The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has replied the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, over his comments accusing the two presiding officers of the National Assembly of budget impropriety.
Mr Dogara accused the APC leader of having a “wayward lust for power” and promoting a “fascist agenda.”
The speaker, gave the response on Tuesday in a statement by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan.
Mr Tinubu had alleged that Mr Dogara and Senate President Bukola Saraki have been padding Nigeria’s budget since 2015.
“Just look at the way Saraki, Dogara and their ilk hijacked the budget process these past four years,” Mr Tinubu had said in a statement released by Tunde Rahman, his spokesman.
“National budgets were delayed and distorted as these actors repeatedly sought to pad budgets with pet projects that would profit them. Even worse, they cut funds intended to prosper projects that would have benefitted the average person. After four years of their antics halting the progress of government, we should do all we can to prevent a repeat of their malign control of the National Assembly.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki on Monday replied Mr Tinubu. He said it is “unfortunate” that after 22 months in the legislature, Mr Tinubu does “not have a better understanding of how the legislature works”.
“Since we have taken it for granted that Tinubu’s attack on Saraki every three months (quarterly) will come as expected, we would just have ignored his statement but for the fact that it was filled with untruth, fallacies and misrepresentations,” Mr Saraki’s office said. “It is unfortunate that a man like Tinubu who had been in the Senate (though for 22 months and under a military regime) should not have a better understanding of how the legislature works.”
Mr Dogara, in his reaction, asked Mr Tinubu to provide evidence to back his allegations.
“we advise Asiwaju Tinubu to be circumspect in his use of language. In this case, he spoke as a spokesperson of depravity,” Mr Dogara said.
“Our reaction must, therefore, be seen as a provoked counter-punch. Anyone can descend into the gutter if he so wishes but no one has a monopoly of gutter language.”
“We won’t run an adult day care centre anymore on matters like this,” he added.
Mr Dogara restated his view that the National Assembly “is not a rubber stamp parliament” and therefore “reserves the right, working cooperatively with the Executive to interrogate projects unilaterally inserted by the Executive branch without the input of or consultation with Parliament.”
He also queried Mr Tinubu’s academic qualifications, saying: “The legislature cannot be accused of padding a budget it has unquestionable constitutional power to review. The budget is a law and the Executive does not make laws.”
“Therefore, it’s only the ignorant and those who hold dubious academic certificates that say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make.
“In the words of his lordship, Hon Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High court, in suitNo.FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on March 9, 2016, ‘the National Assembly was not created by drafters of the Constitution and imbued with the powers to receive ‘budget estimates’ which the first defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it, as a rubber stamp parliament.”
Read Mr Dogara’s full statement below.
- Tinubu pursuing facist agenda to control all levers of power in Nigeria- Speaker Dogara
- Only the ignorant with dubious academic certificates will say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make
We have noted the statement issued on April 21, 2019 by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu wherein he stated his reasons for sponsoring or supporting some aspirants to various leadership positions in the forthcoming 9th Assembly. Ordinarily, this would not have elicited any response from His Excellency, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, as Asiwaju is entitled to sponsor those he believes will have no choice but answer to his dog whistles anytime he blows same in his capacity as the self acclaimed National Leader of his party.
2. If Asiwaju had confined his intervention to stubborn facts, this response would not have been necessary. He, however, used the opportunity to manufacture falsehoods and paint a non-existing picture of the stewardship of Mr Speaker and the work of the 8th House of Representatives under his watch. It is therefore, incumbent on us to set the records straight for posterity.
3. Asiwaju Tinubu accused the leadership of the National Assembly of stymieing “the APC legislative initiatives while attempting to hoist noxious reactionary and self interested legislation on the nation”. He said further: “Just look at the way Saraki and Dogara and their ilk hijacked the Budget Process these past four years. National budgets were delayed and distorted as these actors repeatedly sought to pad budgets with pet projects that would profit them”. He continued, “Even worse, they cut funds intended to prosper projects that would have benefited the average person. After four years of their antics halting the progress of government, we should do all we can to prevent a repeat of their malign control of the National Assembly”. He generously used the usual unexplained words like installing a progressive leadership and so on.
4. We do not expect Asiwaju Tinubu to dwell on brazen mendacity, much less murder facts and decorum in his rabid bid to justify his patently clear facist agenda of controlling all levers of power in Nigeria. Asiwaju Tinubu’s nocturnal agenda has no parallel in the history of any democracy and it is more loathsome when he throws caution to the winds and maligns government officials who are doing a yeoman’s job of stabilising the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, even in spite of political differences.
5. It is on record that the Rt. Hon. Speaker has done more to stabilize this government more than Asiwaju Tinubu and his ilk whose stock in trade is scheming, manipulation and subversion especially when they feel they cannot be caught. When the history of Buhari’s administration is written by those who know the truth of what really transpired in the last four years, Asiwaju’s pretentious loyalty to President Buhari will then be exposed. We won’t say more but no matter how long it may last, the truth will one day overtake lies. Perhaps, Asiwaju is still bitter about the leadership contest for Speakership of the 8th Assembly, even though the actors have moved on culminating in Speaker Dogara magnanimously facilitating the appointment of his opponent in the race and Tinubu’s protege as House Majority leader.
6. The chief cause of delay in enacting the budget is the persistent refusal or neglect of the Executive to present it in good time.
For the records, in the last four years, there was no urgency or plan by the Executive to achieve a January to December budget cycle. For the avoidance of doubt, we will show the dates the Budget estimates were submitted by the Executive in the last four years below.
– 2016 Budget was submitted on December 22, 2015, exactly nine days to the end of the year.
– 2017 Budget submitted on December 14,2016, just 17 days to the end of the year.
– 2018 Budget was presented on November 7, 2017, the earliest even though it also fell short of the 90 days stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
– 2019 budget was presented on December 19, 2018 exactly 12 days to the end of the year.
As if the late or delayed submission of budget estimates wasn’t enough, in most cases, Ministers and heads of agencies contributed to the so-called delay by consistently refusing to appear before National Assembly Standing Committees to defend their budget proposals in line with the provision of the Law. At some point, the leadership of the National Assembly had to take up the issue with the President who advised his Ministers to honour legislative invitations to defend their budgets.
7. What Nigerians don’t know is that the Executive, through the various Ministries, continued to propose additional projects to be included in the 2018 budget even as at April and May of 2018 which further delayed the passage of the 2018 budget. These were communicated officially and if anyone is in doubt, we will exhibit the letters with the dates they were written and received. In any case, the National Assembly inserted a clause in the Appropriation Bill consistent with S.318 of the Constitution which allowed the Budget to last for 12 months after Mr President’s Assent. This enabled the Executive to spend more of the capital component of the Budget as it still had 12 months protected by law.
8. As an activist legislature, the National Assembly effected an amendment to S. 81(1) of the Constitution to compel Mr President to present the Budget estimates not later than 90 days to the end of a financial year in order to solve this problem but unfortunately, very unfortunately, Mr President declined assent to the bill which was passed by both the National Assembly and over 2/3rds of the State Assemblies.
9. The National Assembly made a further attempt to make the Budget process much better by improving the institutional capacity of the Parliament to process and pass National budgets by passing the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) Establishment Bill into law. It was loosely modelled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Again, Mr President declined assent to the Bill.
10. It is important to emphasize that the National Assembly is not a Rubber Stamp Parliament and reserves the right, working cooperatively with the Executive to interrogate projects unilaterally inserted by the Executive branch without the input of or consultation with Parliament. The legislature cannot be accused of padding a Budget it has unquestionable constitutional power to review. The Budget is a law and the Executive does not make laws. Therefore, it’s only the ignorant and those who hold dubious academic certificates that say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make. In the words of his lordship, Hon Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High court, in suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on March 9, 2016, “the National Assembly was not created by drafters of the Constitution and imbued with the powers to receive ‘budget estimates’ which the first defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it, as a rubber stamp parliament. The whole essence of the budget estimates being required to be laid before Parliament is to enable it, being the Assembly of the representatives of the people, to debate the said budget proposals and to make its own well informed legislative inputs into it.”
11. The parliamentarians are representatives of the Nigerian people and you don’t expect them to rubber stamp budgets that are heavily skewed and lopsided against most sections of the country. It is their responsibility to ensure equitable and even distribution of capital projects across all the nooks and crannies of the country, if the Executive fails to do so. In any case, it is false to state that legislative intervention in the Budget Process is to benefit the legislators and not their constituencies. We challenge Asiwaju Tinubu to prove otherwise. He should also show in what way the 8th Assembly acted differently from other Assemblies of the past to warrant the kind of language used. In any case, all the aspirants to the Senate Presidency and Speakership he is sponsoring are majority leaders in the 8th Assembly and took part in the Budget Process that he made the chief basis of his crude attack. This proves beyond doubt the hypocrisy of Asiwaju’s stated reasons for supporting his candidates. He should find better reasons other than the lies being peddled about the Budget and obstructing government business. Asiwaju shouldn’t take better informed Nigerians for fools. Otherwise, when he sought to take control of the 8th Senate and 8th House in 2015, was it because of any Budget Saraki and Dogara had delayed or pet projects they had inserted into any Budget before 2015? Asiwaju must come clean on this matter. He should let Nigerians know why he wants to install both the Senate President, the Speaker and leadership of the 9th Assembly. He may yet win the support of some of them if he comes clean on this matter.
12. The 8th National Assembly is on record to have supported Mr President’s requests on critical issues of governance. We backed him by Resolution on the issue of fuel subsidy, we backed him on the National Minimum wage, even though we were more sympathetic to workers’ rights. In security matters, we never cut any proposal from Mr President save our refusal to rubber stamp a clear constitutional overreach of spending $1 billion in arms purchase without appropriation. We have passed more Bills than any Assembly before us including Bills that are helping the government improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, and there were times we passed Bills within 2 legislative days. Is Tinubu genuinely ignorant of all these?
13. We challenge Asiwaju Tinubu to list out the Bills he claimed were not passed by the National Assembly. The oil and gas or petroleum sector is the most important and critical sector of our economy which accounts for over 70 percent of our earnings, the Executive didn’t forward a single Bill to the National Assembly to reform and reposition the sector in the last four years even when repeatedly urged to do so by Mr Speaker in his first year in office. The lawmakers waited in vain and had to take the bold initiative of crafting a Bill – Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PGIB) among others, passed it in record time and transmitted same to Mr President for assent. This Bill was vetoed without an alternative Legal framework proposed by the Executive. Did Asiwaju miss this also?
14. Asiwaju Tinubu should mention the so-called bills the Executive sent to the National Assembly and were delayed to show he is a man of honour or forever keep his peace.
Could someone also challenge Asiwaju to list all the “ noxious reactionary and self interested legislation on the nation”? Can he name the bills that are reactionary and not in the national interest? Is this how wayward lust for power blinds the reasoning of people we should ordinarily respect? Is it not most unfair, unpatriotic and wicked for Asiwaju Tinubu to have resorted to factoids in promoting his known fascist agenda which he mistakenly thinks he is keeping secret.
15. Finally, we advise Asiwaju Tinubu to be circumspect in his use of language. In this case, he spoke as a spokesperson of depravity. Our reaction must therefore be seen as a provoked counter-punch. Any one can descend into the gutter if he so wishes but no one has a monopoly of gutter language. We won’t run an adult day care centre anymore on matters like this.
Just In: Bayelsa Guber Election: Court Annuls APC’s Participation
The Federal High Court, Yenagoa, on Thursday declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not have a governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State.
This development is coming two days to the election.
The court was presided over by Justice Jane Inyang.
The court declaration, on Thursday, was part of its judgement in a case filed by Heineken Lokpobiri, one of the APC governorship aspirants.
Mr Lokpobiri, a former minister of state for agriculture, had approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not David Lyon, the authentic candidate of the APC.
“The court pronounced that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in Bayelsa state was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate,” Mr Lokpobiri’s lawyer, Fitzgerald Olorogun, told reporters immediately after the court ruling.
A shocked Mr Olorogun said the court declaration was not part of their prayers. “It’s strange,” he said.
Asked what was the next option for his client, Mr Olorogun said “We’ll do the needful. But for now, the pronouncement of the court is that APC has no candidate.”
There was heavy police presence within and outside the court premises. The main highway way leading to the court was barricaded by the police. Visitors, including journalists, were frisked before they were allowed to enter the court building.
Mr Lokpobiri, before now, has been urging the people of Bayelsa to vote for the APC in the November 16 election, despite his court case against Mr Lyon and the party.
“I’m a very strong member of APC and I came today to formally tell our chairman and to speak to Nigerians, in particular, the electorate in Bayelsa that all of them should vote for APC regardless of what happens in the court case in which judgment is slated for Nov. 14, 2019,” the former minister said in Abuja after a courtesy visit on the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
“I told my supporters even before I came here that no matter what happened, I will remain in APC having served as a minister under this administration.
“There is no way the outcome of the governorship primaries will make me leave APC. We are working and campaigning at different levels.
“I always advise that anybody that is grieved, the only place to go is the court.
Senate’s Hate Speech Bill: Atiku Abubakar Speaks
A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has cautioned Nigerian senators against moves to pass a bill criminalising purported hate speech.
The bill being sponsored by Sabi Abdullahi of the All Progressives Congress is targeted at punishing anyone found guilty of spreading “misinformation.”
The bill also prescribed death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading a falsehood that led to the death of another person.
But civic groups have been critical about the bill because of its narrow and unclear definition of what constitutes hate speech.
The advocates argued that the Senate’s interpretation of ‘hate speech’ would be at odds with the Nigerian Constitution if the bill becomes law as designed. The Constitution protects the rights to unhindered speech, expression and association.
Mr Abubakar aligned with those who believe the constitutional safeguards for free speech should be strengthened rather than undermined by lawmakers and other politicians in power.
The former vice-president and main opposition candidate at the 2019 presidential election said the freedom of speech and other key elements of civil liberties which Nigerians enjoyed between 1999 and 2015 should not be taken away by the current administration.
“It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests,” Mr Abubakar said in an emailed statement signed by his spokesperson, Paul Ibe.
Efforts to regulate the media has been keenly considered and publicly pushed by politicians since Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015.
Mr Buhari has a history of brutal repression from his military era in the 1980s, a label from which he remained unflinching.
The president has repeatedly told the country that his government will continue to ignore rights in favour of national security.
Some of his appointees, especially information minister Lai Mohammed, have insisted Nigerians’ free speech will be curbed.
Mr Mohammed said social media has become a tool of irresponsibility amongst elements determined to foment chaos in the country. He has equally overseen imposition of heavy fines on broadcast stations over alleged hate speech on their platforms.
There were efforts to push a variation of the current hate speech bill through the parliament in 2015, but it failed amidst nationwide uproar.
The reintroduced version contained essentially the same fundamentals and Nigerians have vowed to resist it as they did four years ago.
Read Mr Abubakar’s full statement below:
Atiku Abubakar wishes to sound a note of caution to those now toying with the idea of an Anti Hate Speech Bill, with punishment for supposed Hate Speech to be death by hanging. The contemplation of such laws is in itself not just hate speech, but an abuse of the legislative process that will violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Speech.
Atiku urges those behind this Bill to awake to the fact that Nigeria’s democracy has survived its longest incarnation, because those who governed this great nation between 1999 and 2015 never toyed with this most fundamental of freedoms. It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests.
Freedom of Speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is also a divine right given to all men by their Creator. History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.
We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history. And often, to disastrous consequences.
Nigeria presently has too many pressing concerns. We are now the world headquarters for extreme poverty as well as the global epicentre of out-of-school children. Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015, while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing. We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.
It therefore begs the question: should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this Bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?
Again, Atiku cautions that we must prioritise our challenges ahead of the whims and caprices of those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth. Stop this folly and focus on issues that matter to Nigerians.
Sowore: Buhari’s Govt Insecure, Paranoid – Soyinka
The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has called on civil society organisations to strategize and coordinate their responses to attacks on human rights by state agents under President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Soyinka, in his statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, reacted to the attack on protesters on Tuesday in Abuja for demanding the release of Omoyele Sowore by the State Security Service.
“The sporadic, uncoordinated responses as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, the absence of a solid strategy, ready to be activated against any threat — these continue to enable these agencies in their mission to enthrone a pattern of conduct that openly scoffs at the role of the judiciary in national life,” the don said.
He condemned “the level of arrogance” by agents of the state under President Buhari, saying it “has crossed even the most permissive thresholds.”
“As I remarked from the onset, this is an act of government insecurity and paranoia that merely defeats its real purpose,” he said.
Read Soyinka’s full statement below…
SOWORE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
It should become abundantly clear by now that Civil Society organisations, committed to the entrenchment of the Rule of Law and the defence of fundamental human rights must come together. This is not a new cry. They must meet, debate, and embark on a binding pact of tactical responses whenever these two pillars of civilized society are besieged by the demolition engines of state security agencies. The sporadic, uncoordinated responses as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, the absence of a solid strategy, ready to be activated against any threat — these continue to enable these agencies in their mission to enthrone a pattern of conduct that openly scoffs at the role of the judiciary in national life. Result? A steady entrenchment of the cult of impunity in the dealings of state with the citizenry – both individuals and organizations. The level of arrogance has crossed even the most permissive thresholds.
It is heart-warming to witness the determined efforts of “Concerned Nigerians” in defence of these rights. Predictably, the ham-fisted response of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) continues to defy the rulings of the court. The weaponry of lies having been exploded in their faces, they resort to what else? Violence! Violence, including, as now reported, the firing of live bullets. Why the desperation? The answer is straightforward: the government never imagined that the bail conditions for Sowore would ever be met. Even Sowore’s supporters despaired. The bail test was clearly set to fail! It took a while for the projection to be reversed, and it left the DSS floundering. That agency then resorted to childish, cynical lies. It claimed that the ordered release was no longer in their hands, but in Sowore’s end of the transfer. The lie being exploded, what next? Bullets of course!
Such a development is not only callous and inhuman, it is criminal. It escalates an already untenable defiance by the state. As I remarked from the onset, this is an act of government insecurity and paranoia that merely defeats its real purpose. And now – bullets? This is no longer comical. Perhaps it is necessary to remind this government of precedents in other lands where, even years after the event, those who trampled on established human rights that generate homicidal impunity are called to account for abuse of power and crimes against humanity. The protests for Sowore’s release go beyond only acts of solidarity, they are manifestations of the judgment and authority of courts of law, under which this nation is supposedly governed. Either it is, or it isn’t. The answer stares us all in the face. The principles that now fall under threat implicate more than one individual under travail. They involve the very entitlement of a nation to lay claim to membership of any democratic, humanized union.
Enough of this charade, nothing more than a display of crude, naked power. Release Omoyele Sowore and save us further embarrassment in the regard of the world. An apology to the nation by the DSS and the judiciary would also not be out of place. It would go some distance in redeeming the image of an increasingly fascistic agency and reduce the swelling tide of public disillusionment.
Let the rule of law reign. Failing that, have the honesty to proclaim the death of ordered society. Then we’ll all know just where we stand.
WS Foundation for the Humanities
Abeokuta, Ogun State
November 12, 2019