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Tinubu attacking me because of his 2023 ambition ― Saraki

•Eighth Senate surpasses all records, passes 282 bills, he adds

SENATE President, Dr Bukola Saraki, on Monday, said the attack on him by the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC),  Senator Bola Tinubu, is not about the interest of the nation or that of President Muhammadu Buhari, but about the 2023 ambition of the APC chieftain.

This was as he said Tinubu lied against him as regards the allegations on obstruction of budget process in order to oppose the administration of President Buhari.

Saraki, in a statement released by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the attacks on his person by Tinubu were not factual but were product of hatred.

He said Tinubu had been known to attack him on a quarterly basis and that he was prepared for the attack this time, adding that his statement was another effort to sell a concocted narrative about the eighth National Assembly and its leadership.

Saraki said he would have ordinarily ignored what he termed the quarterly attack, but for the fact that the statements lacked facts and were filled with fallacies and misrepresentations, adding that the APC national leader struggled to extricate himself from the narratives about his roles in the contest for leadership positions in the ninth National Assembly.

“First, he alleged that national budgets were delayed, distorted, padded, new projects introduced, funds for projects reduced, ‘to halt progress of government.’

“It is unfortunate that a man like Tinubu who had been in the Senate (though for 22 months and under a military regime) should not have a better understanding of how the legislature works.

“The passage of budgets is definitely not the exclusive responsibility of the leadership of the Senate. Most of the work is done by the various committees.

“These committees are headed by senators representing different parties. It is the level of cooperation between the committees and the MDAs in the timely defence of the budget proposals and the ability of the two chambers of the National Assembly to reconcile their figures that usually determine how soon the budget is passed.

“To put the blame of budget delay on the Senate president or Speaker can only be mischief, or at best, playing to the gallery,” the statement read.

Saraki also said delays in budget preparation under the eighth National Assembly were traceable to the refusal of heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to defend the proposals for their agencies on time.

“Last year, the president himself had to direct the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to compel heads of MDAs to appear before the National Assembly committees, following the report made to him by Dr Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara,” Saraki said.

It added that if a man like Tinubu could be spreading falsehood about budget passage and delay, accusing the National Assembly leadership of deliberately orchestrating it, “one wonders whether he tries to even understand what happens in the federal legislature at all or that the only thing that is of interest to him is ‘jockeying and maneuvering for influence’, as he puts it.”

He further stated that the attention of Senator Tinubu had to be called to the fact that budgets, since 2010, except for that of 2013, were always passed between March and May.

“This should give him a better understanding of the fact that the date the Appropriations Bill is submitted to parliament and the readiness of the MDAs to defend the proposals submitted as well as timely agreement on the figures by both chambers of the National Assembly are the main determining factors in when the budget is eventually passed.

“So, Tinubu should see that the facts cannot support his spins and fake narrative.”

Saraki challenged Tinubu to make any specific reference to any instance where the leadership of the National Assembly padded any of the three budgets passed under his tenure.

“In all the three budgets already passed by the National Assembly, we challenge Tinubu to make specific reference to where Saraki and the leadership of the National Assembly ‘sought to pad with pet projects’ as he alleged. Tinubu should be graceful enough to substantiate this allegation.

“We consider that allegation careless, irresponsible and callous. We, therefore, demand that he should withdraw it,” the statement added.

It reminded Tinubu of the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to review the proposals sent by the executive and, where it deemed necessary, make changes within the power of the legislature.

“A good example is the decision by the National Assembly to include in the 2018 budget the one per cent of the total budget, amounting to N33 billion, as allocation for universal health coverage as provided by an extant law, which had been hitherto observed in the breach.

“Is this what Tinubu considers as budget padding? And this was a decision which was praised across the world as a real benefit to ordinary people across the country.

“Tinubu also claimed that the Senate leadership ‘stymied APC legislative initiatives while attempting to hoist noxious reactionary and self-interested legislation on the nation.’

“We wonder what these ‘legislative initiatives’ are because in the four years of the Buhari administration, it has only forwarded 11 bills to the Senate, apart form the routine annual appropriations and supplementary budget proposals. Two of these bills, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill,  have been passed. One of the bills, the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (amendment) Bill was withdrawn by the executive following the disagreement between the Attorney-General and the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“Also, another one, the National Water Resources Bill, was rejected because it infringed on the rights of states to develop their water resources. The remaining seven which are the National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Establishment Bill, Federal Institute of Industrial Research for the Development of Micro, Small and Large Industries Bills, the Suppression of Piracy Bill, Communications Service Tax Bill, 2015; Federal Institute of Industrial Research Bill, 2017; Raw Materials Research and Development Council (Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2018; Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (Establishment etc) Bill, 2018- are at various stages of passage.

“As a leader of the eighth National Assembly, Dr. Saraki is proud that under his watch, the Senate has surpassed the records of all previous Senate in the number of bills passed, the significance of these bills to the revival of the economy, the fight against insecurity and corruption, improvement in the provision of health service and the education sector, as well as better social service delivery to the generality of the people.

“The bills passed, motions moved, intervention made and frequent engagement with the people were all directed towards addressing the day-to-day issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. This Senate has passed 282 bills (the highest any Senate had passed is 129 bills recorded by the fifth Senate)… It will be good to know which of these bills Tinubu believes is ‘self interested’ and not in the interest of Nigerians,” the statement added.

It added that most of the bills it passed got international and national endorsement from stakeholders.

“For example, the Financial Intelligence Database Agency (Ultrascan) commended the Senate for passing the NFIU Act which enabled the country to be re-admitted into the Egmont Group. Also, the Nigerian Police leadership has praised the Senate for passing the Police Reforms Bill and the Police Trust Fund Bill.

“Again, when the National Assembly in the 2018 budget gave effect to the law allowing one per cent of the budget to be devoted to primary health care delivery, it got kudos from Bill Gates, Bono, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of WHO, and various national groups who believe the move would bring healthcare delivery to the poor people across the country. The passage of the UBEC Act (amendment) Bill was praised by Pakistani child education campaigner and youngest Nobel Laureate, Yousafzai Malala,” it added.

The statement said contrary to the narratives by Tinubu that the emergence of the present leadership of the National Assembly was a mistake, “we hereby submit that Dr Saraki and other leaders of the National Assembly were democratically elected by their colleagues.”

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It said it was because they were the choices of their colleagues that they had remained in office for the past 46 months, despite all the plots hatched by anti-democratic, reactionary and fascist elements pretending to be “progressives.”

“In fact, Tinubu should know that if there was any mistake made on June 9, 2015, It was the miscalculation by himself and his small cabal in the APC who felt they could decide for the senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect.

“When they failed after their grand-standing that they could always get whatever they desired, they resorted to undermining the institution of the legislature and waging a campaign of calumny against the law-making body,” the statement said.

Saraki also reiterated that a politician like Tinubu would forever agonise over his belief that Saraki frustrated his ambition from becoming running mate to President Buhari through a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015.

“The eighth Senate has done very well and will leave a good legacy. Despite all the underhand tactics to undermine the legislature by outsiders and the public posturing, members have always worked as a team on critical issues that have benefits for our people and our nation.

“That is why hitherto unachievable legislations like the PIGB, Police Reforms Act and other bills or amendments to existing laws were passed with ease, because the members and the leadership know that they are elected as senators of the Federal Republic and not as party representatives.

“Tinubu should know that while we await his attack for the next quarter, we can only advise him to stay on facts.,” it concluded.

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