BY BODE GBADEBO, Abuja
The 8th Assembly led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki said it never served as an obstacle to the fight against insurgency under the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that it approved $1bn for the Buhari administration to procure arms.
He noted that its meeting with the United States congressional delegation on August 28, 2017, led to the approval of Tucano jets to Nigeria to fight insurgency.
The 8th Assembly cited that the US government had earlier banned the sale of military hardware to Nigeria under the Leahy Law based on allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military.
Saraki said these in a statement on Friday while reacting to allegations by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) that the 8th Assembly rejected Buhari’s request for $1bn to purchase arms.
MURIC’s director, Prof Ishaq Akintola, in a statement on Thursday, had blamed anarchists and bad losers among politicians for the current wave of insecurity in Nigeria.
He specifically mentioned that the 8th Assembly under Saraki played a role in fuelling insecurity.
“We saw these played out in the way the Saraki-led Senate on April 6, 2018 rejected President Buhari’s request for $1bn for the purchase of arms for the security agencies. That rejection was a deliberate attempt to frustrate the government’s efforts to bring insecurity to a halt.
“Nigerians would have witnessed a drastic improvement in the security situation in the country had that request been granted. But the unpatriotic elements in the Senate ensured that the request was blocked. Of course, the same politicians turned round to blame Buhari for the worsening security situation,” Akintola said.
But in a statement on Friday by Saraki’s aide, Oluwole Onemola, the former Senate President described Akintola’s comments as “unenlightened propaganda,” adding that they were “factually and constitutionally incorrect.”
The statement was titled, ‘MURIC Lied: 8th Senate Aided, not Hindered President Buhari’s Fight against Insecurity.’
“The truth is that the 8th Senate never rejected any fund request for security but only insisted that the due process provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic should be adhered to even by the executive,” the statement read.
It said on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, Saraki read a letter from Buhari which stated that the President had granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496,374,470. The funds were said to have been paid directly to the Treasury of the US Government.
The statement read, “However, in line with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the overarching legal framework on which our republic is founded, the powers of appropriation are specifically and only conferred on the National Assembly in Sections 80 to 84.
“Additionally, nowhere in our Constitution is the principle of ‘anticipatory approval’ provided for. This means that Mr President did not follow the proper procedure during this constitutionally flawed and thoroughly unprecedented ‘anticipatory approval.’ Still, the National Assembly went ahead to approve the money that the executive has started disbursing without approval. Thus, $1bn was approved by the 8th National Assembly.”
Further, the statement said Nigerians should remember that at this time, based on allegations of human rights violations by the military, there was a US government ban on the sale of offensive equipment to Nigeria in compliance with the Leahy Law.
It read: “However, it was only after the US congressional delegation met with the Nigerian National Assembly delegation in Nigeria on Monday, August 28th, 2017, that reassurances were made by the Nigerian Senate President on behalf of the National Assembly — that the Nigerian National Assembly delegation promised that it would look into the allegations of human rights violations, and work to prevent any future recurrence.
“It was at this time that the US congressional delegation, which was led by Senator Chris Coons and Ambassador Symington, agreed to make the lifting of the US ban on the sale of military hardware to Nigeria one of their priorities. It was after this meeting that the US Congress recommended the sale of the Tucano jets to Nigeria to ex-President (Donald) Trump.”