By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Senate President, Bukola Saraki has responded to allegations of budget padding levelled against the 8th National Assembly by the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, saying that he misrepresented facts.
A statement issued by Saraki’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said Tinubu released another of his now well expected quarterly vicious attack on the person of Saraki, saying that in the statement, one could see the master of media spins getting ensnared in his own game as he struggled to extricate himself from the narratives about the contest for leadership positions in the Ninth National Assembly.
“Since we have taken it for granted that Tinubu’s attack on Saraki every three months will come as expected, we would just have ignored his statement but for the fact that it was filled with untruth, fallacies and misrepresentations. The statement was another effort to sell a concocted narrative about the Eighth National Assembly and its leadership.
“First, he alleged that national budgets were delayed, distorted, padded, new projects introduced, funds for projects reduced, “to halt progress of government”. It is unfortunate that a man like Tinubu who had been in the Senate (though for 22 months and under a military regime) should have a better understanding of how the legislature works. The passage of budgets is definitely not the exclusive responsibility of the leadership of the Senate. Most of the work is done in 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,” the statement said.
According to the statement, it was also a known fact that any so-called delay in the passage of budgets under the Eighth National Assembly was traceable to the refusal of heads of MDAs to defend the budget proposals for their agencies on time, saying that 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 manoeuvring 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. Tinubu should be graceful enough to substantiate this allegation. We consider that allegation careless, irresponsible and callous. We therefore demand that he should withdraw it,” it added.
The statement said there was need to let Tinubu know that it was the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to review the proposals sent by the executive and where it deemed necessary, and that it was within the power of the legislature to make changes.
“A good example, is the decision by the National Assembly to include in the 2018 budget the one percent of the total budget, amounting to N33 billion, as allocation for Universal Health Coverage as provided by an extant law, which had been hitherto observed in the breach. Is this what Tinubu considers as budget padding? And this was a decision which was praised across the world as a real benefit to ordinary people across the country,” it added.
It said Tinubu also claimed that the Senate leadership “stymied APC legislative initiatives while attempting to hoist noxious reactionary and self-interested legislation on the nation,” saying that “We wonder what these “legislative initiatives” are because in the four years of the Buhari administration, it has only forwarded 11 bills to the Senate, apart from 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.
“As a leader of the Eighth National Assembly, Dr. Saraki is proud that under his watch, the Senate has surpassed the records of all previous Senates in the number of bills passed, the significance of these bills to the revival of the economy, the fight against insecurity and corruption, improvement in the provision of health service and the education sector, as well as better social service delivery to the generality of the people. The bills passed, motions moved, interventions made and frequent engagement with the people were all directed towards addressing the day-to-day issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerians.
“This Senate has passed 282 bills (the highest any Senate had passed is 129 bills recorded by the 5th Senate), among which is the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Public Procurement Act (amendment) Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, Police Reform Bill, Police Trust Fund 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, 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. It will be good to know which of these Bills Tinubu believes is “self interested” and not in the interest of Nigerians,” it stated.
The statement pointed to the attention of Tinubu to the fact that most of the bills listed above got international and national endorsement from stakeholders who lauded the Senate for the move, citing a case where the Financial Intelligence Database Agency (Ultrascan) commended the Senate for passing the NFIU Act which enabled the country to be re-admitted into the Egmont Group, among others.
According to the statement, Tinubu and his mob had been sponsoring the narratives in the media that the emergence of the present leadership of the National Assembly was a mistake, saying that Saraki and other leaders of the National Assembly were democratically elected by their colleagues and that it was because they were the choice of their colleagues that they had 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 by 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,” the statement added.
The statement asked Tinubu to leave Saraki out of his schemes and manipulations towards 2023, saying it was obvious his arbitrary and tactless interference in the process for the emergence of the leadership of the Ninth Assembly was already falling through and that 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 steps and in his usual devious manner, he is looking for scapegoats. We advise him to leave Dr. Saraki out of his manipulations and “jockeying and maneuvering for influence and power”, as he termed it.
“The Eighth Senate has done very well and will leave a good legacy. Despite all the underhanded tactics to undermine the legislature by outsiders and the public posturing, members have always worked as a team on critical issues that benefit our nation. That is why hitherto achievable legislation like the PIGB, Police Reform Act and other bills or amendments to existing laws were passed with ease because the members and the leadership know that they are elected as Senators of the Federal Republic not as party representatives. Tinubu should know that while we await his attack for the next quarter, we can only advise him to stay on facts,” the statement said.
Source: PM News