Buhari Signs N8.92trn 2019 Appropriation Bill Into Law With Reservations

Buhari Signs N8.92trn 2019 Appropriation Bill Into Law With Reservations

President Muhammadu Buhari, who on Monday signed the 2019 appropriation bill of N8.92 trillion into law, said adjustment of the budget by the National Assembly may affect its smooth implementation.

Speaking at the event which took place at the president’s mini-conference room, Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari said the addition of about N90billion to the N8.83trillion he submitted to the legislature would make it difficult for government to realise its set objectives.

He, however, stated that the executive arm of government would dialogue with the forthcoming ninth National Assembly so as to make life much better for Nigerians.

“Of course, some of these changes will adversely impact our programmes making it difficult for us to achieve the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

“Although I will be signing this bill, it is my intention to engage the National Assembly to ensure we deliver on our promises.

“I will therefore be engaging with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly as soon as they emerge to address some of our concerns with the budget,’’ he said.

According to the president, his administration will look at how to improve the budget process in order to speed up its consideration as well as return the country to the January to December fiscal year timetable.

He appreciated the Ministers of Budget and National Planning, Finance, the budget office of the federation and all other stakeholders that played key roles in producing the document.

President Buhari also lauded the leadership and members of the National Assembly for the efforts they put in passing the 2019 appropriation bill.

Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma thanked the leadership of the National Assembly for their cooperation and support.

He also thanked the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osonbajo, Ministers and all members of the Economic Management Team for the various roles they played in producing the budget.

He said: “Because it is a collective endeavour, without their support, it would have been impossible to produce a budget.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dignitaries who witnessed the ceremony at the mini-conference hall of the president’s, included the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,Yakubu Dogara.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari also witnessed the signing of the budget.

Others at the event were the ministers of Finance (Zainab Ahmed), Budget and National Planning (Udoma Udo Udoma), Information and Culture (Lai Mohammed) and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Danjuma Goje,

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Umar El-Yakub, were also at the event.

On June 6, 2018, Buhari signed the 2018 appropriation bill of N9.120 trillion into law.

Udoma said after the signing of the law that the budget would help the president to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.

He expressed satisfaction with the implementation of the 2017 budget, which saw the N1.5 trillion implementation of capital projects during the 2017 fiscal year.

He said the government would work hard to recreate the same achievement and generate the revenues required to finance projects and programmes that would significantly improve the economy.

NAN also reports that during the signing of the 2018 bill, the president further noted, with dismay, the cuts made by the National Assembly to the bill he originally presented.

He said the legislature 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.

The president said he only signed the bill because he did not want to further slow down the pace of recovery of Nigeria’s economy and further disclosed that he would send “a supplementary and/or amendment budget” to the National Assembly to rectify the critical issues he raised.

Ndume v Lawan: The danger ahead

Ndume v Lawan: The danger ahead

Azu Ishiekwene

What would it take President Muhammadu Buhari to get the politics of the National Assembly right? Four years ago, he had a problem which, like a stubborn fly, has refused to go away.

After his election victory speech in 2015 when he was for all and for none, things went haywire, leading to the emergence of a National Assembly leadership that would haunt him for the rest of his tenure.

His wars with the legislature – from inflated budgets to outright refusal to confirm a number of high profile appointees and God knows what not – were probably next to his ill-health in the pecking order of his woes.

Most people blamed Buhari. If he had taken the lead early on and given a clear indication who he was comfortable to work with, instead of barricading himself in Aso Rock after the election, his party and, perhaps, his government, might have been spared the misery of a tumultuous executive-legislative relationship that made Tom and Jerry look like best of friends.

To avoid that this time, it appears that at Buhari’s behest, the APC has made its preference clear: Ahmed Lawan for Senate president, and Femi Gbajabiamila as speaker for the House of Reps. Buhari did not issue a statement or call a press conference to announce his preference. He apparently gave his party the hint and left Chairman Adams Oshiomhole to do the rest.

If delay or indifference was the source of his problem the last time, it does not look like speed or enthusiasm will make any difference now. Not only have significant numbers of legislators made it clear that it is not the business of the President or the executive to choose their leaders for them, politicians within the ranks of the ruling APC have also told Oshiomhole to find a job and Buhari to mind his business.

Buhari, an introvert by nature and practice, must be wondering how he got himself into this mess: Steer clear he’s damned, get involved he’s damned. Interestingly, Ali Ndume who is probably the biggest threat to APC’s official candidate, Lawan, said he had personally informed Buhari of his decision to contest and received the President’s consent. Two private meetings with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the matter have, so far, been unable to persuade Ndume to drop his ambition.

Ndume has maintained that he is opposed to anyone “imposing” a candidate on the Senate. Which sounds sensible until you remember that in 2011 Ndume was not the preferred candidate of Southern Borno senatorial district. A returnee member of the Peoples Democratic Party at the time, he was, in fact, imposed on the district over GarbaSanda, who was forced to step down for him.

But in politics where one week could be a lifetime, eight years are like eons past.

You would think that after the bloodletting of the last four years, the ruling party would have learnt its lessons and members would desperately avoid anything that could make it a laughing stock so soon. But politicians, being politicians, they have only one motivation: power and how to keep or advance it at any cost and for as long as possible.

Ndume’s case is complicated by two things. The first is the nagging sense of injustice which goes back to his roots in Southern Borno, generally regarded and treated as the political backwaters of the state. If a Gwoza, Shani or Biu cannot be governor in Borno but manages, against all odds, to make it to the Senate, why should the candidate be prevented from pursuing his ambition to the end?

The second complication is Ndume’s sense of entitlement. Having occupied a leadership position in the Senate before Lawan, he feels the prize should naturally come to him. Why should he sacrifice his rank for Lawan’s ambition or the party’s vanity? He fancies himself as the truly “independent” candidate, a worn-out mask for self-interest.

Beyond Ndume, however, there is what may be described as the latent spite factor – the resentment of APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu – who for some strange reason is regarded as good party talisman at the time of election but resented and despised as bad omen when it is time to share the spoils.

A lot has been said about what the so-called Tinubu agenda might be: that he’s lining things up for a bid for the presidency in 2023; that he is planting his men everywhere – including the National Assembly – to expand and consolidate his power base against the next general elections; that he is driven by an obsession for control and power grab and nothing else. Quite harsh and mostly far-fetched, to be honest. Does anyone seriously believe that Tinubu is single-handedly pressing the candidacy of Lawan and Gbajabiamila without the consent and approval of Buhari? Seriously?

It’s shaping up like an answer to the prayer of the PDP. Nigerians rejected the party at the polls in 2015, but Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, both elected on the ticket of the APC, opened the backdoor for PDP and consummated a marriage of convenience whose illegitimate children have haunted the country for four years.

And I’m not talking here about insinuations that Saraki is prepping DanjumaGoje or whoever he thinks can smear pepper in Buhari’s eye to take over the leadership of the National Assembly. I’m saying that I’m shocked beyond words that once bitten, the APC is not even remotely shy to see that the precarious numerical advantage it has in the Senate, for example – 65-41 – would again be exploited ruthlessly by the PDP.

It may appear that this is not our business: that the results of the last general elections show that some regions are overrated and those who have delivered the numbers should not only get preferential share of the pie but also the legislature as a whole should be left alone to choose its leaders.

That sounds great, except that after four years of weaponised hybrid leadership in the National Assembly, we have seen that it only produces stalemate, blackmail and a permanently divided house fighting over more allowances and benefits for its members.

It’s difficult to hold the National Assembly to account when its leadership, which sets out and provides direction for legislative business, has been subverted by the opposition. We cannot and will not have another four years of the minority tail wagging the majority dog after voters made their preference clear at the polls.

PDP is waiting to pounce again – and it will if APC refuses to look in the flea market just to purchase common sense. If other contestants refuse to step down for the party’s preferred candidates – and they have a right to refuse – then the party should ask the pre-designated zones to present candidates.

There’s no guarantee that desperate, wounded moneybags will not find their way to the zones, but that’s a lesser evil compared with the chaos that awaits the party if matters continue this way, and eventually end up on the floor of the National Assembly.

Since indifference is proving to be as deadly as meddling, a viable way to manage the chaos would be to let the candidates test their strength at the zones. The irony of these matters is that we may never see the real demons in the candidates – and that includes even the most carefully pre-selected ones – until they have been tested with power.

Ishiekwene is the managing director/editor-in-chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network.

NASS leadership: APC moves against PDP plot to snatch 13 senators-elect

NASS: APC moves against PDP plot to snatch 13 senators-elect

• Lawan opts for one-on-one engagement, • Omo-Agege, Alimikhena, Amosun battle for Deputy Senate President
by Yusuf Alli

• Opposition party targets APC men from Borno, Abia, Oyo, Gombe, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Ogun, Kogi, Sokoto, Imo

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has launched an audacious move to win to its side 13 All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators-elect as part of a grand design to hijack the leadership of the 9th Senate.

But the alleged plot has leaked to the APC which has launched a counter move of its own to avoid a repeat of the 2015 infiltration of its ranks in the National Assembly by the PDP, highly placed party sources said last night.

The APC is in talks with all its state governors and national leaders to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s choices for the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House who may be named this week.

The party is determined to ensure that none of its members contests against APC’s official candidates for leadership positions in the Senate and the House of Representatives in June.

Another option is a likely waive of the Standing Rules of the two chambers to allow open voting during the election of principal officers to monitor the loyalty of the party’s Senators-elect.

Besides, the APC is discussing with some PDP Senators-elect with a view to giving them the chairmanship of juicy committees.

But some PDP leaders are targeting 13 ‘rebellious’ Senators-elect from the APC to produce the next President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate and other principal officers.

If the PDP’s plan sails through it will have on its side about 56 votes for a majority decision leaving APC with 53.

The PDP targets are Senators-elect from Borno, Oyo, Gombe, Bayelsa, Bauchi and Ogun states.

The party is insisting that the Standing Rules do not expressly state that presiding officers must come from the ruling party.

The opposition party said the fact that it has been a convention for the majority party to produce presiding officers does not make it legal or the norm.

Following the APC’s endorsement of Dr. Ahmed Lawan for the position of Senate President, the battle for the Deputy President of the Senate is hitting up between Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central ) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Red Chamber, Senator Alimikhena Asekhame (Edo North)..

The outgoing Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Ibikunle Amosun is believed to have joined the race for Deputy Senate President even though it was not zoned to the Southwest.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that APC and PDP have been trying to outwit each other on the election of the new Senate President, Speaker and other officers.

While the APC leadership and Dr. Lawan have been engaging Senators-elect on one-on-one talks, the PDP has been trying to mount pressure on most Senators-elect to resist what it has termed “imposition of principal officers” by the Executive.

Sources said PDP’s agenda is to share power with the APC in the two chambers.

A top source in APC, who spoke in confidence, said: “The race is still open despite the fact that APC has made its position known and released its zoning formula for the Senate. We are expecting the party’s idea of power sharing in the House this week. What we are trying to do is to keep our caucus united in the two chambers.

“But not all Senators-elect and House members-elect have bought into the party’s zoning formula. This is why we have sought the assistance of APC governors and national leaders to engage the new National Assembly members to avoid a repeat of 2015 episode which was plotted and sealed by the opposition.

“Our main target is to assert our right as the party with the majority in the National Assembly to produce the new set of leaders.

“We have already asked the nominee for Senate Presidency, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and some Senators-elect to meet with all Senators-elect on why APC must forge a common front. To us, delivering democratic dividends is more important than the sentiments being whipped up by the opposition.”

Asked if the APC could regain the control of the two chambers, the source added: “We want to speak with one voice this time around; we plan to present common candidates for all offices due to APC without counter-nominations; and we are also negotiating with PDP Senators-elect and House members-elect.

“We will not underrate the opposition but we won’t let them have their way like the case in 2015. We are hopeful of getting the figures from APC and PDP members before the inauguration of the 9th Senate.

A ranking Senator in PDP said: “We are really opposed to any plot to foist leaders on the two chambers. Our fears border on a possible rubber-stamp legislature.

“Our position is that it is not mandatory for the principal officers of the Senate and the House to come from the party with a simple majority in the two chambers. This has been successfully proven in the 7th and 8th National Assembly.

“And going by Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution, the two chambers can come up with rules and regulations to guide its proceedings. The section says: ‘Subject to the provisions of this constitution. The Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.

“The modes of voting can be by voice vote, signing of register in a division, electronic voting or even by secret ballot if it is the wish of the new members of the National Assembly.

“So, if a PDP lawmaker will lead the Senate or the House better, let us go for him or her.”

On the alleged plot by PDP to poach 13 APC Senators-elect in order to influence the election of new principal officers in the Senate, a party source said: “With 13 Senators-elect from APC teaming up with 43 PDP Senators-elect, we can comfortably elect independent-minded Senate President and other principal officers with 56-man strength.

“We are discussing with some Senators-elect from Borno, Oyo, Gombe, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Ogun states.

This is our target which we believe is realizable. We will field candidates for all available offices in the two chambers.”

The race for the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate however took a new turn with the emergence of three contenders.

The zoning of the position to the Southsouth has made it a close race for Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Alimikhena Asekhame from the Southsouth.

But the outgoing Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Ibikunle Amosun was said to have joined the race for the Deputy Senate President even though it was not zoned to the Southwest.

The outgoing President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has been silent on whether he will vie for the office for a third term.

A source said: “So far, three candidates have emerged from the APC but being a deft politician, Ekweremadu can spring a big surprise like he did in 2015. The zoning formula favours Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege(Delta) and the outgoing Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Alimikhena Asekhame from the Southsouth but if Amosun goes ahead with his ambition, it can redraw the permutations.

“The zoning formula put in place by the APC is yet to favour the Southeast and the PDP will not mind reaching some accord which can make Ekweremadu to remain in office.”

Credit: The Nation

Not distinguished, not honourable

Not distinguished, not honourable

by Sam Omatseye

They acted without the epaulettes of elders or the gravity of the name the law embossed on them. They could not distinguish themselves from the agberos in the motor parks. They kept at it even when it was obvious that they had chosen to be juveniles in an adult environment. It was as though they envied the world of hooligans and had craved a part in that theatre of the macabre. Politicians work with thugs and roughnecks as a matter of routine, and sometimes they cannot distinguish themselves from their brutish errand boys. They acted neither distinguished nor honourable.

They saw the budget presentation as an avenue to ventilate the venality of the street, the unrestrained rabble of the fake revolutionary. Their voices were brusque, their noses flared, their emotions gushed like barbarians, their feet unleashed in stomps. They might have jumped if there was room. What they could not attain in space, they accomplished in the filth of language and rascally gesticulations of their uncouth hands. The legislature is a platform for tasteful rhetoric, not abuse; for heroics, not disgrace; for ideas, not juvenility. It is the people’s chamber of thought and conduct, not a cesspool of brigandage.

They are the bedbugs of our democracy. If you are not in bed with them, they give you bedlam. Rather than being civil, be evil. In place of cheer, you jeer. Don’t be human, try primitivism. To boost their profile, they have to boo.

Then some of them say it was all spontaneous. Really? The placards erupted miraculously onto their hands with curse words gleaming in ink. The spirit of the chants about “freedom come” sprang on their collective lips at the same time, just like David said in the Bible that “the spirit of God spoke by me and his words were in my tongue.” These hecklers must have fallen under some strange power, a secular, caveman’s anointing. They did not practise the acts we saw on the NASS floor, even though we all know they held a meeting the previous night to derail the budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari. In the Poland of the Middle Ages, historians described their legislature as “divinely ordained confusion.” But the Nigerian show was neither divine nor ordained.

Those who lost the first argument find solace in the virtues of democracy. They say the ideology abides chaos. They quote the fellow who soiled the solemn air as Obama addressed the joint session of Congress. But even his fellow Republicans scowled at his scandal. Joe Wilson of the South Carolina had shouted “you lie” when President Obama pointed out the glories of his health care programme. Vice President Joe Biden shook his head, but Obama strode on unscathed.

The House passed a resolution condemning him, and Wilson placed a call to the White House to offer his apologies and Obama graciously accepted. In our case, we are preening in iniquity. It was the first time a president would be presenting a budget to a joint session with a leadership from the opposition. It hoisted a chance for historic fraternity. Other nations would exploit such rostrums to make history and adorn the archives. When we make history, historians and posterity recoil like last week.

In the United Kingdom, a fellow uttered a slur and was cautioned, although he denied he used that word. That was because mouthing indecent language is anathema, even though mild interruptions and even occasional shouts, mainly murmurs, are permitted. But not trafficking in foul words like “liar” and shameless shouts of “no” when the president lists some of his doings. In the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition 2009, the rule says, “the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the house is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order…”

The onus lies on the presiding speaker to restrain the “spontaneous” outbursts of erring lawmakers. Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki and bumbling Dogara conspired with their silence. They did little to register their disdain for the Neanderthal effusions of the fellows. I have decided not to name the hecklers today. They belong to the night of first ages, apologies to Joseph Conrad in The Heart of darkness. Those who think we have improved from First Republic barbarism, and we have benefited from the insights of history, only had to assault their eyes and ears with the drama of the absurd by the politicians.

What were they heckling? Was it the N-Power programme that is common knowledge? Was it the onset of work on the Second Niger bridge? Was it the rail work between Lagos and Ibadan that overthrew the headlines just as Buhari was delivering the speech? The guys were not happy because he did not sign their electoral bill and he had chopped off some of their thieving proposals in the budget. If they objected to Buhari’s claims, they have other avenues to show it. They could even devote a session of the house to it.

The difference between the British parliament and the American is also pre-ordained in the architecture of the chambers. The American structures its Congress with rooms between the seats, and it allows the lawmaker to speak as though on a stage. It means more dignity to the lawmaker and respect for decorum. The British is more claustrophobic, and lawmakers tend to sit closer and it could mean intimacy as well as intrusion in another person’s space. This format could encourage uncomfortable conduct.

In spite of the British example, and in spite of shouts, the duty is with the speaker to subdue any tendency to temerity. But we claim to copy the American presidentialism, and the case of Joe Wilson summarises the way to go. But some of the errant lawmakers are still congratulating themselves. Eleyinmi Saraki flayed the budget without even condemning the show of shame.

The theatrics has paid attention more to the antics of the lawmakers than the sublime subject of how to run the country in the coming year. The budget is so important that that session is the most important rite in our democratic almanac. It is about how do we educate our kids, feed the poor, repair and build roads, heal the sick, soar with the high and mighty nations in the world. Yet we turned it into an alawada epic, grown men ranting and chanting like inebriated masquerades in a village festival.

Even when Buhari paused to tell them, mock-flattering, half-scolding, that they were better than that, they saw no need to abate their nuisance. He also told them that the “world is watching us.” They were lost in their imprecatory lust. They were irredeemable in their foul rhythms of gutter and guttersnipes.

The president presented himself with dignity. His aplomb showed that in spite of his fabled temper, Buhari knew how to rise above the absurdity of the day. Neither in gesture nor words did he sully the dignity of his office that afternoon. Rather it was the lawmakers who undermined the cathedral majesty of the presidency and the nobility of their offices.

Once when he referred to his work in Bonny, he paused when the sound of liar rang out, he looked at the heckler with an inflamed eye, and continued his work. It was a glimpse of Buhari the GOC who defied his army chief Garba Wushishi and asked Nigerians to start reading the constitution.

The errant lawmakers should apologise, not only to the president but also to Nigerians for selling this democracy short with their ill manners.