*Senate asks Buhari to investigate sponsors of protest
Senator Isah Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) has accused a serving minister and a sitting governor as sponsors of Tuesday’s protest in Abuja against the inclusion of constituency projects in the 2018 budget by the National Assembly.
This was as the Senate condemned the protest and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the protest with the aim of bringing sponsors to book.
Hundreds of protesters under a group called Citizens’ Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN) early on Tuesday converged at the entrance of the National Assembly to protest what it described as the criminal padding of 2018 budget by the national assembly.
Senator Misau said the duo who want to impress President Muhammadu Buhari are pitching Nigerians against the legislature just to settle political scores with legislators from their states.
He said, “I had it on good authority that the protest was organised by a serving minister and a sitting governor”,disclosing that the two schemed to be president and vice president of Nigeria in the event of incapacitation of President Buhari during his 100 days medical vacation away from office.
He said the executive arm is just implicating the parliament with such organised protest over action that other arms of government do engage in. “Is there any minister of heads of government agencies that does not take projects to their constituencies?. The budget is a public document, it is there for verification”.
This follows debate on motion by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue) condemning protest at the entrance to the national assembly yesterday by people he alleged were sponsored to disparage legislators over their involvement in constituency projects.
Gemade said the protesters and their sponsors lacked adequate knowledge of constituency projects, hence their blanket allegation that the projects are subtle ways through which the legislators corruptly enrich themselves.
He said constituency projects gives every segment of the country access to developmental projects across the country.
He said, “Ministers, permanent secretaries and other top government officials do include projects in their budgets. So, it is not an exclusive action of the legislature or an abuse by the national assembly.
Inclusion of constituency projects is a noble idea for legislators to make their presence felt in their constituencies. It is meant to ensure the presence of the federal government is felt in every corner of Nigeria”.
Supporting him, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu), said a constituency project is working and has been abused by the legislative arm of government but blamed the protest on arch detractors of the national assembly who sponsored jobless and exploited people.
The deputy senate president said no amount of blackmail will stop the constituency project, saying “it is a height of insensibility for anyone to be organising protest against constituency projects”
Senator Atai Aidoko (PDP, Kogi Central) said constituency projects remains the most federal character compliant project which need to be increased to give more Nigerians sense of belonging because it would be difficult for legislators to get a single project for his people without constituency projects.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara) said it is expedient for the parliament to educate Nigerians on the processes and execution of constituency projects without direct financial allocations to legislators in whose
constituency projects are located.
Deputy leader, Senator Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi), said more than 65% of protests against the national assembly are being sponsored by an arm of government while warning that sponsors of such protests are not rubbishing legislators but rubbishing the government.
He blamed such sponsor on the “diminishing conduct of those who are not fit to be government appointees”.
Senator Mao Ohuambuwa (PDP, Abia North) said rather condemning it, every Nigerian should applaud constituency projects and the national assembly, adding that “it is laudable and noble idea meant to develop the country”.
TheSenate President , Bukola Saraki, said constituency projects have provide equitable representation of projects across the country.
Addressing the protesters, the national convener of CATBAN, Comrade Ibrahim Garba accused the legislators of “cutting N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration, and introduced 6,403 private projects of their own amounting to N578 billion”. The group accused the lawmakers of shortchanging their constituencies in the budget processing.
The group said, “We are surprised that with an additional sum of N170billion available for the national assembly to spend on constituency projects, together with the sum of N100 billion already provided for in the budget, that the national assembly still went ahead to cut allocations to important national projects, thereby distorting the budget in other to further increase their allocation for constituency projects.”