Budget distortion: Tinubu murdered fact to pursue fascist agenda — Dogara

•Challenges Tinubu to disclose his knowledge of budget process

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday, hit hard on the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, accusing him of murdering facts to pursue a fascist agenda to control all levers of power in the country.

He also challenged Tinubu to tell Nigerians why he wanted to install the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the ninth National Assembly.

Tinubu drew the first blood, on Sunday, when he, in a statement from his media office, accused the leadership of the National Assembly, especially Senate President Bukola Saraki and Dogara, of delaying, distorting and padding the national budgets.

The former Lagos State governor also stated his reasons for supporting the APC leadership and President Muhammadu Buhari in the choice of electing the leadership of the incoming National Assembly.

Reacting to the allegations, a day after the Senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki replied Tinubu, asking him to leave him out of his schemes towards 2023, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs), Turaki Hassan, said “only the ignorant with dubious academic certificates will say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make.”

Dogara said he would not have ordinarily reacted to Tinubu if he had been factual in his claims, noting that he (Tinubu) was entitled to sponsor “those he believes will have no choice but answer to his dog whistles anytime he blows same in his capacity as the self-acclaimed national leader of his party.”

He, however, said the reaction became expedient in the face of what he said was a deliberate opportunity by Tinubu to manufacture falsehoods and paint a non-existing picture of his stewardship as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The speaker also said Tinubu’s nocturnal agenda was open and had no parallel in the history of any democracy, accusing him of throwing caution to the winds to malign government officials, most of whom he said were working tirelessly to stabilise the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

He, therefore, said it was incumbent on him to set the record straight for posterity, adding that Tinubu mischievously used some words which he could not explain in his (Tinubu) efforts at installing a progressive leadership in the National Assembly.

“We do not expect Tinubu to dwell on brazen mendacity, much less murder facts and decorum in his rabid bid to justify his patently clear fascist agenda of controlling all levers of power in Nigeria.

“Tinubu’s nocturnal agenda has no parallel in the history of any democracy and it is more loathsome when he throws caution to the winds and maligns government officials who are doing a yeoman’s job of stabilising the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, even in spite of political differences.

“It is on record that the speaker has done more to stabilise this government more than Tinubu and his ilk whose stock in trade is scheming, manipulation and subversion, especially when they feel they cannot be caught.

“When the history of the Buhari-led administration is written by those who know the truth of what really transpired in the last four years, Tinubu’s pretentious loyalty to President Buhari will then be exposed. We won’t say more but no matter how long it may last, the truth will one day overtake lies.

“Perhaps, Tinubu is still bitter about the leadership contest for speakership of the eighth Assembly, even though the actors have moved on, culminating in Speaker Dogara magnanimously facilitating the appointment of his opponent in the race and Tinubu’s protege as House Majority leader.

“The chief cause of delay in enacting the budget is the persistent refusal or neglect of the executive to present it in good time. For the records, in the last four years, there was no urgency or plan by the executive to achieve a January to December budget cycle. For the avoidance of doubt, we will show the dates the budget estimates were submitted by the executive in the last four years below:

“The 2016 budget was submitted on December 22, 2015, exactly nine days to the end of the year; 2017 budget submitted on December 14, 2016, just 17 days to the end of the year; 2018 Budget was presented on November 7, 2017, the earliest, even though it also fell short of the 90 days stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act; 2019 budget was presented on December 19, 2018 exactly 12 days to the end of the year.

“As if the late or delayed submission of budget estimates wasn’t enough, in most cases, ministers and heads of agencies contributed to the so-called delay by consistently refusing to appear before National Assembly Standing Committees to defend their budget proposals in line with the provision of the law. At some point, the leadership of the National Assembly had to take up the issue with the president who advised his ministers to honour legislative invitations to defend their budgets.

“What Nigerians don’t know is that the executive, through the various ministries, continued to propose additional projects to be included in the 2018 budget, even as of April and May of 2018 which further delayed the passage of the 2018 budget. These were communicated officially and if anyone is in doubt, we will exhibit the letters with the dates they were written and received.

“In any case, the National Assembly inserted a clause in the Appropriation Bill consistent with Section 318 of the constitution which allowed the budget to last for 12 months after the president’s assent. This enabled the executive to spend more of the capital component of the budget as it still had 12 months protected by law.

“As an activist legislature, the National Assembly effected an amendment to Section 81(1) of the constitution to compel the president to present the budget estimates not later than 90 days to the end of a financial year in order to solve this problem. But unfortunately, very unfortunately, the president declined assent to the bill which was passed by both the National Assembly and over two/thirds of the state assemblies.

“The National Assembly made a further attempt to make the budget process much better by improving the institutional capacity of the parliament to process and pass national budgets by passing the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) Establishment Bill into law. It was loosely modelled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Again, the president declined assent to the bill.

“It is important to emphasise that the National Assembly is not a rubber-stamp parliament and reserves the right, working cooperatively with the executive, to interrogate projects unilaterally inserted by the executive branch without the input of or consultation with parliament.

“The legislature cannot be accused of padding a budget it has unquestionable constitutional power to review. The budget is a law and the executive does not make laws. Therefore, it is only the ignorant and those who hold dubious academic certificates that say the maker of a document has padded the document that only he can constitutionally make.

“In the words of his lordship, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, in suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on March 9, 2016, “the National Assembly was not created by drafters of the constitution and imbued with the powers to receive ‘budget estimates’ which the first defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it, as a rubber-stamp parliament. The whole essence of the budget estimates being required to be laid before parliament is to enable it, being the assembly of the representatives of the people, to debate the said budget proposals and to make its own well-informed legislative inputs into it.”

“The parliamentarians are representatives of the Nigerian people and you don’t expect them to rubber-stamp budgets that are heavily skewed and lopsided against most sections of the country. It is their responsibility to ensure equitable and even distribution of capital projects across all the nooks and crannies of the country, if the executive fails to do so. In any case, it is false to state that legislative intervention in the budget process is to benefit the legislators and not their constituencies.”

Dogara also challenged Tinubu to make public in what way the eighth National Assembly had acted differently from the past assemblies, even as he declared that the present federal legislature has done more than the previous ones in passing bills that can fast-track national development.

“We challenge Tinubu to prove otherwise. He should also show in what way the eighth assembly acted differently from other assemblies of the past to warrant the kind of language used.

“In any case, all the aspirants to the Senate Presidency and Speakership he is sponsoring are majority leaders in the eighth assembly and took part in the budget process that he made the chief basis of his crude attack. This proves beyond doubt the hypocrisy of Asiwaju’s stated reasons for supporting his candidates. He should find better reasons other than the lies being peddled about the budget and obstructing government business.

“Tinubu should not take better informed Nigerians for fools. Otherwise, when he sought to take control of the eighth Senate and eighth House [of Representative] in 2015, was it because of any budget Saraki and Dogara had delayed or pet projects they had inserted into any budget before 2015?

“Tinubu must come clean on this matter. He should let Nigerians know why he wants to install the Senate President, the Speaker and leadership of the ninth assembly. He may yet win the support of some of them if he comes clean on this matter.

“The eighth National Assembly is on record to have supported the president’s requests on critical issues of governance. We backed him by resolution on the issue of fuel subsidy, we backed him on the national minimum wage, even though we were more sympathetic to workers’ rights.

“In security matters, we never cut any proposal from the president, save our refusal to rubber stamp a clear constitutional overreach of spending $1 billion in arms purchase without appropriation.

“We have passed more bills than any assembly before us, including bills that are helping the government improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, and there were times we passed bills within two legislative days. Is Tinubu genuinely ignorant of all these? We challenge Asiwaju Tinubu to list out the bills he claimed were not passed by the National Assembly.

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“The oil and gas or petroleum sector is the most important and critical sector of our economy which accounts for over 70 per cent of our earnings. The executive did not forward a single bill to the National Assembly to reform and reposition the sector in the last four years, even when repeatedly urged to do so by Mr Speaker in his first year in office.

“The lawmakers waited in vain and had to take the bold initiative of crafting a bill — petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PGIB) among others, passed it in record time and transmitted same to the president for assent. This bill was vetoed without an alternative legal framework proposed by the executive. Did Asiwaju miss this also?” Dogara asked.

He went further to challenge the APC national leader to the bills the executive sent to the National Assembly and were delayed as well as the alleged reactionary legislation by the National Assembly, adding that failure to do so, he should keep his peace forever.

“Could someone also challenge Tinubu to list all the “noxious reactionary and self-interested legislation on the nation?” Can he name the bills that are reactionary and not in the national interest?

“Is this how wayward lust for power blinds the reasoning of people we should ordinarily respect? Is it not most unfair, unpatriotic and wicked for Tinubu to have resorted to factoids in promoting his known fascist agenda which he mistakenly thinks he is keeping secret?

“Finally, we advise Tinubu to be circumspect in his use of language. In this case, he spoke as a spokesperson of depravity. Our reaction must therefore be seen as a provoked counter-punch. Anyone can descend into the gutter if he so wishes, but no one has a monopoly of gutter language. We won’t run an adult day care centre anymore on matters like this,” Dogara said in the statement.

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