President Goodluck Jonathan
The Presidency has said the trial of Mahmud Tukur, son of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman Bamanga Tukur, and Mamman Nasser Ali, son of former chairman of the party Ahmadu Ali, and others indicted in the multi-million naira oil subsidy fraud is unfortunate, but due process must take its course.
It also said the threat by the House of Representatives to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan over alleged poor implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act was not based on "sound judgement."
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY last night, the newly-appointed Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the trial of the indicted oil marketers was part of a silent revolution being carried out by the present regime.
Okupe said: “The arraignment of the sons of Bamanga Tukur and Ahmadu Ali with others involved in the oil scandal probe is part of the silent revolution going on in this country. And I can assure you that President Jonathan will not intervene”.
Mahmud, Mamman Naseer, Abdullahi Arisekola-Alao as well as other directors of oil marketing firms and their companies were on Thursday arraigned before Justices Habeeb Abiru and Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja for alleged complicity in the oil subsidy scam. They were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Senior Special Assistant said: “The National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was one of the first eminent Nigerians to raise the hands of President Jonathan in support of his aspiration, but these are part of the painful decisions the president has to take.
His father was among the first northerners to support the President and many would have thought that the trial of his son would be part of the payback time, but President Jonathan has commitment for justice, equity and the rule of law to take place in Nigeria.”
According to Okupe, “when the sons of Bamanga Tukur and Ahmadu Ali were arraigned, many people were asking, could this happen in Nigeria, but I can assure you that the president will not intervene to scuttle the law of land and will not do anything with the procedure of the trial. This is unfortunate and painful as it could be, but sacrifice has to be made to move the country forward.
A silent revolution has started. The questions Nigerians should rather be asking is, could this happen in any of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – controlled states?”
Okupe queried the rationale behind the impeachment threat against Jonathan and cautioned the House members against politicising budget implementation.
The House had said if the budget was not implemented 100 per cent by September, it would commence impeachment proceedings against the president.
PDP Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, said on Thursday that though the House might have its grievances, since the president and the lawmakers are PDP members, the problem had to be handled diplomatically in order to smoothen out the rough edges.
But Okupe said: “The statement is an embarrassment. One, this budget was passed March 16, it was returned and all that and finally became effectual by around April. April to now. April, May, July. Now, between now and September, July, August, September, it is three months, you want the budget of the country to be totally expired and finished by month nine, now what would happen for the rest of the year.
“It also shows that those who are the proponents of this idea actually do not have the most rudimentary knowledge of governance, or the principle of government itself because all over the world, budget is a statement by a government stating that this year, should everything go well, this is what we propose to do. You cannot begin to politicise a document like that. When you begin to do that, you carry politics to the level of the ludicrous. Because by March, we were still operating the 2011 budget. In April we started; now, budgeting and expenditure, there are procedural processes, contracts would have to be awarded, bidding will have to take place, due process must be followed, we are all complaining about corruption in the country and all that.”
He added: “Government, governance and oversight function of the House of Representatives are serious jobs and only serious-minded people, not people who are willing to reduce their intellectual exercise for some partisan interest, should be taken very seriously and let us face it. There is a Minister of Finance and the coordinating minister, (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), who has said up till date, we have approached 56 percent in terms of execution in about four months”.
Okupe accused the opposition political parties of propagating the politics of hate in Nigeria.
The PDP has also said it will not intervene in the trial of suspects in the oil subsidy fraud while the party’s chairman has deplored attempts by critics to attack him over his son’s alleged complicity in the scam, saying Mahmud as an adult is old enough to answer for his actions.
The Senior Special Assistant also faulted the summoning of the president by the House to come and explain how his regime is confronting the security challenge in the country. He said: “The president of Nigeria cannot come and address a 360-man committee openly with his security chiefs on the state of security in the nation. That in itself is an absurdity. It is not done anywhere. If the members of the House truly and genuinely are interested in knowing what the government is doing and they are not grandstanding, they will request for an audience on a matter of urgent national importance and I am sure it will be immediately granted.”
Okupe referred to a similar incident that happened in the United States, when the Senate had cause to visit President Barrack Obama at the White House for explanation. “I recall when President Obama just came into government, there was a very serious matter that a committee of the Senate went to the president in the White House to discuss and I recall very well. Why I don’t forget is because Obama joked with McCain and said Senator McCain, the elections are over,” he said.
He, therefore, advised the House to seek audience with the President to discuss issues of national importance.
Okupe said the immediate desire of the president was to re-build national institutions and infrastructure, provide power and energy as well as education and good roads.