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Press Briefing by All Progressives Congress (APC) Caucus on Budget Filibustering

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Being a Text Delivered by Femi Gbajabiamila, (Minority Leader, House of Representatives) at Press Briefing of APC House Caucus on 2014 Budget Filibustering at Hearing Room 1 (White House) on Wednesday, 29 th of January, 2014

Gentlemen of the Press,
We would like to address you on our party's position on Executive Bills and put the records straight. As far as the House is concerned, keen observers would have noticed that since last year, most Bills presented on the floor of the House through the PDP Leader in the House (Hon. Mulikat Adeola) have suffered an almost instant and premature death. The kick against such Bills yes came from mostly APC members and progressive members within the rank and file of the PDP. So the directive was really nothing new. What it did was to put a government determined to bring our democracy down on notice that it was no longer going to be business as usual.

So really what the Party did was only to lend support to what was already going on across party lines in the House. We must be clear and put the Party position in perspective. Whilst the focus for now remains the happenings in Rivers, our broad and overall concern remains good governance and covers the whole gamut of our national life.

Let us be categorical, we intend to continue to protest the culture of impunity, immorality and illegality this government insists in entrenching in our system, we intend to insist on good governance, we intend to stand firm on our oath of office to defend the constitution and discharge our legislative duties in the interest of the people of Nigeria. Good governance is the end goal and filibustering or stalling executive Bills is the means and we believe that in this case the end definitely justifies the means.

On the budget itself, we will not support a budget that does nothing for the people we represent. We will not rubber stamp a budget that seeks to borrow more money at ridiculous rates and further impoverish the country. Indeed we refuse to support a budget that comes in with a huge deficit. We certainly do not agree with a budget that allocates a pitiable 25 percent for capital expenditure which capital component will only be implemented 30 percent whilst recurrent will be implemented 100 percent. How in the world do you stimulate an economy the size and population of Nigeria with a 25 percent allocation to capital? We cannot in good conscience support a budget that comes with a benchmark and siphons away 30 percent of the countries revenue into an illegal excess crude account in violation of the provisions of section 162 of the constitution we individually swore to defend, with the resultant effect of shortchanging the states we all individually represent. A budget where the economics do not trickle down to the common man. We do not want to be accessories after the fact by passing a budget when the President or Minister of finance who has publicly admitted to the disappearance of 10 billion dollars has not given explanations but seeks to borrow more money. And who continues to blame shortfall in revenue on crude theft by some phantom thieves. We refuse to participate in what has become an annual ritual and approving a document in the name of passing a budget that tells a lie about the true state of our finances and liquidity and where our revenue is being deflated by about 500 billion annually through the fraudulent and indiscriminate grant of waivers. More importantly we will not be party to the appropriation of funds and taxpayers money to a police force that will turn around and use same to maim and kill the same taxpayers. No we will not.

Let us quickly add at this point that the first disdain and contempt for the budgeting process and Nigerians came from Mr President himself when against all known democratic tradition at least in this country sent his employee to present the budget to the National Assembly and for the first time in our history representatives and indeed Nigerians did not have the opportunity of hearing their President address the country on the state of the nation, the performance of the last budget and the contents and objectives of the new budget. A crying shame and another shade of impunity. Whilst the constitution was interpreted by apologists not to require his presence, they failed to address the break in tradition, the spirit behind the provision of the constitution and the implications of the action. Perhaps next time we can expect a Special Assistant of the President to present the budget or for him to mail it to the National Assembly as he would then be said to have “caused” it to be laid before both Houses of the National Assembly as provided by the constitution.

In coming to this decision we note that salaries of many innocent Nigerians are tied to the budget. However we will do all we can to address this catch 22. We will hope that our progressive colleagues will agree to an ingenious and creative idea like we did through the doctrine of necessity to isolate the recurrent expenditure and perhaps for the first time pass a recurrent only budget. This is just one idea. We are open to many more from all Nigerians. Nigerians who see the end goal and understand it.

We note with bemusement that those who have come out with guns blazing to criticize our most patriotic decision are PDP apologists such as APGA, LABOUR Party, etc. These are groups that pretend to have a separate identity but are inextricably joined to the hips with the PDP. We advice that the sooner they stopped deceiving Nigerians and merge with the PDP, the better for Nigerians so that a clear choice between two political parties can be made in 2015 by an increasingly oppressed and fatigued electorate. A choice between SAME and CHANGE. One wonders where these PDP apologists where and why the cat got their tongues when the PDP illegally, unconstitutionally and inspite of a Supreme Court judgment seized the local government funds of 18 million citizens of Lagos State. We are definitely in interesting times. We are however gratified that Nigerians are now more politically savvy than these clowns, give them credit for that and are able to read between the lines and see through their rhetorics and hypocrisy.

We will not go into the legitimacy of our actions as we are all too familiar with such actions in more advanced democracies where government is held to the highest of standards and where the democratic ingredient of checks and balances is used optimally. We seek to do nothing less. Hold the government accountable and check and balance the excesses of an oppressive executive. On the morality of our decision, we believe that it is better to stop executive Bills and a meaningless budget than to lose one single life through the recklessness of government.

For those who do not know the full implications of what happened to Senator Magnus Abe and who choose to believe that his absence means nothing compared to the non passage of the budget, let's picture this. A national budget is supposed to have the input of every representative of the National Assembly to make it truly national. It can be argued that one of the most important duties or responsibility of an elected representative is to speak on behalf of his constituency and address their needs in the budget making process. Well, Senator Abe represents a district that comprises one third of Rivers state and by extrapolation a sizable number of its citizens who are also Nigerians. What then would happen to them in the 2014 budget, when their senator lies in a hospital bed because of the impunity of the police and government. Because all citizens are equal and we are our brother's keepers, we will be happy to keep the capital component of this budget in abeyance until every Nigerian is fully represented. We are also happy to isolate the police component of the budget.

Whilst we observe and are gratified that this universally accepted, legislative and democratic tool is already yielding results and achieving the desired effect as evidenced in the protection given last Saturday for the Save Rivers Movement and the running of the PDP from pillar to post looking for help from other political parties in the House, we urge all Nigerians to bear with us and join us in this fight against impunity, recklessness and bad governance. This country belongs to all of us and we must salvage it together. Desperate and extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and for every thesis and antithesis there is a synthesis. It is time we begin to think outside the box. Again, the end justifies the means.

Thank You