Members of the National Assembly have placed national interest above personal and party affiliations in their resolve to gather for the presentation of the 2019 Budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.
In their reactions to the call by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) to boycott or stage a walkout of the special session because of President Buhari’s non-assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and his purported anti-people policies, the lawmakers said that in the interest of all Nigerians and the economy, they would not heed the coalition’s appeal
The lawmakers, from both the Senate and the House of Representatives drawn from different political parties, told LEADERSHIP that the joint session would hold as planned , describing CUPP’s action as uncalled for and unnecessary because any budget presentation has nothing to do with party considerations.
According to them, budget presentation by the president is different from an invitation to personal function such as party rallies and functions.
In their words, the call by the CUPP for the opposition lawmakers to boycott the budget presentation by Buhari is “an invitation to chaos and undignifying”.
The CUPP had called on the opposition political parties’ lawmakers to boycott Buhari’s budget presentation or stage a walkout to register their resentment to the activities of his government.
CUPP’s spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, in a statement, said that the boycott or walkout would reflect their “condemnation of impunity, non-implementation of past budgets, abuse of state institutions, incompetent-driven economic crisis, deaths of many Nigerians, intimidation, abuse of appropriation laws and refusal to sign the amended Electoral Bill for free and fair elections.”
But, the chairman of the Senate Committee of Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Sam Anyanwu, advised his colleagues in the House of Representatives to re-consider their alleged threat to boycott the budget presentation session.
“My worry is that even the 2018 budget we have passed has not even been implemented. The capital projects’ provisions of that budget have not been executed up to 10 per cent. This is sad. So my suggestion in this area would be that we should just resolve to carry it over to 2019.
“On the threat or call to boycott the joint session, I will urge our colleagues in the House of Representatives to re-consider their position because it could be misconstrued to mean that we are not sensitive to the plight of Nigerians,” he added.
Senator Foster Ogidan (PDP, Bayelsa State) simply described the call and threat to boycott the budget presentation as unnecessary. He advised that the legislature should continue to do its work without allowing provocative utterances to disturb it.
Former Senate majority leader, Senator Muhammad Aliyu Ndume (APC, Borno South) said “A budget presentation is a national assignment and not akin to invitation of the opposition lawmakers to APC rally, or President Buhari’s personal function.
“So for somebody to ask opposition lawmakers to boycott it is rather unfortunate, and political questions carried too far,’’ Ndume said.
Members of the APC in the House of Representatives have also condemned the calls by CUPP on opposition lawmakers to boycott the presentation of the budget by President.
Hon. Lawan Abubakar Garba told LEADERSHIP that while the coalition is at liberty to ask its members to boycott the event, it should understand that the issue of the budget is a national one as such, all members should be present.
Lawan said that as federal lawmakers, it is important for them to be present during the budget presentation regardless of how they feel or view the current administration or its performance, adding that their absence won’t solve whatever problems they have.
However, the CUPP spokesman said insisted that “our call for the heroic, patriotic and courageous walk out/boycott of the 2019 budget presentation on Wednesday 19th December, 2018 is hinged on the following national, economic and political reasons, especially the refusal by President Buhari to substantially implement previous budgets from 2015 to 2018 which led to the rise in poverty, waste and sufferings of Nigerians; refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that will guarantee free and fair election; reduce rigging and avert bloody electoral contest; infliction of poverty on Nigerians as a result of incompetence and prompt leadership action.
“The sudden rise in Boko Haram activities, armed robbery and bloody violence across Nigeria; refusal to sign Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which would have raised revenue for Nigerians and protected the Niger Delta people and their environment; refusal to attend the burial of the heroic Nigerian soldiers killed in Metele, Borno State on the same day service chiefs left their duty posts and attended his campaign flag-off in Aso Rock; illegal detention of opposition and innocent citizens and clampdown on human rights; freedom of speech and associations especially the right to peaceful protest or opinion; refusal to obey court orders and obstruction of justice; inability to rescue Leah Sharibu the only Christian girl still in the hands of the Boko Haram after others were released and remaining Chibok girls; politicisation of the Nigerian Police and use of Inspector-General of Police for framing opposition leaders; filing of frivolous charges and biased usage of the police for intimidation and rigging of election; illegal secret detention of activist Deji Adeyanju in the underground police cell after he was released by the court, and refusal to strengthen the fight against corruption by supporting the corruption institution and appointing a substantive chairman after the present illegal occupant Magu failed parliamentary screening three times,” he said.
In a letter to the National Assembly leadership, President Buhari had last Thursday hinted that he would be at the National Assembly on Wednesday to present the 2019 Appropriation Bill before the two chambers.
Buhari, in the letter, said: “May I crave the kind indulgence of the House of Representatives to grant me the slot of 11 hours on Wednesday, 19th December, 2018 to formally present the 2019 Appropriation Bill in a joint session and lay before the NASS the 2019 budget proposal.”
Saraki To Attend Budget Presentation – Associate
Even though, Senate President Bukola Saraki will mark his 56th birthday on Wednesday, which President Buhari chose to lay the budget estimate before the National Assembly, an associate said that he would attend the NASS event.
Saraki always mark his birthday in Ilorin, his home town, the Kwara State capital, but one of his associates, said that he would fly to Ilorin that day after the presentation of the budget.
NASS Workers Insist On Warning Strike
There are, however, no indications that the planned strike by PASAN scheduled to commence today will be suspended.
PASAN chairman, Comrade Musa Bature Muhammed, in an interview with LEADERSHIP, said there had been no intervention from the leadership of the National Assembly since it issued a letter of notification on the strike.
Muhammed said: “There are no plans to suspend the strike. Until tomorrow (today) , we will know whether there will he reason for us to suspend it but for now, there is no intervention yet from the leadership.”
On whether there are plans by both parties to have the matter resolved immediately to avoid the strike, Muhammed declared: “No, I don’t think so because I have not heard anything to that effect”.
PASAN, in a letter dated 14th December, 2018, said that it would embark on a four-day warning strike from today (Monday) over unpaid allowances.
In a letter it sent to the leadership of the National Assembly on Friday, the association stated that all its members would stay at home for four days beginning from today.
Muhammed who signed the letter stated that, “sequel to our earlier notice of strike as contained in the communiqué dated 29th November, 2018, PASAN, National Assembly chapter, unanimously resolved at its emergency congress held on 14th December, 2018 to embark on a f-day warning strike commencing from Monday, 17 to December 20, 2018.
‘’By this notice, be kindly Informed that the entire members of PASAN shall stay off their respective duties on the above mentioned dates,” he said.
Strike Threat Won’t Affect Joint Session – Senator
Meanwhile, a senator who opted for anonymity has said that the strike threat by members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) strike, would affect the presentation of the 2019 budget by Buhari.
He said that since the aggrieved workers are not in charge of the keys to the two chambers of the National Assembly, their refusal to work would not pose a threat to the meeting.
The senator said: ‘’Besides, the Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, had told them a fortnight ago when they attempted to prevent federal lawmakers from accessing their chambers that they (PASAN) have no right whatsoever to do so and must guide against such action.
‘’Any worker of the National Assembly who attempt to hinder the lawmakers from going into the chambers to receive Mr. President with his budget estimate risks arrest and prosecution because such action is illegal.
‘’We passed a motion last week to enable them be paid the allowances and increment that is the source of their feud with the National Assembly management, so they have to be patient for that to mature,’’ he said.
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