Hundreds of protesters under the aegis of National Convener of Citizens’ Action to take back Nigeria (CATBAN) have called on the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to step down. The protesters who stormed the National Assembly Complex in various vehicles, were seen displaying banners, calling for scrapping of constituency projects.
Some of the placards have inscriptions like, “Nigerians are not represented in the sharing of loots via constituency projects, Dear legislators, to make laws is not to execute projects, legislators are not executives.” The National Convener of the group, Comrade Garba Wala, while addressing newsmen, accused the lawmakers of using constituency projects to siphone funds meant for Nigerians.
Wala said concerns raised by President Muhammadu Buhari while signing the 2018 Budget, showed that the National Assembly was “stealing the common patrimony of the people through constituency projects.” According to him, the concerns are indications that Saraki and Dogara lacked credibility and moral capacity, as such should resign.
“The President told Nigerians that our Federal legislators connived among themselves and removed priority developmental projects carefully prepared by the Federal Government to impact on the lives of the citizenry. “The National Assembly made cut of N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6, 403 private projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.
” As a Civil Society Organisation, we feel pained that this year’s budget followed the regular path of stealing in the guise of bogus constituency projects. “In spite of the wishy-washy response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 Budget, there is ample evidence to show that they shortchanged their constituents who elected them to make laws for the good governance of the country,” he said.
He expressed concern that, “with an additional sum of N170 billion for Constituency Projects, together with the sum of N100 billion already provided for in the Budget, the National Assembly still went ahead to cut allocations to important national projects.
“The cut was aimed at distorting the budget in order to further increase their allocation for constituency projects.
“This to us is a grave offence against the sensibilities of Nigerians.”
The convener said, “this is one big scandal that brings to light how the nation’s annual budgets have been padded over the years to the disadvantage of 180 million Nigerians.”
He called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to investigate the matter.
He stressed that it was necessary for such action to be taken to save the National Assembly from public ridicule.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the protest turned rowdy when protesters became impatient following concerns that the leadership of the National Assembly did not deem it fit to address them.
Some of the protesters were seen trying to climb the main gate, while others were seen shaking the gate vigorously to force their way into the premises.
They were however stopped when Police officers manning the gate, released teargas into the air.
The President had while signing the 2018 Budget said “the logic behind the Constitutional directive that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.
“Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.
“The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.
“Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and cost ascertained and will therefore, be difficult to execute.
“Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.”(NAN)
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