested in the stability of the National Assembly, he should allow the members to elect their leadership in consultations with the party leadership. He should stop treating the legislators like hapless pupils receiving orders from a cane-wielding headmaster. A situation where he, Tinubu, is dictating to elected legislators and ordering them to either comply with his directives or get out of the party, will not augur well for the legislature in the next dispensation. History should have thought him that only a leadership that truly enjoys the support of members can help the President and his administration to achieve their objectives. It is a good development that the candidates for the various positions are already reaching out to their colleagues and forging alliances. We can see that after he realized that he has misfired, he is trying to retrace his step and in his usual devious manner, he is looking for scapegoats,” the statement added.

 

OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja