There are strong indications that there is a cold war that may generate to a major showdown between the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari over some of the recent policies of the Federal Government.
It was reliably gathered on Friday that the lawmakers were not happy with some of the actions of the executive, including the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Qatar and the enlistment of Nigeria in the Islamic Coalition Against Terrorism.
We learnt that the grouse of most members of the National Assembly was that the President did not consult them before taking the decisions.
It was learnt that members of the All Progressives Congress in the legislature had not openly come out to express their “real positions” on the policies so as not to be accused of anti-party activities.
But, some members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party told us that the fragile peace in the National Assembly could break down any moment from now, especially if the executive continued to take the lawmakers for granted.
A member of the House, who confided to us, said, “The actions of the executive smack of disregard for the National Assembly. The President should be consulting the legislature.”
Also, some senators accused the executive of taking the National Assembly, especially the upper chamber, for granted by not seeking its approval as required by law before carrying out major political and economic decisions.
A cross section of senators, who spoke on and off the record with one of our correspondents in Abuja, accused the President of running a one-man show, especially on critical national issues.
They cited the case of Nigeria joining the Saudi Arabia led anti-terrorist group; the re-organisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; and appointments into key positions without the Senate clearance as some of the offences of the executive.
For instance, a principal officer, who is representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, lamented that she read the story of Nigeria’s membership of the Saudi Arabia-led terrorist group like every other Nigerian in the newspapers.
She said such a major international policy as well as sensitive appointments into key positions were major decisions that the executive was not constitutionally empowered to carry out unilaterally.
She said, if the executive failed to do the needful going forward, appointees into some key positions might lose their appointments
Olujimi said, “What the executive is doing with such a practice is to put the cart before the horse and this would no longer be tolerated by us. We are determined to put a stop to this. We have told our leaders in the senate to convey our message to the executive.
“We have told them that the last appointments should be the last that would be made without proper screening and clearance from the senate. Any time such a practice repeats itself. Such nominee will be rejected.”
Speaking on the current major restructuring at the NNPC, the Vice – Chairman, Senate Committee on Police, Women Affairs and Youth Development, Senator Stella Oduah, said the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, who also doubles as the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, took the National Assembly for a ride by the action.
She said, “I really don’t understand when this House (National Assembly) has become a rubber stamp that whatever is put forward should be rubber-stamped and approved. I think this is totally unacceptable.
“I think when such a thing is to be done, we need to know about it. We need to be informed. We need to brainstorm and we need to agree whether the objective for which such reorganisation is to be done is in tandem and indeed will be accomplished.
“When that is not done, I find it disrespectful, I find it totally objectionable and I think it is not acceptable.”
Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, we learnt also stressed the need for the executive to respect the independence of each arm of government. He said that the executive should not underrate the powers of other arms of government to exercise necessary checks and balances.
Our relationship is shaky—Senate spokesman
While the Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, refused to confirm a likely showdown with the executive, he admitted that the relationship between the National Assembly and the President was shaky.
He said, “To the best of our knowledge, we don’t have cold war neither do we have hot war. But we don’t need to deny the fact that there is a kind of shaky relationship between us.
“We have managed the shaky relationship in the overall interest of this country because that supersedes any interest that might have given birth to the crisis.
“I also want to make it very clear, without any fear of contradiction that since we came on board, we were very sensitive to that and we have tried as much as possible to carry on our duty in a manner that is devoid of a sentiment attached to the perceived crisis.
“This is a democratic system and we are frontally engaging and that engagement is a continuous system through the instruments of our various committees.”
The House had on March 8 opposed the executive’s decision to restructure the NNPC without consulting the National Assembly.
Also on March 8, it summoned the Director-General of the Department State Services, Mr. Lawal Daura, over the “invasion” of the Ekiti State House of Assembly by DSS operatives.
On March 10, the House said Buhari had ignored its three requests to submit the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Commenting on Buhari’s actions in recent past on Friday, the Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, cited the case of Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic coalition, saying it was against the secular interests of Nigeria, being a multi-religious country.
Ogor noted that nearly all the countries in the coalition were Islamic nations, whose agenda would not necessarily apply to Nigeria in all ramifications.
He said, “He (Buhari) has to come before the National Assembly. It is against the clear interest of our constitution and our diversity as a country.
“There is no way that coalition will stand because the states in the coalition are mostly Islamic states. Even our soldiers who are not Muslims, how does this apply to them?”
Ogor added that under Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), “no treaty can stand unless in the manner approved by the National Assembly.
“So, every treaty must comply with this constitution and the interest of secular Nigeria must be uppermost at all times.”
Buhari has highest regard for N’Assembly members—-Presidential aide
When contacted, the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said, “I do not yet have the details of what the issues are. I can however assure you that Mr. President has the highest regard for all of our distinguished senators.
“He would not in any way take the National Assembly, the Senate or individual senators for granted on any matter. I cannot speak on the specifics of your question because I don’t have the details.
“But I know that as the liaison officer, our President has the greatest respect for senators and the functions of the Senate and that is why you’ve seen that in all matters requiring Senate action we send it to them without taking decisions before doing so; like bills and other issues requiring legislation.
“I will relate with the distinguished Senators because we want to build on the healthy relationship we currently enjoy with the legislature.”
Similarly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in an exclusive telephone interview with one of our correspondents that Buhari currently enjoys excellent relationship with members and the leadership of the National Assembly.
He said, “There is excellent relationship between the President and members as well as the leadership of the National Assembly. There is also unhindered communication between them. They meet formally and informally very regularly. They even met as lately as two days ago.”
The presidential spokesman also said the President was aware of the fact that he could not sign any treaty with another country without the Senate’s approval and he would not do so.
He urged lawmakers who might be complaining to be patient because Buhari would approach them when the time comes.
“On agreements, the constitution is very clear on the fact that no treaty is valid without the Senate’s approval. Senators should be a little bit patient with the President. He won’t sign any treaty without recourse to them. The time will come when he will seek their approval,” he said.
Shehu also added that the Presidency is not aware of any appointments that required Senate approval that Buhari did not get.
He explained, “There was a problem of communication as regards to appointments in the NCC, AMCON and FIRS. The announcements should have read ‘nomination’ instead of ‘appointment.’
“The President asked that the correction be made and the appropriate words be used.
“That was in the early days of this administration. Since then, there have been no other cases like that. The relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is excellent.”
Source: Punch News