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Push For Leadership Change In The House Would Fail-REP. LINUS OKORIE,FCA.

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I have followed the drama and intrigues being played out by the sacked

Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Hon Jibrin Abdulmumin with

restrained but keen interest. I have also looked at the gamut of documents

and records (that actually are injurious to collective privilege of the

house under the law) and found nothing criminal or corrupt on the face of

them to warrant the total dedication of media focus and the interest of

the Presidency and indeed the security agencies as has been exhibited in

the past week. I am at loss to understand under what powers the DSS can

enter and seal up the NASS in a democracy and the vocal forces are urging

them on without regard to the detrimental effects of such lawlessness on

the foundation of our democracy. In listening to lawyers, experts,

commentators and sundry analysts, I continually failed to get a clear

understanding of the criminal misconduct or breach of the constitution by

the popular “budget padding” everyone was asking that the internal

processes of the legislature should be overridden so that the EFCC, DSS,

the Police and may be the Army may even be unleashed on the legislature to

tear it down. Because all I hear is that projects that were not proposed

by Mr President were alleged to have been introduced (not implemented) by

some leaders of the House if Representatives and later eight other members

by a man who signed off the same budget in April as perfect while serving

as Chairman Appropriation Committee, wrote members to defend it against

any attempts by the Executive to the contrary, was found to have added too

many projects behind his colleagues into the budget for which Mr President

withheld assent, got removed as Chairman in July and the suddenly became a

“Robbin Hood” a week later accusing every foe of wrongdoing while still

concealing his own projects in the final budget. I am certain that after

this opinion, I will also become the ninth accused member with the release

of an additional set of “records and documents” indicting me. So I kept

looking out for something that clearly states the ground of the popular

call for the persecution and prosecution of all members of the NASS but

found none credible or even coherent given the provisions of the

constitution and legislative precedent.
Then I stumbled upon a chart published the online medium, PREMIUM TIMES,

and titled “HOW TO PAD THE NIGERIAN BUDGET (aka) HOW TO STEAL OUR MONEY”

(Kindly see the chart).
Then it became all clear to me as either a genuine misunderstanding of the

roles and limit of the powers of the NASS, a conscious avoidance of that

understanding, a deliberate blackmail or a programmed push for leadership

change in the House using a populist story twisted out of context.

Using the Premium Times “definition” of “budget padding” as displayed and

seeing the level of “collaboration and partnership” across causes and

interests, it became even clearer that the agenda is far from what is

presented.
Tell me where is the criminality therein at the level of the Nass as an

institution if the alleged “cash loot” happens within the executive branch

where ALL projects are implemented?
Of course, if anyone has any evidence of movement of funds without

contract implementation or undue influence in the course of contract

award, it’s for that person to furnish relevant security agencies with the

information to deal with in accordance  extant laws. But to now attempt a

blanket blackmail of the Nass not to undertake its constitutional role of

law making (appropriation inclusive) is unconstitutional, criminal and

inherently unacceptable.
If any member of the house is prepared to merely “rubber stamps” executive

proposals in the name of “not being corrupt” or “not to be accused of

corruption”, I am not; and I believe that the majority of the members are

not.
For God Sake, which court has ruled against the constitutional power of

the Nass to “amend, reduce from or add to” the estimates proposed by the

executive? Is it not concern that no one (including the AGF) wants to

approach the courts (which Obj did during his time but later withdrew

anyway) to test those powers or even to seek Supreme Court interpretation

of the combined effects of sections 4, 59, 80 and 81 of the 1999

constitution (as amended) with respect to the inherent powers of the

legislature to amend budgetary estimates proposed by Mr President? No one

should, therefore, lend oneself to the use of anti-democratic forces whose

wishes are far from what they pretend to preach in this matter.

Indeed any member of the house or group of members can as well take this

matter to court rather than undertaking the ignoble or opaque roles of

“bulls in a china shop” or agents provocateur.

If Hon Jibrin, I or any group of members have any axe to grind with Dogara

and anyone else, it’s alright to do so personally but not to purposefully

and contemptuously ridicule the institution of the legislature the way

it’s being done at the moment in the hope of a forced leadership change

arising from open blackmail and media trial. I choose to stand against

such criminality on behalf of the constituency I represent. However, if

actionable acts of criminal misconduct is established against the House

leadership or anyone of them, I would similarly stand for responsible

account and sanction as may be necessary.
I would wish to be schooled on the “fire-proof” safeguards preventing

executive-initiated projects from being “executed” in a similar or worse

manner as the pictorial display from Premium Times depicts. Or that indeed

that has not been the manner of implementation of those projects for which

abandoned projects abound in trillions of naira. What exactly is angelic

and saintly about the executive that totally lacks in the legislature that

all projects initiated by them are free of the ill of non implementation

or “cash looting” as against the constituency projects?

Now what is really criminal about the so called “constituency projects” or

better stated “zonal intervention funds”? A fund that is proposed in the

budget estimates by the executive and allocated on a standing formula to

all members of the National Assembly? Then implemented by the executive to

the total exclusion of the legislature? Supervised by either the defunct

MDG on the same parameters as its own hundreds of billions of naira in

similar projects or more recently by the Ministry of Special Duties

reporting directly to Mr President?
Why should the executive hold the NASS responsible for its own failures,

if truly the projects are manipulated in the course of implementation by

executive branch agencies? What is the guarantee that if those heads of

MDAs can so corruptly manipulate the constituency projects, that the

larger chunk of the annual capital budget (mandate projects of the MDAs)

are not similarly manipulated on a yearly basis? Recall that the

constituency project fund since 2012 has been N100billion or about 5% of

2016 capital appropriation.
Why are we not seeking a holistic reform of budget implementation (as

different from preparation) to ensure effective, efficient, value for

money and wholesome outcomes? It may be of benefit to know that over 21

other jurisdictions have one form of constituency project fund or another,

including the USA and Kenya. Why exactly is it important for the APC

government to blackmail the Nigerian legislature out of its own model that

is implemented wholly by  the executive itself?
If on the other hand the members of the NASS want a change or review of

the existing distribution formula that obviously favours the leadership,

is it not for them to do so through existing internal mechanisms as

envisaged by section 60 of the constitution and the Senate and House

rules.
It is my hope that this brouhaha that’s being so viciously promoted by the

same forces that wanted “an executive leadership” for the Nass to tarnish

and blackmail the Legislature into fear and timidity will rather unit

members more to seek greater independence and jealously guard that

independence in the interest of our maturing democracy. For should they

succeed in forcing a leadership on us, this government will completely

“unitarize” our democracy and complete the push for a repressive and

totalitarian brand of “democracy” hitherto unknown to literature.

I am, therefore, much more enamored going forward; to defend the

constitution by insisting on the long established “powers of the purse” of

the legislature unless and until the constitution is amended or upturned

by the Supreme Court. And I will stand by the leadership of Dogara and his

team in that regard. It is my hope that many more members will do the

same.
The veiled attempt at leadership change in the House of Representatives

will definitely fail because Pro-Democracy members will remain on a

perpetual alert to defend what is just!
God help Nigeria.
*Rep. Linus Okorie,FCA represents Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo federal constituency

of Ebonyi state.
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