26 September 2012

Nigeria: Senate Warns Ministers, Presidential Aides Against Careless Talk

Senior advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke has been speaking about the facts surrounding the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula. In an interview with ... ( Resource: Nigeria Has Never Owned the Bakassi - Robert Clarke )

The Senate drew a red line on the sand yesterday and threatened to sack any federal minister who talks carelessly. This was even as Senate President David Mark specifically warned the minister of information, Mr Labaran Maku, over careless talk.

However, Maku, who appeared before the Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe-led Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, tendered an unreserved apology over the comment.

The minister had, while responding to a reporter's question on the resolution of the National Assembly on the botched introduction of N5,000 note said that resolutions by the National Assembly were not binding on the presidency.

Miffed by the remark, Mark also called on the president to caution ministers not to make such careless statements.

Mark lamented that the disrespectful conduct of ministers may have been given impetus largely by the "bow and go" screening approach by the Senate and warned that future screening of ministers will be more intense and thorough.

The Senate president said: "I think the information minister is a careless talker. He talks very carelessly. He did not think properly. He is not an educator and we need to educate him. I hope that the president cautions him and calls him to order.

"And I think that next time he does that... we will take a resolution here that any minister who talks carelessly be removed because there was really no need for that. For those who usually tell the minister to take a bow and go because they are very good men, I hope you are learning hard lesson by the way."

Nonetheless, the minister of information was practically humbled by the Senate's information committee, which pummelled him with questions. Maku was forced to admit that he became a minister of the Federal Republic courtesy of a Senate resolution.

He profusely apologised, saying he had no reason, personally, to denigrate the authority of the highest law-making body in the land.

"If that comment has been misinterpreted to mean that the federal government does not respect resolutions of the Senate, I tender my apology," he said. "I know that there are circumstances where the resolutions of the National Assembly carry the force of law."

Maku said he made the statement when "pressed by the press" but added that it was never intended to disparage the National Assembly.

Senator Abaribe, by virtue of the powers of the committee, had last week summoned Maku to come and explain his statement.

Further pelted with questions from the senators at a crowded session, Maku admitted that resolutions from the National Assembly are not mere advisory and that they carry the force of law. They pinned him down with the analogy of the "Doctrine of Necessity" which catapulted then vice president Jonathan to acting president.

Senator Abaribe said: "Senate wants to work in harmonious relationship with the executive. At this moment in time in Nigeria when we are besieged with all manner of problems -- either it is insecurity or flooding -- the very serious challenges that we face collectively as a nation -- we don't think that there is enough time to solve the problems, if there is bickering between the arms of government. So we wish to advise that members of the executive should show more tact when making public statements."

Jonathan Presents 2013 Budget October 4

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday wrote both arms of the National Assembly signifying his intention to present the 2013 budget to a joint session of the federal legislature on Thursday, October 4, at noon.

Jonathan's appearance clashes with the House of Representatives' oversight visit to all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to audit and determine the extent of the implementation of the current 2012 budget. It was scheduled for next week.

Last Thursday, Nigeria's finance minister and coordinating minister of the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, faced the House Representatives standing committees on Appropriation and Finance in the lead-up to the planned presentation of the 2013 budget.

However, the lower house signalled its intention to reject the planned move by the presidency to forward the 2013 budget if the current 2012 budget is not fully implemented.

House spokesman Zakari Mohammed told newsmen on Thursday that the ongoing audit of government MDAs would form the basis of the House's acceptance of the 2013 budget. "For 2013, until we are through with all these, 2013 might not be a matter in focus because we still have a lot of issues with the present budget," Mohammed said.

He said the resolution on 100 per cent budget implementation taken before federal lawmakers proceeded on its now ended two months' recess remains sacrosanct: "Unless we are convinced in our opinion that this budget (2012) has been well implemented, any other issue may begin to follow, but, as far as we are concerned, we have not abandoned that charge (100 per cent implementation)."

It was learnt that some federal lawmakers are moving to take advantage of Jonathan's appearance to demand explanations for terrorist activities and related cases of insecurity recorded in parts of Nigeria.

In June, the House had, through a resolution, invited Jonathan to appear before a closed session to brief federal lawmakers on the state of security in the country - a move that triggered varied reactions in support and dissent over the propriety of the invitation.

Jonathan is yet to honour the invitation.

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