24 January 2014

Nigeria: Rivers Crisis - APC Asks NASS to Block Budget, New Ministers

Photo: Vanguard
Rivers State Crisis

The country was yesterday headed for a shutdown after the All Progressives Congress, APC, directed its members in the National Assembly, NASS, to block consideration of the 2014 Budget, as well as ministerial and military appointments until the Federal Government halts the escalating violence in Rivers State.

The party also threatened to direct its members nationwide, especially in Rivers State to resort to self-help to protect themselves if the situation in the state was not immediately brought under control by the Presidency.

The development immediately attracted sharp reactions from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its leaders in the House even as APC stalwarts promised to abide by the party's directive.

PDP deputy leader in the House, Hon. Leo Ogor flayed the directive and vowed that the House would proceed to pass the budget irrespective of the actions of the APC, saying that it was like cutting the nose to spite the face. Reactions also came from Rep. Samson Osagie, the deputy whip of the House; former chief whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie and other PDP and APC legislators.

The decision to move against the 2014 budget of the Federal Government was disclosed yesterday by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary of the party while addressing newsmen at the end of a six-hour meeting held at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja.

Full text of the APC communiqué:

"The APC Interim National Executive Committee held its 8th regular meeting today (yesterday).

In attendance were General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the Governors of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi; Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun; Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi; Nasarawa, Tanko Al-Makura; Yobe, Ibrahim Geidam; Sokoto, Aliyu Wammako; Adamawa, Murtala Nyako; Kwara, Abdulfatah Ahmed; Edo, Adams Oshiomhole; Borno, Kashim Shettima and the Deputy Governors of Oyo, Imo, Kano and Zamfara states and other party leaders.

"The meeting was chaired by the Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and attended by the full complement of the Interim National Executive Committee along with the leadership of the APC in the two chambers of the National Assembly.

"The National Executive Committee of the APC commended the courage, maturity and political sagacity of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in the face of serial unprovoked and unwarranted assaults on his person, his constitutional rights and those of the Government and People of Rivers State. The conduct of Governor Amaechi represents our party's maturity and compliance with the rule of law in response to escalating impunity. The APC is very proud of him.

"Any cursory observer of events in Rivers State since February, 2013 will be left in no doubt as to the culture of lawlessness and impunity being promoted and supported by the Presidency, and executed by the State Commissioner of Police Joseph Mbu, who has become the defacto military Governor of Rivers State and sole administrator of the PDP in the State.

"A few instances of the brazen lawlessness and violations of the Constitution will suffice here - the forceful dispersal of 13,201 newly recruited teachers in the Port Harcourt Stadium using tear gas; blockading the entrance to the Government House in Port Harcourt and forcing the state governor to use another entrance; preventing an aircraft chartered by the state governor from taking off, alleging that the governor was trying to smuggle out a legislator wanted by the Police, no apology was offered to the Governor; the disruption of a peaceful rally during which Senator Magnus Abe was shot with intent to kill; several disruptions of Save Rivers Group rallies, and the unlawful detention of anybody perceived to be a sympathizer of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, while allowing pro-Jonathan and Anti-Amaechi groups to organize rallies unmolested.

"The National Executive Committee of the APC has now resolved that if these acts of impunity and lawlessness continue unabated and the Police persists in being an enforcement arm of the PDP to the detriment of our members, it will have no alternative than to ask our teeming members all over the country and especially in Rivers State to take whatever steps that are necessary to protect their lives and property.

"Following on the forgoing and in view of the joint resolutions of the National Assembly on Rivers State, and other constitutional breaches by the Presidency, the APC hereby directs its members in the National Assembly to block all legislative proposals including the 2014 Budget and confirmation of all nominees to military and civilian positions to public office until the rule of law and constitutionalism is restored in Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general."

APC out to destroy democracy -- PDP

Reacting to the development, the PDP in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh said the APC action was a confirmation of its assertions that the opposition party was determined to destroy the nation's democracy.

The PDP said "in asking that service chiefs should not be confirmed by the Senate, the APC has revealed its devilish plot to undermine the nation's security system, create a state of anarchy and pave way to unleash mayhem on the people".

The ruling party said "in trying to frustrate the passage of the 2014 budget, the APC has also exposed its plot to cripple the nation's economy and plunge the people into untold hardship"

According to the PDP, "by attempting to cause confusion in the National Assembly, which is the citadel of democracy, it is now clear to all Nigerians that the APC has commenced the implementation of its orchestrated plot to truncate the nation's democracy, push the country into a state of chaos and achieve its doomsday predictions; a plot which must be stopped."

Also rebuffing the APC threat, the deputy PDP leader, Hon. Ogor said the House would proceed to pass the budget irrespective of the actions of the APC members as he said the budget did not have any direct bearing with the Rivers State crisis. Besides, he said that the two chambers of the National Assembly were presently dealing with the crisis in Rivers State.

His words:

"We will look at the budget holistically and if for any reason that we are at agreement and in tandem with it, we will pass it. We don't need two-thirds to pass a budget, it is passed as a normal bill with simple majority. At worse we will divide the House and we know that we have the majority and we will pass the budget.

"They should try as much as possible to have a national focus. Even if there is a problem in Rivers State, the approach in solving that problem will have little or no impact in passing a national budget which our economy depends on.

"I will advise them to have a rethink and knowing fully well that our national interest is more important than any other political party's interest. If they wish to tackle the issue of Rivers State, it should be addressed as a separate matter, they should look at it holistically rather than to stop a national budget, the most important law to be passed by the National Assembly on a yearly basis. I am very, very disappointed."

Senator Rowland Owie in his own reaction said that the directive by the APC should show Nigerians that they are a group of desperate politicians. The passage of budgets and ministerial clearance do not require two-thirds majority. The budget and ministerial clearance can be done with or without them. In 1979, when I was a member of the House of Representatives (NPN), the Federal Government had 32 percent of of the NASS and budgets were passed without rancour. I expect my colleagues in the NASS to be patriotic and serve the nation instead of engaging in heating up the polity."

However, the APC deputy whip, Rep. Osagie rebuffed him, saying that he and APC members would proceed along with the directives of the party as he flayed the ruling party for several breaches.

Also speaking, Reps yesterday were divided over APC's statement that its members should not pass the 2014 Appropriation bill until the Crisis rocking Rivers state is resolved.

In his reaction, Deputy Chairman House committee on Ethics and Privileges Rep Toby Okechukwu, PDP, Enugu said "we will pass the budget without APC as we are in majority in the House. "

"You do not run a country with ultimatum and who says the passing of the budget is dependent upon APC?

They do have a right not to participate, they can be excused. We in the majority will fill the vacuum."

Chairman House Committee on Anti-Corruption and Ethics, Rep Abiodun Faleke, APC, Lagos said he supported the decision of his party the APC.

He said:"I will abide by my party decision. Why will the governors not be carried along in the preparation of the budget? Remember that our finance committee had asked questions about the economy and up till now no good answers. How much income did the country generate last year?

"Who approved $10.8billion for NNPC for subsidy etc. So there are so many questions to be answered by finance ministry before the budget can be considered. "

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