Zakari Mohammed, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs
The House of Representatives has risen in defence of its threat last week to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan for the poor implementation of the 2012 budget, describing the resolution as bold and patriotic.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, who addressed journalists on the issue in Abuja yesterday, said the resolution was a direct fallout of an extensive debate on the “snail speed” implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act when all revenue-generating agencies had surpassed their annual targets by the middle of the year.
The House at plenary last Thursday, had issued an ultimatum, that if by Tuesday, September 18, when it resumes from its annual recess, there is no marked improvement on the budget’s implementation, it would be left with no choice than to initiate impeachment proceedings against Jonathan for gross misconduct.
But some lawmakers, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, confessed that the House was particularly aggrieved because of the non-release of funds for their constituency projects, which usually has a negative impact on their mandate to represent their people.
Mohammed, however, disagreed with this position, insisting that the resolution had no direct personal benefit to members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
Mohammed lamented that whereas “this bold and patriotic step” had attracted different comments from various quarters, some analysts have chosen to “deliberately misinform the public on the rationale behind our nationalistic stand”.
According to him, the House took the decision out of concern that the non-implementation of the budget to the benefit of the Nigerian people could worsen the already fragile state of the nation.
“To then insinuate that the House of Representatives took this noble step to satisfy pressure from a political party or because the constituency projects were not awarded to members or because of the drama that followed the presentation of the fuel subsidy report, is to say the least malicious, damaging and uncharitable to the image of the Assembly.
“We in the legislature are lawmakers and not contractors and the constituency projects execution has been the exclusive preserve of the executive and its agencies.
“Similarly, what members do in the course of the budget preparation is to furnish the respective MDAs with locations and area of needs of our constituencies. The bidding process is handled by the supervising ministries. The entire 360 members in the House are bound by the Nigerian project.
“Our independence and objectiveness is evident in the selection of our principal officers which we did according to our thoughts. To assume that we are guided by some forces outside the House of Representatives is mischievous and a deliberate ploy to misrepresent the House before the Nigerian public,” he said.
Mohammed also dismissed the insinuations that the impeachment threat was in response to the handling of the fuel subsidy report by the executive.
He said from the outset, the House had distanced itself from the bribery scandal involving one of its members, Hon. Farouk Lawan, and suspended him as chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring the Fuel Subsidy Scheme as well as chairman, House Committee on Education.
In addition, he said the House had encouraged the law enforcement agencies to do their work according to the dictates of the law, adding that it was therefore out of place to conclude that the resolution of last Thursday was borne out of selfish motives.
Mohammed pledged that the House would continue to raise its voice against injustice or impunity and no amount of blackmail or intimidation would make the legislature abdicate its constitutional responsibilities to the people of Nigeria.