- We’re not fighting lawmakers –Presidency
Fresh facts have emerged on why the Senate has been making life difficult for President Muhammadu Buhari by ignoring or rejecting his communications and demands from the upper chamber. A cross section of senators who spoke with New Telegraph said that they were angered by “lack of consultations by the president and seeming dictatorial tendencies in governance.”
The Senate has recently embarked on a silent war against the president by either withholding his communications, not giving them expeditious consideration and approval as he always requested the lawmakers to do in his letters, or flatly rejected such requests.
Some senators, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, accused the president of managing the affairs of government more or less like a sole administrator or ‘civilian dictator.’
They also claimed that the Senate had quietly resolved to rise in defence of democracy and ensure accountability in governance. But the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, insisted that there was no rift between the Senate and the Presidency.
A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator from the South-East, who spoke to our correspondent off the record, said that the issue of Buhari not attaching details of the borrowing plan to his $29.96 billion foreign loan request was not the major reason for its rejection.
He explained that the bone of contention was Buhari’s non-consultative approach in his decisionmaking processes, threatening that if the president continued with what he described as unacceptable style of governance, he would have it tougher with the apex chamber in subsequent relationships. He said: “Yes, it is true that the details are not there, but that is not the main reason why the Senate rejected it.
What stops the Senate from telling him to send the attachment instead of throwing it out entirely? Well, for your information, the major issue is that you cannot operate in isolation and expect people to believe in what you are doing.
“If you are going to borrow, you should let all Nigerians know about it through their elected representatives and then agree on how to go about it so that the future of Nigerians is not mortgaged in huge debts instead of giving them succour.
“If we allow him to get such huge loan, do you know the implication for us, our children and generations unborn? He has this fundamental problem of not consulting widely because he has this attitude of ‘I know it all’, and I don’t think that it will augur well for Nigeria if we continue to allow him to have his way.”
He further noted that, in the proposal for foreign loan, the president totally neglected to capture the South-East while most of the projects to be executed with the funds were to be sited in the North. “The whole South-East is left out; the region was captured in any single project to be executed with that huge funds he proposed to borrow.
So, how do you want people, especially the lawmakers from the area to support that kind of initiative?” the lawmaker asked.
Also, a senator from the South-South told New Telegraph that the Senate was seriously dissatisfied with the abysmal level of implementation of the 2016 budget.
The lawmaker further revealed that most senators were opposed to Buhari’s external borrowing plan because the government told Nigerians that it had recovered so much funds from the treasury looters, wondering why he should borrow so much if he had recovered much.
“We want to know how much of the 2016 budget has been implemented. The same government told us that it has recovered so much money from those who looted the treasury. If he recovered so much, why do we have to borrow?” the senator queried.
He disagreed with the spokesman for the Senate, Aliyu Sabi, who earlier ascribed the defects in Buhari’s recent proposals to the incompetence of some ministers, positing that the president made things difficult for himself by subjugating the ministers to always pass through his Chief of Staff before seeing him.
“The Chief of Staff to the President might not allow some of these ministers to easily have access to him, and he might not be getting the required advice from them. Many of the ministers I know are competent, but their boss may not respect their views. So, don’t blame them, but blame their boss,” he said.
Another senator, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) from the North-West, also confirmed to New Telegraph that the recent actions of the chamber against President Buhari were subtle protest to his perceived undemocratic system.
The senator, who pleaded anonymity too, said that even most of the members of the APC were no longer happy with Buhari on the way he is running the system without consulting the parliament on issues that affect the people, which in most cases would require parliamentary approval.
He said: “As we all know, government is a collective responsibility and no arm of government can succeed in isolation. We all want this administration to succeed by bringing the needed change to the people.
“But I tell you, no one arm of government can bring this change alone, and that is why you can see that things are not moving as expected because the executive seems to be saying that they can do it alone, and things are not really working out.
“The Senate is quietly telling Mr. President that in democracy, there are checks and balances and I believe that he will definitely learn and change his style of leadership.”
Towing the same line, another APC senator from the South-West, who was very reluctant to comment on the matter, eventually told our correspondent that the Senate was not antagonistic to Buhari as being insinuated in some quarters.
He, however, said that the Upper Chamber was driven by patriotic zeal for Nigerians to ensure that whatever government was doing would positively benefit the people, noting that such could only be achieved if there was harmony among the three arms of government.
He said: “There must be collaboration in governance. It is only in authoritarian regime that one man calls the shots, not in a democracy, which is rightly defined as government of the people by the people for the people. In democracy, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary must work together for the good of the people.
“It is ironical and hypocritical for us to tell the world that we are fighting corruption and the very arm driving this crusade is running government with the exclusion of a major stakeholder like the parliament.” Enang, while reacting to these impressions from senators, said that there was no face-off between the Senate and the Presidency.
“It is not time to trade words with senators; it is time to have conciliatory words with senators. I have my respect for the Senate and I will continue to respect them and ensure that there is harmony with them.
“We are not fighting with the Senate. We will keep consulting with them formally and informally. We will lobby them on issues as is done in other climes; we will not go into disputations with them. I assure you we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Nigeria moves forward,” he stressed.
New Telegraph recalls that one of the critical issues, in which the Senate snubbed the president, is the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2017-2019 period.
The document was sent to the National Assembly on September 30, 2016, and read on the floor of the Senate on October 4, 2016 by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
While presiding over Senate plenary on Thursday, October 6, Saraki announced that the Red Chamber would commence debate on the MTEF/FSP in order to ensure it was given expeditious passage in line with its economic revival agenda.
However, contrary to this promise, the issue was never found in the Senate order papers or mentioned in plenary sessions from that time till date. Instead, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, wrote to the Ministers of Budget and National Planning and Finance, Udoma Udo Udoma and Kemi Adeosun respectively, inviting them to come and meet with the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and update the lawmakers on the level of implementation of the 2016 budget.
As the issue of MTEF was still hanging in the National Assembly, Buhari, a fortnight ago, wrote the apex legislative institution again, requesting for approval of $29.96 billion foreign loan for infrastructural and other developments. But beyond the imagination of Nigerians, the Senate flatly rejected the request, anchoring its action on lack of attachment of details of the borrowing plan by the president.
Also, on the same day, the President of the Senate used his discretional powers to save Buhari from further embarrassment by using fiat to adopt the consideration of the non-career ambassadorial nominees forwarded to the Chamber by the president for screening, after the lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected it in a voice vote.
The Leader of the Senate later described the submitted MTEF document as empty, and not worthy of receiving the attention of the Senate, while the Senate spokesman, Sabi, said that Buhari was goofing in his policy decisions because of the incompetence of his aides.
There are also other issues such as the pending confirmation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Source: New Telegraph