The House of Representatives has refused to issue a new itleait to the fresh label of ‘unarmed robbers’ pinned on federal legislators by former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Recall that Obasanjo, speaking at a book presentation in Ibadan on Thursday had described the legislators as a bunch of unarmed robbers because, as he said, “they are one of the highest paid in the world where we have 70 per cent of our people living in abject poverty.”
The House said yesterday that its response to an earlier accusation in the heat of the budget padding controversy in 2016 is sufficient for the latest accusation by the former President.
House spokesman Abdulrazaq Namdas, when contacted to respond to the former President said its response to an earlier accusation in the heat of the budget padding controversy in 2016 was sufficient.
“There is nothing to say because the House has responded to the former President previously,” he said.
“The accusation this time is the same as before, so there is nothing to add. Our position has not changed from what we said in 2016.
“He is an elder and in my culture, you don’t respond to elders every time.
“You don’t banter words with your elders. Having responded once and he accuses you again and again, what you do is you keep quiet.
“Remember he is a former President and an elder statesman. I will not say more than that.”
So what was the response in 2016?
Namdas in responding to Obasanjo, on November 24, 2016, said:
“The House of Representatives would ordinarily not join issues with the former President as he has held an office that deserves respect and reverence.
“However, because of the material misstatement of facts, outright lies and falsehoods, and mischievous innuendo introduced in his statement, we are left with no option but to correct him.
“We have repeatedly maintained that there was no “padding” of the 2016 Appropriation Act, which is a legitimate document passed by the National Assembly, authenticated by the Clerk to the National Assembly as provided in the Acts Authentication Act and assented to by Mr. President.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no crime that was committed by the National Assembly by exercising its constitutional function of appropriation.
“If Chief Obasanjo has an issue with the execution of the 2016 Budget or indeed other Appropriation Acts, he should direct his anger elsewhere.
“He claimed that the National Assembly Budget is very high, when by all standards, the National Assembly is grossly underfunded and is hampered from effectively and legitimately carrying out its constitutionally assigned functions. The National Assembly Budget funds a bureaucracy of about 5,000 civil servants.
“It has some other agencies under its preview such as the National Assembly Service Commission with its own staff of about 500, even the Public Complaints Commission is now a parastatal of the National Assembly.
“National Assembly Budget also funds the National Institute for Legislative Studies, which is a legislative think-tank and highly rated academic institution that serves both National and State Houses of Assembly and even international legislators.
“All these agencies also have their capital budget including development of their headquarters, procurement of office equipment, procurement of regular items for running their offices; the National Assembly maintain legislative aides of about 3,000 in number, that aid the work of the Assembly; it also conducts regular public hearings involving the media and stakeholders and oversight activities, involving huge sums of money.
“The cost implications of running the National Assembly is high because of the nature of our Presidential democracy.
“Then of course, there are 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives that require proper equipment to function effectively. They require adequate travel and transport support to carry out legislative functions.
The National Assembly also has buildings and offices to build and maintain. National Assembly staff and members attend conferences, trainings, seminars to keep abreast of legislative developments worldwide. The activities are very encompassing and expensive.
“It is also unbecoming of a former President to quote figures of sums of money that are factually incorrect. No member of the House of Representatives receives N10m every month.
“The salaries and allowances of members of the House are as determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
“Of course further sums of money are spent as running costs, that is, the cost of running the office of a member.
“If a Minister, Chief Executive or Director in a Ministry travels on official duties, for instance, do you include the cost of his ticket and accommodation as part of his salary or allowances?
“Does the cost of stationeries and maintenance of equipment like computers used in their offices, form part of their salaries and allowances?
“These are some of the costs that must be taken care of by the National Assembly and the media calls these costs “jumbo pay”. For goodness sake, the National Assembly is an arm of government, not just an ordinary agency of government.
“The budget of many agencies in the Executive Branch are indeed higher than the current Budget of the National Assembly that is an arm of government.
“Examples abound, CBN, NNPC, NCC etc. Allowances paid to even junior staff of some of these government agencies cannot be compared to what members of National Assembly enjoy.
“Undoubtedly, the former President Obasanjo is understandably angry with the National Assembly as an institution having foiled his ambition for a third-term in office even after trying to corrupt the members with a bribe of at least N50m each.
“Lest we forget, the person who introduced corruption to the National Assembly is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“He birthed the 4th Republic National Assembly with corrupt practices from day one; indeed the first day of the Republic. He bribed PDP, ANPP and AD legislators on their inauguration in 1999 to vote against the majority candidate of PDP, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. That was how Senator Evan Enwerem became Senate President.
“Have we forgotten the sacks of money displayed on the floor of the House of Representatives being bribe money paid by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to some Honourable members to impeach Speaker, Rt. Hon. Ghali N’abba?
“Have we forgotten that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo used his position as President to extort money from businessmen and contractors with his government to build his presidential library?
“The list of his corrupt acts while in office is endless. Unquestionably, he is the greatest corrupt person ever to hold office in Nigeria.
“He remains the grandfather of corruption in Nigeria and lacks the moral authority to discuss corruption or indeed abuse of office in Nigeria as he remains the most corrupt Nigerian on record.
“It is unfortunate that he has started his very familiar method of bringing down governments. He did it to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, he did it to Gen. Buhari, he did same to Gen. Babangida, he attempted to bring down Gen. Abacha before he imprisoned him for treason; he made frantic efforts to derail the government of President Ya’ardua when he couldn’t use him.
“He supported President Goodluck Jonathan but when he refused to take dictation, he turned against him. He supported President Buhari, but since he has sensed that Nigeria is having economic difficulties under him, he has pounced to derail his government.
“The way Chief Obasanjo talks gives the impression that he is a lifetime opposition leader who has never held any office. What did he do about the issues he raised in his 8 years as President?
“This is a man with unlimited access to President Buhari. Or is it because he has not appointed all his cronies as requested? We may never know. His stuck in trade is blackmail, subversion and treachery.
“We wish him well.”