Friday, 28 November 2014

Corruption: Senate, Reps Reply Obasanjo

The Senate yesterday denied the allegations of corruption levelled against the National Assembly by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, describing it as unfortunate and a deliberate attempt to denigrate the institution.
According to the Senate, the former president would not have tolerated such a legislature for the period he was the president of the country.

LEADERSHIP FRIDAY recalls the former president, at a public presentation of two books in Abuja during the week, accused members of the seventh National Assembly of promoting corruption and poor governance in the country. He specifically accused the lawmakers of siphoning public funds through ‘constituency projects’.

But reacting to the allegations via a statement by its spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate said it was unfortunate that the former president would distort the issue of constituency projects as meaning a direct monetary advance to lawmakers and thus amounting to the “promotion of corruption” by the National Assembly.

Abaribe said the most unfortunate in the deliberate criticism against the National Assembly was President Obasanjo’s allegation that the lawmakers were siphoning public funds through constituency projects.

“President Obasanjo, for the avoidance of doubt, was the initiator of the constituency project in the year 2000 as a means of ensuring that projects were fairly spread across the country using the senatorial zones as the spring board.

“To ensure execution of the projects, President Obasanjo again factored the constituency projects into the annual budgets to be implemented by the executive depending on availability of funds. That is to say that no lawmaker ever comes close to the funds or even determines the contractor for the said projects or when the said contract would be awarded.

“So, it looks curious and surprising that President Obasanjo would turn around after over 10 years of initiating such a project to allege that the National Assembly is performing the function of both the executive and the parliament.

“Is it not preposterous for anybody to believe that members of the National Assembly would, against the provisions of the constitution with regards to application of separation of powers, award contracts ‘to their agents to execute’ and expect the presidency under a President Obasanjo or any other president for that matter to pay for what they are not part of?

“Such allegation stands logic on its head, as it amounts to an indictment of the presidency for wilfully contravening the budget laws by ceding its power to execute to the National Assembly, if it was the case”, said Abaribe.

The Senate, therefore, challenged the former president to go a step further to furnish Nigerians with details of how the National Assembly members became executors of the national budget rather than being lawmakers.

“It will also help to clear the allegation once and for all, if any presidency official, not only from the time past but currently, could come forward and explain the true position of the so-called constituency projects. Doing so would at least set the records straight”, he said.

Abaribe cautioned political leaders to be wary of the consequences of dragging the revered institution of law making to public odium just to score some political points.


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