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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Presidency, NASS Return To Trenches

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…..the resurgent face-off between the presidency and the legislature has put the country on the edge, as the both arms of government engage in a fresh bout of supremacy tussle

The renewed altercation between the Presidency and the National Assembly hit its nadir on Tuesday when the Senate took a heavy swipe at the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo for allegedly questioning their constitutional authority to confirm the nomination of appointees by the executive arm.

Senators also expressed concern about the refusal of the executive to drop Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairman of the EFCC after his nomination was rejected twice by the Upper Legislative Chamber.

Senate President Bukola Saraki said that Osinbajo must respect the laws of the country and the powers of the parliament as explicitly enumerated in the Constitution.

The senators backed a series of resolutions against the executive, including one that demanded an immediate retraction of Osinbajo’s comment, which some of them said was antithetical to a democratic system.

The exasperation began when Osinbajo sent a request for confirmation of Lanre Gbajabiamila as the Director-General of National Lottery Commission.

One of the irate senators, Sen. Sani Yerima prayed that senators should not treat the request because Osinbajo had dismissed the powers of Senate to confirm nominees.

“Acting President must respect the Constitution and laws enacted by the National Assembly as relating to the confirmation of nominees,” Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West, said while contributing to the motion.

Melaye also demanded that “the Senate should suspend all issues relating to the confirmation of nominees,” according to a text of proceedings live-tweeted by the Senate handle.

The senators also stopped all confirmation hearings for nominees forwarded by Osinbajo until all contentious issues surrounding their powers to confirm appointees are resolved.
Recall that the lawmakers’ rift with the acting President snowballed when Osinbajo made some statements that didn’t go down well with the legislators. He drew the ire of lawmakers when he said in April that the Senate’s powers to confirm nominees were limited.

“I fully agree with Mr. (Femi) Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Magu for confirmation,” the Acting President said, citing Section 171 of the Constitution as his authority.

The Acting President’s comment was aimed at declaring the administration’s full support for Magu, about a month after the EFCC boss was rejected a second time by the Senate.Senators insisted that Magu, who has been functioning in an acting capacity since 2015, should step down and warned the executive against forwarding his name again for confirmation.

Meanwhile, Osinbajo has not forwarded Magu’s name again for confirmation, but his refusal to remove Mr. Magu and nominate another candidate for the position has continued to unsettle the lawmakers, who consider the impasse as an affront.
To crown it all, the Presidency has dismissed the Senate’s threat of showdown and reaffirmed its support for Magu.

Another Osinbajo’s comment, which ruffled the feathers of the lawmakers, was last month, when the Acting President reportedly suggested that the power of the legislature to rework appropriation bills was limited.

His comment was backed by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who said that the legislature should not be making far-reaching amendments to budgets.
Meanwhile, Fashola became embroiled in the executive, legislative long-running feud when he raised the alarm last month on the reduction of the cost for the budget along with alteration of budgets for some other key projects.

He said instead of allowing the budget to go, the National Assembly has reduced the budgets of critical projects of the ministry and inserted projects that have nothing to do with the ministry.

He alleged that NASS inserted projects outside the purview of his ministry in the 2017 Appropriation Act by the National Assembly.

The Minister said it was unfair to the Executive arm for the inclusion of such projects after public hearings on the budget and defence of the fiscal estimates by the ministries.
“What I have in my budget now is primary healthcare centres, boreholes,’’ he said.
“That was the meeting we had with the Acting President and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.

“We were ask to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31 billion to N10 billion.
“We are owing the contractors about N15 billion and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.

“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15 billion to N10 billion and about N3 billion or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget,” Fashola said.

Fashola’s statement incurred the wrath of both chambers of the National Assembly, which wasted no time to lampoon the Minster.

Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara carpeted the Acting President for joining forces with Fashola to undermine legislature’s constitutional rights.
As a result, the Lower Legislative Chamber on Tuesday resolved to summon Fashola to answer to allegations that the House messed up with the Ministry’s 2017 budget and slashed appropriations for critical infrastructural projects.

The running verbal fisticuffs between Fashola and the Green Chamber extended to the Red Chamber with hotter flames, as the Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje has asked Fashola to resign his appointment if he was burdened by the volume of work at his ministry.

Infuriated by Fashola’s comments, the Senator accused the Minister of misleading the public and blackmailing lawmakers over the alterations made by in the budget.

“Initially, I wanted to come under a motion but, yesterday, the House of Representatives took up the matter. Since we are on the same page with the House, I feel I should not come under a motion. But I will like to seize this opportunity to advise the Minister that he should remember that he is now a Minister and should behave like a Minister.

“If the job is too much for him – the ministry is too big; it comprises three ministries, which are works, housing and power; if he cannot adjust, then, he should do the honourable thing. He should do the needful.

“No amount of blackmail by him; no amount of propaganda by him or his surrogates will stop this National Assembly from discharging its duties in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. We have sworn to uphold and protect this Constitution, and this we will do to the end of this Assembly.

“For now, I will cease fire and watch to see how the House will handle him. If he is well handled there, we will leave him with them. But if we are not satisfied and they pass him to us, then, we will take him over,” he said.

In order not to let the sleeping dogs lie, Fashola quickly reacted to Goje’s comment, saying that the Senator was unparliamentary and should not trivialize the vital issues he raised.
However, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has assured that the fresh crisis between the Presidency and Upper Chamber of the National Assembly would be resolved amicably.

But some pundits have warned that the raging crisis should not be handled with kid gloves but be resolved immediately, as such rift could spell doom for a country that is currently sitting on the keg of a gunpowder.

Whereas, other political commentators have wondered why the political class should choose this ungodly time to kick-start their political power play.

They said that the so-called leaders, who ought to be champions of peace and unity, and even call for concerted and collective efforts to save the frail and fragile Nigeria from catastrophe, are on the contrary, fanning the flames of political strife in the country.

In reprimanding both the Executive and Legislative arms, the analysts bemoaned why Nigerian political leadership always place their personal interests above national interest, believing that the renewed political crisis is about personal interests of politicians at the expense of national interest.

The country is currently going through series of challenges like economic recession that has lasted for over a year now; President Muhammadu Buhari is hospitalized in London and needs Nigerians’ prayers; there are ethnic crises raging from Arewa Youth quit notice to the Igbos living in the north to Niger-Deltans threatening to confiscate oil blocs owned by the northerners; agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra and restructuring of the country.

Now that the House of Reps have summoned Fashola over allegations of budget irregularities, will the Minister honour the invitation or decide to toe the same line of Customs boss, Hameed Ali and go to court to keep the matter in abeyance until it dies a natural death?

As the Senate has threatened to be at daggers drawn with the Presidency over Magu and the Acting President’s comments and resolved to suspend confirmation of nominees from the executive arm; will Osinbajo, who was nominated by his principal, President Buhari last time to mediate between the two arms over political logjam, pander to the whims and caprices of the legislature by withdrawing his comments that have continued to unsettle the lawmakers, and also by removing Magu as EFCC boss just in the interest of national peace and smooth running of government or will he damn the consequence and remain defiant.

Meanwhile, the country, left to wallow in pain and penury, watches as the event unfolds.


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