By Ezrel Tabiowo
The letter from former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the leadership of the National Assembly, has continued to generate reactions from the federal legislature.
Although the Senate President, Bukola Saraki acknowledged the receipt of the letter and expressed their commitment to good governance, the House of representatives declared the missive as a distraction.
Similarly, a member of the Senate and chairman , Committee of FCT, Dino Melaye believed the former president was acting out of frustration.
In his reaction, Senator Saraki assured that the leadership and membership of the 8th Senate were committed to “good governance, transparency, accountability, due process and responsiveness to the economic reality of our nation.”
According to him, it is for this reason that the legislative chamber introduced bold and progressive reforms in the management of the finances of the National Assembly.
He said: “This is of even greater importance during a tough fiscal period for our country. Like I said during my closing address at the plenary after our debate on the 2016 Budget, the Senate must lead by example in terms of our own funding, budgets and accountability –
showing, beyond doubt, value for money. I have canvassed that we must lay bare the budget of the Senate, nay the National Assembly and its affiliated institutions.
“I equally canvassed the need to strengthen the capacity of the legislative institution to carry our effective oversight of the executive arm so that we can ensure the budget leads to the
realisation of the policy objectives of the Buhari Administration.
“Again, let me reiterate my position in the speech I made this morning on the need for us to work towards blocking all areas of revenue leakages while also strengthening the anti-corruption agencies so that the little resources that are now available will serve the interest of
the overwhelming majority.”
“As a former President and a father of the nation that we all hold in high esteem, I intend to reply the letter and outline the actions the Senate is taking to address his concerns.
“I appreciate President Obasanjo for his consistent role in always reminding those of us in government about our responsibilities to the general public and offering timely advice where necessary.”
Also replying the former president, spokesman of the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, described the letter as “a distraction,” especially as the parliament is set to work on the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
Namdas, at a media briefing yesterday, said the parliament “will not be distracted by Obasanjo’s letter as members are now concerned with the 2016 budget already committed to the various committees of the House.
“We have tremendous respect for the former president. It is not unusual for letters to be written to presiding officers of the National Assembly. We have already aligned with President Mohammadu Buhari in the fight against corruption in the country. The letter by
Obasanjo is probably meant for the fourth or fifth assembly of the National Assembly,” he said.
Namdas said the House had temporarily suspended its plenary for two weeks, to resume on February 16 to allow the committees scrutinise the budget through engaging the MDAs, describing the budget Bill as “one the best legislative instruments currently before the House now.”
On the allegation that the House leadership shared money and motorcycles to members, he said it was a “campaign of calumny orchestrated against the leadership, and intended to tarnish the image of the House.”
Deputy Minority Whip of the House, Yakubu Barde, yesterday accused his colleague, Mohammad Abubakar, of going on air to allege that the leadership of the House shared N50 million, and 150 motorcycles each to members, calling on the House to investigate same in view of the image-damaging capability of the information.
Meanwhile, Senator Melaye has attributed the Obasanjo’s allegation of corruption against the National Assembly as one birthed out of frustration of his failed third term bid.
Melaye, who represents Kogi West in the Upper Chamber, said the former president’s anger was due to his inability to sway the National Assembly under his administration towards a realization of his failed third term bid.
The lawmaker noted that though he is against corruption anywhere in Nigeria, he will not support accusations based on anger and vindictiveness.
He said: “I have tremendous respect for President Olusegun Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo, elder statesman, respected pan Africanist and committed patriot. I went through the letter written to all Senators and members of the House of Representatives.
“The letter I can see, is a misplacement of anger. Our leader is mistaking the 8th National Assembly as the same Senate Assembly that defrauded him in 2007, those who collected his money and refused to implement the 3rd term agenda. I appeal to Baba that we are not the ones please.
“After 9 years of that bribery saga, the first of its kind, I expect forgiveness to have taken place. There was the case of bribery introduced by the Obasanjo regime in the desperate attempt to remove Speaker Ghali Umar Na’abba from office then. In fact there was open display of that bribery money on the floor of the House.
“That government exposed the National Assembly to corruption and easy money. I hope this is not in an attempt to cover up and distract attention from the Halliburton and Siemens corruption allegations.
“While I am against corruption anywhere in Nigeria, I will not support accusations based on anger and vindictiveness. The 8th Senate should also look inwardly and purge herself of all the deliberate misgivings of the past. Nigeria must work and we must support the anti corruption stand of the Buhari Administration. God bless Nigeria”.