Lawmakers threaten to impeach President




Members of the House of Representatives on Thursday threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan if he failed to achieve 100% budget implementation by September this year.

The lawmakers accused the President of breaching the 2012 Appropriation Act and poorly executing the budget.

Jonathan was given up to September to achieve “100% execution” of the budget or face impeachment proceedings.

The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who proposed the amendment, received a resounding applause from the majority of members at Thursday’s session.

But the Presidency said in a reaction on Thursday that both the executive and the legislature agreed on the need for good budget implementation.

President’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, said Jonathan had made it clear several times that his administration placed a premium on   performance.

Abati said, “The House and the presidency are on the same page on budget implementation. Just as the house is concerned, Mr. President is concerned too.

What happened today in the House was ironic and a big coincidence because two ministries, interior and police affairs, were in the Villa today to make presentations on their key performance index.” He added that budget implementation was a process and that the process of implementing the 2012 budget was ongoing.

Gbajabiamila had proposed the amendment to a motion before the House on the poor implementation of the budget.

“If by September 18, the budget performance has not improved to 100%, we shall begin to invoke and draw up articles of impeachment against Mr. President,” he said.

Members shouted a loud “yes”, “yes”, “yes” and clapped for the minority leader as Gbajabiamila made the proposal.

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He accused the executive of allegedly breaching the Appropriation Act, 2012 by engaging in “selective implementation” of the budget.

Gbajabiamila added, “What we have in our hands today is a budget of abracadabra; a budget of voodoo economy.

“I like Mr. President; he is a fine gentleman, but I like my people, the Nigerian people more.”

The original motion, which was moved by the Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, sought an interface between Jonathan and the leadership of the House on why it had been difficult for Ministries Departments and Agencies to implement the budget.

However, in the course of debate, lawmakers amended the motion, saying that a meeting with the President was not necessary.

Another amendment to the motion advised Jonathan to direct the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to “stop forthwith” the violation of Section 6 of the Act.

The amendment, which was proposed by the Chairman, House Committee on Works, Mr. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, demanded the immediate release of all the funds earmarked for projects in the first and second quarters of the year.

He said it was a breach of the law to hold on to funds budgeted for projects.

The session overwhelmingly endorsed the amendment.

However, there was a mild drama when a member representing Ogbia Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, Mr. Karibo Nadu, kicked against the impeachment threat.

Nadu, who represents Jonathan’s constituency, accused the House of deviating from the motion.

He argued that Gbajabiamila’s call for impeachment was “irrelevant” to the purpose of the motion.

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“Mr. Speaker, the issue of impeachment of the President is not relevant to this motion.

“What has that got to do with budget implementation?”, he asked.

Nadu, was, however, shouted down by lawmakers who urged Gbajabiamila to continue with his submissions.

Gbajabiamila cited Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution, saying that any action of the President defined as “gross misconduct” by the National Assembly was sufficient grounds to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

The Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. John Enoh, expressed concern that the budget had performed less than “35 per cent” with about five months to the end of the year.

He observed that unlike previous budgets, this year’s budget of N4.8tn had no funding challenges.

Enoh noted that the budget had a capital component of N1.5tn and “has no issues with funding; it is a budget that is good for implementation.”

He told the House that out of the N1.5tn, only N404bn had been released to MDAs in the first and second quarters, “which is a far cry from what is expected.”

“When you look at accessing of the funds by the MDAs, only N200bn has been cash-backed.The budget implementation is about N35 per cent,” Enoh said.

He said the excuse that second quarter releases were based on performance by the MDAs was not tenable.

“The problem is that the will is lacking to implement a law that is passed by  this House,” he said.

The Chairman, Committee on Finance, Mr. Abdulmuni Jibrin, told the House that revenue was not the problem of the budget.

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According to him, revenue generating agencies like the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Customs Service generated surpluses in the first and second quarters.

He said the FIRS had recorded 25 per cent excess revenue above the budgeted projection, while the Department of Petroleum Resources had an excess of N151bn by the end of June.

Jibrin stated that though the NNPC had continued to be secretive about Nigeria’s crude oil earnings, the price of the commodity had never fallen below the budgeted $72 since January.

“My conclusion is that we have enough money to implement our projects. An idea is being put in our psyche that we have no money. We should not allow that to happen,” he said.

Amid a tense atmosphere in the House, the Majority Leader of the House, Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, appealed for calm.

She said members to be patient with the President till the September deadline given to him for things to improve.

She urged, “This is our government; the executive and the legislature, we are all part of the same government.The concerns raised by the House are the concerns of Nigerians.

“But, let me say that we will definitely see changes by September.”

The motion was later passed by the House without a dissenting voice.

The session was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal.

 







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