• Lai Mohammed tells blatant lies, says Saraki
By Nseobong Okon-Ekong
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has blamed the Senate President Bukola Saraki for allegedly creating many stumbling blocks that have hindered the execution of federal government’s projects through methodical postponement of debates on government’s annual budgets sent to the National Assembly.
But in a swift reaction, Saraki, through his spokesman, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, wondered how a man who speaks for the government would be spewing forth blatant lies.
Mohammed who spoke with journalists in Lagos at the weekend rejected assertions by Saraki that he was starved of appointments in the president Muhammodu Buhari government and similar claims by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State that his state did not benefit from federal government projects.
Lamenting the impact of budget delay by the federal lawmakers, Mohammed said: “We have a National Assembly in which we had a clear majority in both houses but which treated the executive with contempt and who actually slowed down the work of government. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, our budgets were delayed. We can understand 2015 budget because we came in the middle of the year. But 2016, 2017, the earliest we got our budgets was June.
“Key appointments, nominations and confirmations for key organisations that could move the government forward like the CBN, like the NDIC, were delayed. Really, it couldn’t have been worse if the PDP had a majority in the National Assembly.
“The fundamental thing is that for us, it would have been better that they left a long time earlier because they have strangulated this government for too long. When you are betrayed by your own party, it is more painful because we can’t fight back as much as we want to fight back. I just want to establish that the foundation of what you see today was laid as far back as the day he became Senate President.”
Refuting the allegation that he had an interest to contest for the governorship ticket of the APC in Kwara State, the information minister said the exit of Saraki from the APC would broaden the independence of the people of Kwara State. “As far as the people of Kwara State are concerned, the state has been finally liberated. The excitement today in Kwara State is akin to how Nigeria felt on the eve of Independence.
“The moment he joined the APC, the former ACN, former ANPP, former CPC members who were in APC, many of them left APC because they could not be in the same camp with him. So, what we are witnessing today in Kwara State is like a liberation, and from the support I have received so far, including the leadership of the party led by the Chairman, Akogun Oyedepo Iyiola, who met with me and the National Chairman with 17 other leaders, including Professor Oba Abdulraheem, Senator S.S Ajibola, all the three senatorial district chairmen of the PDP in the state gives me confidence that Saraki’s days in dominating Kwara politics are limited. I also met with the 16 PDP candidates in the last local government elections in my home town in Oro,” Mohammed explained.
Mohammed explained that Saraki’s allegation on appointments were baseless. According to him, “I think it is a blatant lie that Kwara State was not considered in appointments. There are 26 appointees to boards, parastatals, either as members or DG to Kwara State and of these 26, I recommended only two. The other 24 were done by Dr. Bukola Saraki.”
But Saraki has described the minister’s allegations as blatant lies and evidence of his ignorance on the workings of the National Assembly.
He said: “Mohammed, because of his ignorance about how the legislature works, thinks that the Senate president is an all powerful Chief Executive to whom all others in the chamber bow. He is talking as if the passage of budget is a responsibility of the Senate alone. How about the House of Representatives? I believe the legislators loyal to the presidency should educate him about how the National Assembly functions. Decisions are jointly taken and they are subject to voting, in which the majority carries the day.”
He reminded the information minister that the heads of the ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) had refuses to appear before National Assembly committees to defend their budget proposals.
“On that occasion, President Buhari apologised to the legislators and said the impression he got before the meeting was different. He then ordered the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to write to all heads of MDAs to go and defend their budget proposals. It took two weeks after the budget before the ministers heeded that advice. Of course, Mohammed was not at the meeting between the leadership of the legislature and the president,” he said.
On the alleged refusal of the Senate to hold confirmation hearing for presidential nominees not expressly mentioned in the constitution, Saraki said the position of the National Assembly was a logical reaction to the views expressed by the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, that such categories of nominees do not require Senate confirmation.
“The Senate saw a contradiction in the VP’s position and the fact that those categories of nominees are still being referred to it for confirmation by the Presidency. Even then, the Senate waived the decision to suspend screening of such category of nominees by attending to those whose impact on the economy matter. These include the nominees into CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) and the rest,” Saraki said.