NASS, Buhari’s Face-off Worsens

NASS, Buhari’s Face-off Worsens
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  • Real reasons they are at war with President
  • Group wants Ahmed Lawan’s removal

Abdul Lateef Bamgbose

In spite of the initial declarations by the leadership of the National Assembly ,  Ahmed Lawan, President of the Senate and  Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives ,  much touted chummy relationship between the 9th Assembly and President MuhammaduBuhari-led Executive toward the end of 2020 appears to have finally collapsed; with the executive arm and the lawmakers at daggers drawn in their battles of assertions.

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 The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, at the unveiling of the agenda of the 9th Assembly was quoted to have told Nigerians that; “We are going to relate with the executive arms of the government, we have no reasons  to disagree with the Executive in the 9th Assembly. That intriguing statement perhaps aimed at spiting the leadership of the 8th Assembly for its confrontational stance with the executive was made in June 2019.

However, AljazirahNigeria can authoritatively reveal that the National Assembly and the Executive barely less than three years after that ‘matrimonial vows’, are back in the trenches.

AljazirahNigeria reliably gathered that the Executive arm of government has frowned at the propensity of probes and invitations from both the Senate and the House of Representatives on its members.

In fact, the House of Representatives has proclivity to set tongues wagging with high profile probes which sources at the Presidency claimed has become a major sour point in the relationship between the executive and the legislature.

Specifically, AljazirahNigeria impeccable source who does not want his name mentioned said: “The Senate President and the Speaker cannot claim innocence in these probes that have turned to be a strain on the anti-corruption crusade of the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress, APC”.

The height in the episode of the drama in the smouldering rage threatening the continuous staying of Senator Ahmed Lawan and his House counterparts, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, is the investigation by the House Committee on treaties and protocol.

The Committee in August had launched investigations into the ‘agreement in International borrowing’ entered by President MuhammaduBuhari, with focus on the Chinese loans.

The revelations at the public hearing stinks and speak volumes, as the Chairman of the Committee, HonourableOssai Nicholas, PDP Delta State, claimed the Minister of Transportation, RotimiAmaechi signed over $33billion worth of loans with the Chinese without recourse to due process.

The claim unearthed the dirty under belly of the Federal Government and caused a row between the Minister of Transportation, RotimiAmaechi, and the Chairman of the Committee, HonourableOsaai, as Amaechi, claimed he signed only $1.2billion loan on behalf of the Federal Government.

The real issue that attracted the critics of the Buhari-led Executive, AljazirahNigeria source said was the sovereignty immune clause in the loans.

The House of Representatives interpreted the clause as “ceding of Nigeria sovereignty to the Chinese”.

After the revelations painting the scary picture of forfeiture of the National Assets, the House in a controversial circumstance suspended the probe.

Another dramatic probe in the House AljazirahNigeria gathered was the probe conducted by the Ad Hoc committee on the sack of three Heads of Government agencies by some ministers.

The three agencies are Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company, NBET and Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.

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Following the consideration of motion of urgent importance moved by Hon. Abejide, ADC, Kogi State laced with heavy allegations of corruption against the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, Hon. FalekeAbiodun specifically fingered Ngige in the corruption in the agency under investigations, during the debate on the motion. This bad blood was carried to the investigative hearing where Faleke and Ngige burst up with the infamous; “See this small   boy, ordinary  Mushin  boy  talking to a Victoria Island boy” tantrum from the Minister of Labour , Employment and Productivity , Mr. Chris Ngige.

Ngige

Though the House subsequently adopted the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, with the recommendations that the sacked NSITF management be reinstated, the executive eight months after was yet to implement the report.

 Earlier, the lawmakers, had walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, following his refusal to apologise after the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.

The incident happened at an investigative hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour, and Productivity.

Keyamo was asked by the lawmakers to explain the modalities he had adopted to carry out the recruitment of the Federal Government ‘palliative jobs’ across all the local governments in the country and why he was not carrying out the, National Directorate of Employment, NDE along.

The minister explained that an Act that established the NDE gave his ministry powers to oversee the affairs and programmes of the agency.

Trouble started when the minister said he had inaugurated a 20-member committee to implement the recruitment process and that the committee had started work.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Mr. GodiyaAkwashiki, asked why NDE was not being carried along in the process.

Keyamo said the Director-General of the NDE, NasiruLadan, is a member of the committee but when asked to defend himself, the NDE boss said the minister was in a better position to answer all questions relating to the N52 billion budgeted for the recruitment’s of 774,000 Nigerians under the NDE.

The Minister said his ministry was asked to supervise the recruitment’s by President Buhari.

The federal lawmakers disagreed with Keyamo and the shouting ensued.

The lawmakers called for a closed session to resolve their differences but Keyamo insisted that journalists must witness the proceedings.

The legislators accused Keyamo of trying to dictate proceedings to them and demanded an apology.

The refusal by Keyamo to apologise forced the lawmakers to walk him out after another round of brawl that lasted over 30 minutes.

Keyamo left the investigative hearing and told journalists that the grouse of the lawmakers was because he did not allow them to own the process.

He also said they wanted more than the 15 per cent job slots allocated to them.

But in a swift reaction, Akwashiki, who presided over the joint National Assembly panel, denied the two allegations levelled against them by Keyamo.

Rather, he accused Keyamo of allegedly trying to build a political structure of 1, 000 youths in each of the 774 local government areas across the country with the 774,000 jobs without the involvement of the NDE.

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The dramatic slipping of Prof. KemebredikumoPondei, the acting Managing Director of NNDC , marked another sour point in the rancorous relationship between President Buhari appointees and the lawmakers.

Pondei, during the investigative hearing into the N85.5billion fraud in NDDC ‘fainted” few minutes into the proceeding, the Minister of Niger Delta, one of the dramatis persona in the highly octane drama, GodswillAkpabio, later dropped the bomb shell that 60% of the contracts under investigations were given to the lawmakers.

AljazirahNigeria gathered that while the Presidency was shopping for the replacement of the leadership of the National Assembly, Ahmed Lawan and Gbajabiamila, the  fuel to stoke the fire came the way of the presidency following  Zabarmari village killings in Borno. While Ahmed Lawan led the debate on the call for the sack of Service Chiefs, his counterparts in the House wanted Buhari to explain the continuous stay of the service chiefs in office.

“The president as a Commander –in- Chief does not need the approval or the resolutions of lawmaker to change his security chiefs” says APC Chieftain.

The debate and the invitation according to presidency source further worsen an already cracked relationship between the lawmakers and the executive, as the opposition in the House called for the impeachment of the president.

 Indeed, miffed by the worsening insecurity in the country, the House of Representatives had summoned President Buhari over the cold-blooded murder of about 43 persons by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Zabarmari village, Jere council of Borno State.

Adopting a motion under urgent matters of national importance sponsored by Satomi Ahmed at the plenary presided by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the lawmakers insisted that President Buhari be made to brief them on the true state of the nation’s security.

The lawmakers, who did not specify when the President should appear before them, condemned the killing of the deceased who were rice farmers.

Ahmed, who moved the motion on behalf of ten of his colleagues from the troubled state, said he was pained that the Islamist terrorist group tied up and slit the throats of the farmers in an insane and barbaric manner.

The lawmaker said the inability of the Military and security forces to avert the continued wanton killings by Book Haram terrorist,ISWAP, bandits, and across the country remains a source of concern.

He reiterated the need for Buhari to reorganize the security architecture of the country to end insurgency in the North-east, banditry and all acts of terrorism across the nation.

Prior to the passage of the motion, the lawmakers were divided on the issue of summoning Buhari, which compelled Speaker Gbajabiamila to hold an executive session in an apparent bid to douse tension.

Ahmed had incurred the wrath of his colleagues when he deliberately skipped the prayer on the need to summon Buhari by opting to call on the president to among other things, declare a state of emergency on security matters.

Usman Jaha raised a point of order under matters of privileges, drawing Speaker Gbajabiamila’s attention to the misnomer.

“We, all the members from Borno State sat together and agreed that all the prayers of the motion must remain as they are. We all agreed that Mr. President should be invited to come explain the security situation in the country, especially the North-east”, the lawmaker insisted.

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But Gbajabiamila said the call for a declaration of a state of emergency on security issues as moved by his colleagues was subsisting.

Indeed, to douse the tension the hawks in the Presidency flew a kite recently that the National Assembly has apologized to the president over the invitations, but the house cut off it Christmas and year break to denounce such claims.

In a statement made available to AljazirahNigeria, the House spokesperson, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, punctured the statement saying the House did not apologize to the president.

The Spokesperson of the House, Benjamin Kalu, (APC-Abia) said on Monday that the House was unperturbed about the failure of MrBuhari to appear before it over security matters.

“The President or the Presidency as the case may be, never sought (for) an apology from the House of Representatives for carrying out her Constitutional responsibility to the Nigerian electorate” , the statement said.

 “For the avoidance of doubt, the House never apologised to anyone for exercising its Constitutional mandate and the 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives will not do anything to desecrate or destroy the critical institution of democracy – the Legislature.

“We strongly believe that President MuhammaduBuhari subscribes to these democratic ethos and ideals as well”, he said.

The spokesperson said the motion to invite the president over security matters was sponsored by representatives from Borno on behalf of the people.

The House had earlier invited the president to appear and brief lawmakers on the state of security following the murder of 43 rice farmers in Borno in November.

Meanwhile, there a twist to the saga as a group, “The Core All Pro­gressives Congress Supporters Network” (Co-APC-SuN) has demanded the immediate resignation of Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President over alleged im­peachment plot by some members of the National Assembly against President MuhammaduBuhari.

The APC group alleged on Monday, that the Senate President, former Borno State governor, Senator KashimShettima and Sen­ators from the opposition political parties, should be investigated over the alle­gation.

A statement by AlhajiBalaAbubakar, Publicity Secretary of Co-APC-SuN, accused some members of the APC of aligning forces with the opposition ele­ments to “selfishly exploit” the mandate of the APC in their custody.

”Also, we learnt reliably that these subversive ele­ments within the party fold have concluded plans in al­liance with opposition blocs in the parliament to replace President Buhari with the Vice-President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo, who is expected to only serve out the remain­ing two years of the Buhari Presidency and hand over power.

”The Co-APC-SuN there­fore, calls on Sen. Ahmed Lawan to resign his posi­tion as the Senate President of Nigeria without any fur­ther delay”. As the National Assembly resumes from its annual recess in February 23, it remains a matter of debate whether the Executive will end the reign of the rancorous National Assembly before its end of tenure in 2023.

Aljazirahnews