•Planned protests won’t scare us from working – Dogara
The President of Nigeria, PMuhammadu Buhari, has met separately with the embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Ita Enang and the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives ), Samaila Kawu were in attendance in both meetings on Monday.
While Dogara arrived for the meeting at noon, Saraki arrived the meeting at about 12.30pm.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the Senate President said they discussed how far they have gone with the 2017 budget among other issues.
He denied insinuations he was behind last week’s suspension of former Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, for six months for not “making due diligence” before filing a petition against the himself and the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye.
He said he did not have the kind of powers that were being arrogated to him, saying as President of Senate he was first among equals.
Saraki said: “We should try and understand how the parliament works. I wish I had such powers these powers you give me I wish I had them. The President of the Senate or the Speaker is first among equals they are just presiding officers but unfortunately you know the legislative arm is the youngest people don’t understand.
Saraki insisted that the relationship between legislature and executive was cordial
contrary to the believe that it was frosty.
“It is cordial, you cannot examine it based on NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) or based on EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), we have other issues.
On the budget, the Senate President said, “we are working on it, just to let the president know how far we have gotten with it. We are on course as you note last week we did ask all the sub committees to submit their reports to appropriation, all that has been done now. Its now collation and review then hopefully it will be passed very soon.”
The Senate President refused to comment on the Senate stepping down the confirmation of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nominees for two weeks in protest against Ibrahim Magu’s continued headship of EFCC.
He said: “As I said this is a routine meeting, there are many things that is important but there are other things that is even more important to do which is the budget. We talked also about the INEC bill that we have passed, I took the president through some of the areas, very important areas because you know the President over many years is somebody that has gone to many elections and seen, so that was something he was really excited about. Some of the new amendments like electronic voting, talks about electronic process for collation, those are landmark achievements that we hope that very soon the House will concur and we all come here for the President to assent.
“Some of these other issues it will happen but I don’t think its a major issue, but we are still moving ahead and still consulting.”
On the mediation committee set up by the executive and headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to resolve outstanding issues between the two arms of government, Saraki described it as a good development.
“Good development but like I said there will always be issues on one or two things, it doesn’t mean that is the foundation of it. When you have an arm of government that has to do with confirmation there will always be, for example in the NDDC bill we rejected three people from NDDC. We keep on moving, we are all part of one government that is why despite all these, still major decisions are taken. Like I said we did a critical amendments on INEC by Tuesday or Wednesday for the first time in the history of the legislature, we are going to lay a report on the PIB for consideration, it has never happened happened. For the past 20 years it has not gotten to this stage, so its work in progress for the interest of Nigeria, don’t let us get distracted by one or two infractions, its bound to happen. Even in America that we are copying even today as we are watching, see what is happening on the Supreme court, these are things that happen on the part of democracy but I can reassure Nigerians that is just a drop in the ocean, it is not an issue that should stir the whole nation, be rest assured.”
Dogara who also said he was on a routine visit to the President, said the National Assembly welcomes the planned protest on Wednesday by some youth groups in support of its recent actions.
Two youth groups, the Movement for the Advancement of National Transformation (MANTRA) and the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Coalition (CDNDC), warned that Nigeria under Buhari may descend speedily into the unenviable state of anomie, anarchy, chaos and doom were impunity reigns supreme”, if the executive is not checked.
He said, “this is a democracy we are running and we have to open the space to civil society, to everyone who feel aggrieved to be able to air his grievances. So, if they have grievances against the institution of the legislature we will take it. You see the point is we should never run away from crisis, crisis are always wonderful opportunities for us to begin the new, for us to set new boundaries, for us to begin to examine things in a new way. So we should welcome crisis, there are the engines that always propels growth and progress. So if anyone thinks he has issues with the national assembly let him come and we will have the opportunity to explain, that is the beauty of democracy.
On Magu’s rejection, Dogara said, “You might look at it as crisis but I don’t look at it as crisis. You know I have always said this that as a government our value will be the problems we have solve. We can’t be remembered for avoiding, we can’t be remembered for running away from problems, it is only when we provide solution to some of the things you refer to as crisis and we look at it as opportunities to begin the new that people will now remember us for putting down enduring legacies. But when we run away from every that appears to be trouble we will not make it.”
On if he sees solution to the problem, he replied, “I tell you they will overcome it. I’m not in the Senate and I am not the Spokesperson for the Senate so the Senate will speak for themselves.”