10 February 2014

Nigeria: Govt Shutdown - Reps Lift Embargo Against Budget

PLANS by the House of Representatives to shut down the Federal Government through stalling of its 2014 budget are to be temporarily lifted tomorrow following the removal of Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu as the Rivers State commissioner of police.

The removal of Mbu was one of the conditions the opposition APC insistedon before asking its members to stall the budget.

The decision to proceed with the budget was to be endorsed by a six man committee constituted by Speaker Aminu Tambuwal to advise him on legal bottlenecks earlier raised against further deliberation of the budget last Wednesday.

The House had, Wednesday, put off further consideration of the 2014 budget of the Federal Government on technical grounds raised by Rep. Emmanuel Jime, one of the 37 members of the House who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC, last December.

Jime, from Benue State, had alleged that the budget violated provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by not detailing the budgetary estimates of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

Upon his observation, Speaker Tambuwal had constituted a six man committee styled as the six wise men to advise him on the decision to take on the issue.

However, Jime's action was traced to a directive by the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the APC which had, last month, asked its members in the National Assembly to stall the budget following what it claimed was the reign of impunity in Rivers State allegedly perpetrated through the former commissioner of police, Mr. Mbu.

Flowing from the removal of Mbu last Thursday, the APC House leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and other senior members of the party welcomed it as a positive development that would remove the obstacle to the consideration of the budget.

Debating the budget

Mr. Gbajabiamila said in a posting on his facebook page at the weekend, "Now we can debate the so-called budget. As I said earlier, extraordinary and desperate situations call for extraordinary measures. We have been vindicated that there is more than one way to skin a cat.".

In the posting dated February 7, 2014, he added, "As a party we have adopted a less attractive but legitimate way when all else failed and it has worked. The people of Nigeria are the beneficiaries."

One of the six wise men constituted by the Speaker, Rep. Sunday Adepoju, APC, Oyo State, told Vanguard that Nigerians should be hopeful on the outcome of the work of the committee.

He said, "We are still working on it. By Tuesday, you will be able to hear what will happen. Wait and see what happens on Tuesday. We are still meeting. Let Nigerians be hopeful. We will do what is expected of us. You will know everything on Tuesday."

Asked if the removal of Mbu as the commissioner of police in Rivers State as demanded by the APC would ease the consideration of the budget, he said, "The issue of removal of Mbu is one case, the budget is another. That of Mbu has been complied with. Our party gave us directives on what to do. Now, it has become an issue for the entire House. So, Tuesday, Nigerians will hear what will happen. I can not tell you anything. Just wait till Tuesday."

Another source in the APC caucus told Vanguard, yesterday, that the removal of Mbu as the commissioner of police has brought to an end, the regime of impunity and restored peace in Rivers State as demanded by the APC national leadership. Our aim has been achieved and we are now ready to work for the best interest of Nigerians irrespective of party affiliation." The source added that the whole idea behind the constitution of the six man panel of wise men was to douse tension.

The APC whip, Barrister Samson Osagie, on his part described the removal of Mr. Mbu as a positive development even as he maintained that the report of the six wise men committee would influence the direction the House would take on the budget tomorrow.

He said, "It is a welcome development, it is a matter that was long overdue and it shows the triumph of reason over impunity and we hope that Tunde Ogunshakin who is taking over from Mbu will not tread the partisan path of Mbu and that peace and normalcy, fairness, equity and justice would be brought to the people of Rivers State. We as a party are very happy with that development and it shows that our effort has paid off and that all the pressure we brought to bear has paid off."

Rep. Seconte Davies representing Bonny/Degema Federal Constituency spoke in the same direction saying that the legal issues raised must be sorted out first before the commencement of debate and eventual passage of the Bill to second reading.

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