Although some concerned Nigerians have begun to wade into the renewed face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and the House of Representatives as evident at the weekend, more facts have emerged as to why the lawmakers had actually moved against the president, last week.
THISDAY gathered that the renewed hostilities between the president and the House were informed by three factors, namely, delay in the release of funds for constituency projects, disenchantment on the part of the presidency with the leadership of the House, and the recent bribery scandal involving the suspended chairman of the House Committee on Education, Hon. Farouk Lawan and Chairman of Zenon Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola.
This revelation, however, came against the backdrop of the criticism by the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) of the National Assembly, declaring that the lawmakers have not lived up to expectations in their constitutional responsibility as a check on the executive.
ACN’s position was contained in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, wherein it stated that the “country has stealthily but steadily entered into an era of impunity and anomie under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
THISDAY’s findings revealed that the lawmakers have taken the battle to the president because they are cashed strapped and one of their major sources of making ends meet, that is, through constituency projects, has been blocked by the Federal Government.
For instance, the budget for constituency projects in the recent past was in the region of N40 million per quarter for each federal constituency, which was accomplished each time the legislature padded up the federal budget.
But in this year’s budget, the allocation to constituency projects was pruned considerably by the Jonathan administration to just a little above N20 million per quarter and for each lawmaker.
That apart, while the lawmakers personally executed such constituency projects using their own companies in the past through the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government, the Federal Government has insisted that the projects must pass through due process before the contracts are awarded.
As a result, the lawmakers are said to see the development as a deliberate attempt to frustrate them and starve them of funds.
The second factor is said to be predicated on the crisis over the House leadership, which has festered since the current leadership defied the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last year, to elect its own officials.
Besides, the House leadership is said not to be oblivious of the growing belief that it presently shares its loyalty between the PDP, the platform on which its members won elections into the House, and the ACN which gave the leadership the necessary backing to scuttle the PDP zoning arrangement.
This is believed to have influenced several anti-executive pronouncements and motions of the House since the leadership emerged over a year ago.
This is evident in the way ACN members always shoot down ideas that generate from the executive or presidency without the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, batting an eyelid.
For example, when the Federal Government recently proposed troops deployment in Edo State for the July 14 governorship election which eventually returned the incumbent, Adams Oshiomhole, members of the ACN had opposed the idea, suspecting that government was up to something sinister.
Similarly, last week, when the executive presented the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), ACN leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, curiously stood against it, arguing that the House would not consider the bill because its submission coincided with the time they were about to go on recess. Such instances are further believed to have indicated a sharp division even in the PDP.
The Otedola-Lawan issue is also another major reason that has contributed to the schism between the House and the president. It is believed that Lawan may have become an albatross for the House, especially after his admission that he took a bribe from Otedola to influence the House’s ad hoc committee report on the monitoring of the fuel subsidy scheme.
But the House believes that the presidency had a role in the bribery scandal, ultimately to clamp down on the lower legislature.
But as eminent persons, including party faithful continue to mediate in the simmering crisis, there are indications that both sides might shift ground soon and give peace a chance in the overall interest of the nation.
Meanwhile, the ACN, in its statement yesterday said with the judiciary effectively cowed by the president, he “is now closing in on the legislature, as any discerning observer of the polity knows that the resolutions of the National Assembly are today treated with utmost disdain by our imperial presidency.
“It is irrelevant and besides the point that our National Assembly today, especially the House of Representatives, has not lived up to expectations, but that is no excuse for the deliberate assault on the doctrine of the separation of powers by President Goodluck Jonathan.”
The party added that it is now common knowledge that when the House relying on Section 89 (d) of the constitution had invited Jonathan to appear before it to explain why his government was failing to tackle the worsening security situation in the country, the president failed to honour the invitation.
ACN said: “But the president’s advisers-in-mischief have under one pretext or the other justified the president’s refusal to honour the invitation.
“May we remind President Goodluck Jonathan and his advisers-in-mischief that Section 89 (d) of our constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to summon ‘ANY PERSON’ in Nigeria to appear before it.
“Of course what President Jonathan by this singular misadventure is telling Nigerians and the whole world is that he is not only above the law but he is the law.
“Who says we are not back to the era of Louis XIV of France who infamously pronounced ‘l’etat c’est moi’.”
According to the party, the arrogance, insouciance and contemptible manner with which the president has treated the case of Justice Ayo Salami, the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, has dealt a near mortal blow to the independence of the judiciary from which it may never recover unless men and women of courage immediately rise up to rescue the institution.