The simmering face-off between the Executive and the Legislature, again, came to the fore yesterday, during the presentation of the 2019 Budget proposals to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The event was characterised by some altercations between the pro-Buhari lawmakers and those against him.
Signs that all might not be well became obvious, when the event initially scheduled for 11a.m, was shifted to 12 noon.
When members of the House of Representatives first convened, in line with the age-long practice, some members also dramatically shouted “nay” to a question on a motion by Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to allow Senators into the Green Chamber for the joint session.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, after a brief consultation with some principal officers, called for an urgent closed-door session, which was to last for about 30 minutes.
And when back in the open session, opposition members started singing “Freedom Cometh By Struggle, Freedom, Freedom Cometh By Struggle, Freedom.”
This was followed by appearances of placards, which inscriptions could not be ascertained, as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) moved in, forcefully collected and tore them to pieces.
At this point, Hon. Bashir Babale and Diri Douye almost engaged in a fisticuff, all in an attempt by the former to confiscate a placard from the later.
Tension further rose at about 12.40 pm when President Buhari was ushered into the chamber amidst cheering and jeering by the federal lawmakers across party lines.
While the APC lawmakers were clapping and shouting Sai Baba, extolling the president, their PDP counterparts booed and chorused: “Nigeria needs freedom.”
With the obviously charged atmosphere, Senate President Bukola Saraki was literally forced to abandon his already prepared opening speech, as he hurriedly invited the president to move to the podium for the budget presentation.
Like a prepared warfare, while the president was reading the N8.83trillion budget estimates, both the APC and PDP senators engaged in another round of shouting bouts, to the embarrassment of the president who remained undaunted.
But at a point, President Buhari stopped his speech to caution the noisy lawmakers to be wary of their behaviour.
“Hon members, may I appeal to you that the world is watching us. We supposed to be above this”, he said.
Even at that, the ugly situation remained unabated till the president finished reading his speech at about 1.55pm.
The situation got messier when at the end of the presentation; Speaker Dogara sought to make his closing remarks, but was rebuffed by the pro-Buhari lawmakers who persistently raised their voices in opposition.
Consequently after about 10 minutes when neither the Senate President nor the Speaker could bring the situation under control, the National Anthem was hurriedly rendered by men of the Brigade of Guards for the president to leave.
In separate reactions to the development, while the APC lawmakers condemned the rowdiness that characterised the presentation, their PDP counterparts, said it was democracy in action.
Specifically, Senators Godswill Akpabio and Olusola Adeyeye, said it was good that Dogara was prevented from making any remarks because, both the Speaker and Saraki are minority occupying positions meant for the majority.
” What we did for them is to show the whole world that APC is in the majority regardless of the presiding positions stolen by Saraki and Dogara for PDP,” said Akpabio.
The Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan in his own reaction, condemned the rowdy session in its entirety.
“Since 1999 that I’ve been in the National Assembly, I have never witnessed the type of legislative rascality or theatrics displayed by some of our members today.
“It is very shameful and unbecoming, and not in any way in the interest of democracy, Nigeria and Nigerians “, he said.
It’s no confidence vote on Buhari -PDP
In its reaction, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, has described the uproar at the joint session of the National Assembly, as a clear vote of no confidence on the Buhari-led APC government ahead of the 2019 general elections.
PPCO Director Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, while briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja yesterday said: “Nigerians across the country as well as the international community, witnessed the expression of vote of no confidence, direct booing, jeering and rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari by members of the two chambers of the National Assembly at the 2019 budget presentation.”
According to him, it’s obvious that President Buhari “no longer has any political foothold, and only awaits a crushing defeat in the 2019 general election.”
He said: “His scripted presentation at the budget session was full of false performance indices, claims of non-existent projects, half-truths, bogus fiscal projections, beguilement and new list of fake promises, which Nigerians have since seen through.
“Mr. President dwelt on fictitious figures, unrealistic projections and could not give a credible account of the performance of the 2018 budget, which like other annual budgets, since he came into office, has remained unimplemented, due to sheer incompetence and humongous corruption in his Presidency. No wonder he was booed by the lawmakers.”
Ologbondiyan also described as ridiculous that “Mr. President can defend N60 million liters of fuel as daily consumption by vehicles in Nigeria, whereas before he was elected into office, he publicly declared that the use of 30 million liters of fuel per day was a fraud. Is it not also ludicrous that between 2015 and now, the figure of daily consumption of fuel have doubled in the same economy that has witnessed secession twice under his watch?”
The organisation also expressed concern that, President Buhari couldn’t provide a cogent explanation on the handling of defence budgets under his watch, “particularly, in the face of allegations of diversion of military funds to fund his re-election bid as well as the neglect of our troops, leading to the killing of hundreds of our soldiers fighting insurgency in the North-east.”
“The PDP completely rejects this act of corruption and intimidation of our citizens and attempt by President Buhari to receive financial kickback from beneficiaries of government intervention in violation of our financial regulations.
“Intelligence at our disposal also reveals that this is yet another scheme by the Buhari Presidency to siphon public funds and surreptitiously route same to Mr. President’s campaign.
“To achieve this ignoble scheme, the Buhari Presidency and the APC in their desperation went ahead to shamefully constitute a phony Anchor Borrowers Farmers’ Association, which they claimed has 12 million members, and through which they plan to siphon and launder money from public coffers to fund President Buhari’s campaign,” Ologbondiyan added.
APC condemns action
However, in its reaction, the ruling APC lashed out at the PDP lawmakers for allegedly disrupting the budget presentation session.
The party, in a statement signed yesterday by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the opposition PDP further confirmed its unsavoury image in the eyes of well meaning Nigerians, “that the party is largely populated by self-serving and unpatriotic members, whose sole aim in politics is to promote their self interests at the expense of the country’s interests.”
While calling on the National Assembly to rise above political and selfish interests by putting the country first in its consideration of the proposed N8.83 trillion 2019 national budget, APC said the proposed budget provides a realistic and implementable framework that will spur the administration’s effort to achieve a prosperous, strong and stable Nigeria.
“The PDP should be aware that the disgraceful conduct and actions of its legislative caucus has succeeded in eroding the remnant of the public’s respect, (if any) that the party has in the eyes of any respectable Nigerian.
“By law, respect for the office of the president or head of government in any clime is not a matter of choice but a civic obligation sanctioned by laws. Being an opposition party or critic is no licence for such wayward conduct by the PDP legislative caucus; most especially against the president of the country.
“Not even the admonition of president to the PDP lawmakers that “You are on international TV, comport yourselves. The world is watching us; we should be above this,” failed to calm the unruly PDP elements.
“Nigerians are not oblivious of the actions and inactions of the National Assembly presiding officers, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara while the president was being heckled by the PDP legislative caucus. Their failure to rein in their unruly PDP colleagues, while their show of shame lasted clearly confirmed that the PDP members’ action was premeditated and orchestrated to embarrass the President.
“When the APC was in opposition, Nigerians will recall statements by the PDP government that the immediate-past President Goodluck Jonathan did not personally present the national budget to the National Assembly based on fears that he will be heckled and embarrassed by the opposition federal lawmakers at the time.
“The fears turned out to be misplaced as that never happened when Jonathan eventually presented the national budget. Such shameful and undignified practice has no place in our progressive ideology.
“The PDP lawmakers and their conniving leaders have a lot of questions to answer. First, we wonder why they cannot stomach the evident and verifiable achievements of the APC-led Government in the areas of power, rail and road infrastructure, social intervention programmes as contained in the proposed budget.”
The ruling party, however, commended President Buhari for remaining calm and focused during the budget presentation, despite the provocation “from PDP lawmakers, an act of statesmanship that has been acknowledged by Nigerians.
“We are equally proud of the APC lawmakers, who stood firm in defence of the president and our great party during the budget presentation.”
A session of Break down of Buhari’s 2019 budget