…says conflict between executive, legislature not in interest of Nigerians
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the National Assembly won’t hesitate to issue a warrant of arrest on any government official that refuses to appear before its Committees to account for public funds in their trust.
Lawan made this known on Friday while fielding questions at a briefing of Editors, Bureau Chiefs and members of the Senate Press Corps to mark the 2nd anniversary of the ninth Senate in Abuja.
The Senate President was reacting against the backdrop of likely concerns into findings by the Public Accounts Committee on the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation on the accounts of the Federation for the year ended 31st December, 2015.
The report was laid on Tuesday this week by the Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) during plenary.
Lawan said, “The Public Accounts Committee normally works with the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation.
“[And] the report of the Auditor-General is an annual report. Normally, report infractions where an agency was given money, there was expenditure that the Auditor-General could not understand, he will give thirty days for that organization to come and explain.
“If the agency does not come forward in thirty days to give an explanation, that issue is put in the Auditor-General’s report.
“It is not a final indictment, so to speak. The Public Accounts Committee is supposed to invite the agency to come and explain what the Auditor-General is reporting.
“[And] I’m sure that our public accounts committee has been doing its best. Where an agency refuses to appear, we normally have some other ways of maybe after three invitations to appear, then we go for the warrant of arrest.
“I served as as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for eight years, and I had the benefit of getting my Senate President to sign warrant of arrest of some people who felt they were so big. [And] at the end of the day, they ran all over the place looking for soft landing.”
The Senate President emphasised: “We will not hesitate to sign warrant of arrest on anyone who refuses or fails to appear to account for public funds in his or her trust. We will not hesitate.
“But I can assure you, that majority of public servants invited to come before the committees of the National Assembly appear, only few sometimes fail to appear.
“Now, those few, if we judge their absence to be defiance, we will take the appropriate action.”
Speaking on the relationship between the legislature and the executive arm of government in the last two years, the Senate President dismissed insinuations that the National Assembly is a “rubber stamp” of the executive.
According to him, the ninth assembly’s resolve to collaborate with the executive arm of government owed to its decision to work patriotically in the interest of Nigerians.
He added that a frosty relationship between both arms of government as previously characterised in past assemblies had time and again failed work in the overall interest of Nigerians as they always are the losers.
“The relationship between the executive and legislature between 1999 and 2003 was largely characterized by mostly fight and total lack of coordination and collaboration.
“But who paid the price? Nigerians paid the price because government could not function.
“The legislature must have its pride of place. In fact, in the constitution, the first arm of government mentioned is the legislature before the executive arm, then the judiciary.
“The legislature is even the senior partner in government, if I may say so. But what is important is for the legislature to know its mandate and obligations to understand that it has an oversight function over the executive arm of government and even the judiciary, to uphold separation of powers between the various arms of government.
“[And] if it knows that, it means it knows its boundaries. The executive should also have its boundaries because these are clearly defined roles.
“In 2019 when we campaigned, we said when we are given the opportunity to serve in this capacity, we want to establish a working relationship based on mutual respect, cooperation, consultation, synergy and partnership with the executive arm of government.
“Not at the expense of our roles as the legislature, but we believe that we can get better outcome in terms of government delivering services to the citizens of this country. That is what informed our position.
“[But] it appears that what some people expect from a legislature, or a relationship between the two arms – the legislature and the executive – is stone throwing, fights, insults, punching and so on.
“That legislature that does that is the kind of legislature we (Nigerians) want. How does that give you what you need? It doesn’t give you what we need.
“I can tell you we disagree with the executive, but the difference between us and what might have happened previously is that we are able to sit down and talk and say no, we are not accepting this one, you should withdraw it.”
Reacting to the recent ban of Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Lawan expressed optimism that the engagement between Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the contentious dispute.
He said, “the Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, informed Nigerians that they are talking with Twitter to resolve this matter.
“[And] our belief is, Nigeria needs Twitter just as much as Twitter needs Nigeria.
“Our expectation is that this engagement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the dispute between Twitter and our government.
“[But] beyond that, I’m an optimist. I believe that all of us would have learnt our lessons.”
Nationwide Strike : TUC Faults NLC
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has raised alarm that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) not carry it along before declaring a two-day nationwide industrial action planned for February 27 and 28, 2024.
TUC Secretary General Nuhu Toro, in a letter to the NLC leadership dated February 19, 2024, expressed disappointment that the Joe Ajaero-led labour group did not carry the Festus Osifo-led trade association along before declaring a planned strike despite that the two groups unanimously issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement its agreement with the Organised Labour and address the mounting economic crisis of survival in Nigeria.
The TUC said the 14-day ultimatum will expire today (Thursday) and both centres ought to agree on the next step but the NLC on February 16 declared a two-day protest to commence after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum it jointly issued to the government.
The TUC general secretary said, “It is important that this is the third time that such unilateral declaration is happening under your leadership, we are therefore constrained to formally put this on record as various discussions, communications and interventions have failed. First and second time could pass as human error but a third time would in our opinion translate to an intentional act to undermine us.
“Also note that we are not averse to the issuance of your resolution because our members equally feel the pain, even if it’s a weeklong national strike, but we have a huge problem with the unilateral declaration for a process we both muted and agreed, because our members are equally concerned about the rising cost of living and not particularly the ultimatum, why can’t we see through the ultimatum that expires within the same period before jointly addressing other issues of mutual concern or at worst consolidate them?
“For the avoidance of doubt, we fully understand that NLC is an independent labour force centre that has the right to take independent decision, it is pertinent that when such decisions are taken unilaterally, there is need to go ahead and implement unilaterally.”
The Department of State Services (DSS) has since urged the NLC to shun the planned strike, pursue dialogue and negotiation, instead of engaging in actions that could escalate tensions but the Ajaero-led group has insisted on going ahead with the industrial action.
National Assembly To Consider Fresh Legal Framework For State Police – Bamidele
The National Assembly has disclosed that it will consider a legal framework for the creation of state police and for the gathering of local intelligence about the activities of bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.
The legislature also challenged the local government council authorities, traditional rulers and community leaders to mobilise local vigilantes, hunters and able-bodied youths in defence of their communities and territories.
The Leader of the Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele made these remarks on behalf of all the recipients of honorary doctorate degrees at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti on Saturday.
Apart from Bamidele who received Honorary Doctorate Degree in Private Law, the university conferred similar honours on Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Olamilekan Adeola and Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Navy, Hon. Yusuf Daji, among others.
Speaking on behalf of all the awardees, Bamidele revealed the resolve of the National Assembly to develop a legal framework and support local intelligence gathering to tame the tide of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism.
Specifically, the senate leader pleaded with the critical stakeholders – traditional rulers, community leaders, vigilante groups and able-bodied youths – on the need to provide useful information to the state security services on the activities of criminal elements disrupting our national peace.
According to him, all the state security services require community, group and individual support to decisively confront the menace of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism across the federation.
Bamidele said: “More than ever before, the National Assembly is working tirelessly to provide the necessary legislative framework to strengthen community policing and multi-level security architecture.
“Developing such a legal framework has become imperative at this time in our history. This plan is in the overriding public interest of safeguarding the security of lives and property, the stability of our democracy and the progress of our fatherland.
“The cases of abduction, killings, maiming, population displacement and disruption of socio-economic activities in Benue, Ekiti, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara in recent times have called for an urgent and decisive action by all state actors and other stakeholders.”
He expressed dismay with spate of insecurity in the country, saying Justice would duly be served to those were complicit in the recent abduction of pupils of Apostolic Faith Nursery and Primary School, Emure-Ekiti and their teachers and the gruesome killing of two of two traditional rulers – Onimojo of Imojo Ekiti, Oba Olatunde Olusola and Elesun of Esun-Ekiti, Oba Babatunde Ogunsakin in the Oke-Ako area of Ikole Local Government.
He further warned that the day of reckoning “is already at hand for those behind abduction, maiming and killing in Ekiti and other states of the federation. None of them will escape the long arm of the law. In Ekiti, we are peace-loving people. But nobody should take our spirit of good neighborliness and accommodation for granted for any reason.
On the economic crisis, Bamidele reassured Nigerians that relief is already in sight soon considering strategic reforms the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been taking to revive the economy.
Also at the convocation, Adeola vowed to give priority to the country’s educational sector, especially where and whenever he had the opportunity to make such contributions.
Adeola, currently representing Ogun West in the Senate, thanked the leadership of the institution for bestowing the honorary doctorate on accountancy on him.
Uba Sani Blames Poverty, Hopelessness, Others For Insecurity In North-West
The governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, says poverty, unemployment, hopelessness and lack of education are the major reasons insecurity is festering in the Northwestern part of the country.
Sani, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, monitored in Abuja said that the issue of banditry and kidnapping in the North-west is different from that of insurgency in the North-East.
“The North-West crisis has to do with banditry and kidnapping, it is economic problem. When you look at the situation critically, you will agree with me that most of those bandits always kidnap innocent people and ask for ransom and whenever they are given money, they will release the victims in many cases and some cases when there is a delay they end up taking the lives of those victims.
“And when you look at the situation, you also look at the problem of poverty, unemployment, hopelessness and lack of education particularly in the Northwestern part of Nigeria, that is the reason why a lot of these incidents happen,” Governor Sani said.
The governor maintained that statistics has proven that greater percentage of people living in the North-West are living below poverty line, adding that a lot of out of school children in the country are also from the North-West zone.
“The last time I checked, and you can confirm from the SDGs recent report, you would agree with me that about 80 to 90% of the people living in the Northwestern part of Nigeria are living below the poverty line and of course if you look at the statistics of out of school children, you can see that a lot of the are from the Northwestern part of Nigeria,”he said.
Governor Sani said that bringing the criminals and pardoning them when they surrender is only one aspect of non-kinetic approach of ending the insecurity which according to him, is not the most important aspect.
The most important approach to ending the menace as he noted, is looking at the condition of the people generally which includes the poverty, unemployment and hopelessness.
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