28 January 2014

Nigeria: Mixed Feelings in Senate Over Budget, Senators' Defection

As the budget debates starts today, there are mixed feelings in the Upper House over the directive by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to its lawmakers to frustrate the budget being passed.

Also there is tension over the plans by some Senators in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are set to defect to the APC this week

Going against their party directive, some APC senators who are in the Joint Committee on Navy, Army, Air Force participated in the screening exercise of the service chiefs yesterday in the Senate.

Last week, the APC directed 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 offices, until the rule of law and constitutionalism are restored in Rivers State in particular, and Nigeria in general.

Senator Bukola Saraki had revealed on Sunday that some of his colleagues in the PDP will formally defect to the APC this week, but Senate spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe disclosed that there was no tension in the Senate over the possible defection of some of the senators.

Meanwhile, seven APC Senators going against their party directives participated in the screening exercise of the service chiefs

Senators Akin Odunsi, Kabiru Marafa, Sani Saleh, Atai Aidoko, Babafemi Ojudu, Jubrilla Bindo and Ajayi Boroffice were among other senators who participated in the screening exercise

The Service Chiefs nominees are: Air Marshall Alex Badeh, Chief of Defence Staff; Major General Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosu, Chief of Air Staff.

Chairman of the joint committee, Senator George Sekibo, in his opening address, noted that the screening was the first to be carried out by the Senate since the return of Nigeria to civil rule despite the fact that there was a provision for it in Sections 217 to 219 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Sekibo said, "The screening exercise today therefore is in fulfilment of the provisions of the constitution and the Armed Forces Act 2004 (Cap A.20 of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) which has been flouted since it was enacted.

"This exercise we are performing today would satisfy the provisions of the constitution and law, and completely put our Armed Forces under our democratic norms."

Sekibo also said that the country was currently undergoing major security challenges like the insurgency in the North East, oil theft and pipeline vandalisation in the South-South and kidnapping which was rampant in the South East and other parts of the country.

He said, "If the required attention is not given to these challenges, they are capable of disintegrating our country or putting our nation's unity in question."

... As PDP, APGA, Labour and Accord Reps Oppose APC Directive

The directive issued to members of the APC in the National Assembly by the national working committee of the party has been roundly rejected by members of the House of Representatives.

The APC had told its members in National Assembly to block all legislative proposals from the executive, including the consideration of the 2014 Budget and confirmation of all nominees to military and civilian positions until the rule of law and constitutionalism is restored in Rivers State.

But some lawmakers, who reacted in separate groups, were of the collective opinion that the directive was against the interest of Nigerians and the Nigerian state.

In a press statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, members of APGA, Labour and Accord parties in the House, under the aegis of Joint Action Team, rejected the call, describing it as "grossly unpatriotic and not in the best interest of the Nigerian people".

The statement signed by Hon Chukwuemeka Nwagbo (APGA, Anambra), the lawmakers stated that the lawmakers took the stand against the directive "to ensure that the National Assembly duties are not disrupted".

"We hereby state that the Joint Action Team categorically and unequivocally rejects such calls as we view it as grossly unpatriotic and not in the best interest of the Nigerian people," the group stated.

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