Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has accused the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader, All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, of manufacturing falsehoods and painting a non-existing picture of his stewardship.
Reacting to reports that he was backing some persons as leaders of the ninth National Assembly because of his alleged interest in the 2023 presidency at the weekend, Tinubu, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Tunde Rahman, had alleged, among others, that Dogara and President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, padded the national budgets, in the last three years, with projects that profited them.
Responding to the allegation through his Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, Dogara said Tinubu is “pursuing fascist agenda to control all levers of power in Nigeria.”
According to Dogara, “Only the ignorant with dubious academic certificates will say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make.
“The legislature cannot be accused of padding a budget it has unquestionable constitutional power to review. The budget is a law and the executive does not make laws.
“Therefore, it’s only the ignorant and those who hold dubious academic certificates that say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make.”
He said the issue of who could pass the budget had been settled by the court.
He said: “In the words of his lordship, Hon. Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, in suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014, delivered on March 9, 2016, the National Assembly was not created by drafters of the Constitution and imbued with the powers to receive ‘budget estimates,’ which the first defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it, as a rubber stamp parliament.
“The whole essence of the budget estimates being required to be laid before parliament is to enable it, being the Assembly of the representatives of the people, to debate the said budget proposals and to make its own well informed legislative inputs into it.”
The speaker advised the APC national leader to be circumspect in his use of language, saying he spoke as a spokesperson of depravity.
“Our reaction must, therefore, be seen as a provoked counter-punch. Anyone can descend into the gutter, if he so wishes, but no one has a monopoly of gutter language. We won’t run an adult day care centre anymore on matters like this,” Dogara added.
He said the House doesn’t expect Tinubu to dwell on brazen mendacity, much less murder facts and decorum in his rabid bid to justify his patently clear fascist agenda of controlling all levers of power in Nigeria.
Dogara insisted that Tinubu’s nocturnal agenda has no parallel in the history of any democracy and it is more loathsome when he throws caution to the winds and maligns government officials who are doing a yeoman’s job of stabilising the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, even in spite of political differences.
He said: “It is on record that the speaker has done more to stabilise this government more than Asiwaju Tinubu and his ilk whose stock in trade is scheming, manipulation and subversion, especially when they feel they cannot be caught.
“When the history of Buhari’s administration is written by those who know the truth of what really transpired in the last four years, Asiwaju’s pretentious loyalty to President Buhari will then be exposed. We won’t say more but no matter how long it may last, the truth will one day overtake lies.”
Dogara explained that the chief cause of delay in enacting the budget is the persistent refusal or neglect of the executive to present it in good time.
He further explained: “For the records, in the last four years, there was no urgency or plan by the executive to achieve a January to December budget cycle. For the avoidance of doubt, we will show the dates the budget estimates were submitted by the executive in the last four years below.
“The 2016 Budget was submitted on December 22, 2015, exactly nine days to the end of the year; 2017 budget submitted on December 14, 2016, just 17 days to the end of the year; 2018 Budget was presented on November 7, 2017, the earliest even though it also fell short of the 90 days stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
“The 2019 budget was presented on December 19, 2018 exactly 12 days to the end of the year.
“As if the late or delayed submission of budget estimates wasn’t enough, in most cases, ministers and heads of agencies contributed to the so-called delay by consistently refusing to appear before National Assembly Standing Committees to defend their budget proposals in line with the provision of the law.
“At some points, the leadership of the National Assembly had to take up the issue with the president who advised his ministers to honour legislative invitations to defend their budgets.”
He said save the executive, the legislature inserted a clause that enabled the former to spend till the new budget is passed.
Dogara said to compel the executive to lay the budget on time in accordance with the law, the legislature amended the Constitution to provide for a time line for the submission of the budget but that the president vetoed it.
He explained: “As an activist legislature, the National Assembly effected an amendment to S. 81(1) of the Constitution to compel Mr. President to present the budget estimates not later than 90 days to the end of a financial year in order to solve this problem but unfortunately, very unfortunately, Mr. President declined assent to the bill, which was passed by both the National Assembly and over 2/3rds of the State Assemblies.
“The National Assembly made a further attempt to make the budget process much better by improving the institutional capacity of the parliament to process and pass national budgets by passing the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) Establishment Bill into law. It was loosely modelled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Again, Mr. President declined assent to the bill.”
The speaker said it is on record that the 8th National Assembly has supported the president’s requests on critical issues of governance, emphasising that the legislature had backed him by resolution on the issue of fuel subsidy, the national minimum wage, even though it was more sympathetic to workers’ rights.
He added: “In security matters, we never cut any proposal from Mr. President save our refusal to rubber stamp a clear constitutional overreach of spending $1 billion in arms purchase without appropriation.
“We have passed more bills than any Assembly before us including bills that are helping the government improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, and there were times we passed bills within two legislative days. Is Tinubu genuinely ignorant of all these?
“We challenge Asiwaju Tinubu to list out the bills he claimed were not passed by the National Assembly. The oil and gas or petroleum sector is the most important and critical sector of our economy, which accounts for over 70 percent of our earnings, the executive didn’t forward a single Bill to the National Assembly to reform and reposition the sector in the last four years even when repeatedly urged to do so by Mr. Speaker in his first year in office.
“The lawmakers waited in vain and had to take the bold initiative of crafting a bill – Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PGIB) among others, passed it in record time and transmitted same to Mr. President for assent. This bill was vetoed without an alternative legal framework proposed by the Executive. Did Asiwaju miss this also?
“Asiwaju Tinubu should mention the so-called bills the Executive sent to the National Assembly and were delayed to show he is a man of honour or forever keep his peace.
“Could someone also challenge Asiwaju to list all the ‘noxious reactionary and self interested legislation on the nation?’ Can he name the bills that are reactionary and not in the national interest?
“Is this how wayward lust for power blinds the reasoning of people we should ordinarily respect? Is it not most unfair, unpatriotic and wicked for Asiwaju Tinubu to have resorted to factoids in promoting his known fascist agenda which he mistakenly thinks he is keeping secret.”
Reiterating that the 8th National Assembly is not a rubber stamp parliament and reserves the right, working cooperatively with the executive, to interrogate projects unilaterally inserted by the executive branch without the input of or consultation with parliament, Dogara said that the parliamentarians are representatives of the Nigerian people and you don’t expect them to rubber stamp budgets that are heavily skewed and lopsided against most sections of the country.