Vanguard (Lagos)

19 July 2012

Nigeria: Jonathan Ready to Honour Reps' Invitation If... - Abati

Abuja — The Presidency, yesterday, responded to the summons issued by the House of Representatives inviting President Goodluck Jonathan to throw light on the fight against terrorism and other security matters, saying the president would honour such invitation if it was formally conveyed to him.

Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Dr Reuben Abati, who stated the president's position, however, hinted that such invitation was unnecessary since majority of members of the House of Representatives are members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which the president briefs regularly on the situation in the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan followed by Vice President Namadi Sambo at the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

Abati who spoke on a radio programme, "Fact file" on Ray Power FM emphasised that "the President does not have any problem with the invitation by the House of Representatives. But there should be a formal letter inviting him to come and address them on the floor of the House. Something will be said on the floor of the Assembly and once the President does not have a formal letter inviting him, the President cannot on the basis of newspapers report say he has been invited.

"I am very sure that when there is a formal invitation from the National Assembly, the President will honour it. In any case, the National Assembly is dominated by members of the president's party.

"In any case, Mr. President often invites members of the parliament to hold meetings with him in the Villa and they honour the invitation. So, when they invite him formally, he will go especially since the issues are of mutual interest for both arms of government and of interest to Nigerians.

"It is a procedural thing when the lawmakers ask the President to come and address them. You will remember that every year, he addresses them when presenting the Appropriation Bill. Whenever the President goes to event in the ruling party, he briefs them. When he does Presidential Media Chat, he gives reports to Nigerians.

"On a daily basis, we report the activities of government online, through newspapers and other possible medium to show that this is a Presidency that is transparent and has nothing to hide. His true mandate is to serve Nigerians. It is not that the President is avoiding the legislature; it is not that the President does not want to go to the National Assembly. Both bodies work together."

On pending bills before the president

On Bills that remained unassented to by the president, Abati blamed the president's hesitance to sign on controversies surrounding some of the Bills.

According to him, "there are indeed pending unsigned Bills but they are very few. Those bills are already being discussed by the executive and the legislature because there are certain issues arising from the content of those bills. Because there is ongoing dialogue, the legislature has not found itself under any pressure to exercise any veto powers. There is some kind of understanding that there are issues that need to be addressed.

"Then there are a number of bills that are controversial; they have been laid before the President but there are issues that still need to be resolved. Take for example, the National Health Bill which threw up a lot of controversies with other stakeholders in the health sector saying that it is only qualified doctors that are being considered and that they also have a major stake.

Take also the Biodiversity Bill. There is a section of it that approves the use of modern technology for cloning. Now, some religious groups are saying they don't support cloning. These are some of the issues being discussed by the Executive and the Legislature and you can be assured that once they reach an understanding on some of these issues, some of those bills would just be resolved between the two of them.

"The President is a President of all Nigerians and when other Nigerians raise issues on those bills, what the President needed to do is to reach out to the National Assembly for discussions to take place because the laws are for Nigerians, they are not for the personal use of Mr. President or members of the Legislature. So I don't see conflict" he stated.

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