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