MINORITY GOSPEL: Slash our allowances — House Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila

Published:13 Jan, 2013

Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila is the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. In this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU, the lawyer speaks on the cause of conflicts between the House and the Executive

How does it feel being in the opposition in a House that is dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party?

It is an experience that is interesting, challenging, fulfiGbajabiamila1-360x225lling, tasking and worthwhile. Sometimes your arguments win in debates, sometimes they do not. The opposition is important because it is an important aspect of any democracy. It is challenging because sometimes you raise issues that will almost land you into trouble but above all, the opposition is striving. It is a wonderful experience.

Have you ever been intimidated by the overwhelming majority?

I am not a type that gets intimidated; I cannot be intimidated. When the opposition raises issues, it is interesting to know that we have some leaders in the majority who relegate their political party affiliations and background to consider such issues because they are of national importance and are for the betterment of the people. We may have some challenges but we have never been intimidated.

The House has made some discoveries through several probes but Nigerians are losing faith in the House because almost all the reports are unimplemented.

We are playing our role in a democracy. We probe and submit our reports; it is for the Executive to execute those reports. It is not for us to execute them. When we try to execute, they say we are overreaching our boundary. We did a report on the Security Exchange Commission and recommended that the Director-General be removed for certain reasons but the Executive has refused to execute it. We have also refused to appropriate money to the sector but Nigerians are still criticising us. I will do a piece on that very soon, just to make Nigerians understand better what we are doing about SEC. The National Assembly is not overreaching itself, as far as the SEC is concerned. We are working within our legislative powers. It is not childish like most people will want to say but this is not a topic for today. I will do a report to give a broader and more objective analysis of what happened between the SEC and the National Assembly.

Is it not possible for the National Assembly to do a follow-up on the reports to ensure proper implementation and prosecution?

We do follow-ups and one of them is on the SEC matter and the DG. One of the ways of doing follow-up is to say, ‘You know what? We cannot tell you this person is not fit to hold office and at the same time appropriate money for her to spend.’ Therefore, we have withheld appropriation for that section. That is one way of following up your resolution and ensuring that your resolution is implemented.

Many Nigerians believe until the allowances of lawmakers are cut and legislature is made part-time, the National Assembly will not perform better? How would you react to this?

It is a remedy, if it’s thought out properly. If it is a remedy, it’s absolutely welcomed by me. But I think it’s not about allowances neither is it about being full-time or part-time; I think it’s about commitment and doing the right thing. I think it is about putting the right people in the right offices. If you cut the time and allowances, as long as you don’t have the right calibre of people that will deliver what needs to be delivered, you are going to get same results. It is called ‘garbage in garbage out.’ For me, it is a welcome development if we look at it.

What I want to say on the issue of allowances is that we should take a global look and see whether truly, Nigerian legislators are the highest paid in the world. From my research, they appear not to be but if that is the case, then, we should look at it, slash it wherever we want to slash it. Anything that will give better performance, I am all for it. What is important is that we grow our democracy and deliver the dividends to all Nigerians wherever they may be.

Again, it is not enough to talk about allowances without talking about what the followership is also expecting from the legislators. When they start comparing a legislator in America with a legislator in Nigeria, what they forget is that there’s no basis for comparison. What are the demands of legislators in America? The legislators in America are not expected to pay house rents, school fees, or use their money to sink boreholes. There are several things legislators here do and you don’t have a budget for that. Many legislators do these out of their pockets.

Yes, if you want to slash the allowances for legislators, please go ahead, and slash it. But, you also have to deal with the whole picture and make sure people don’t come to these same legislators and start to make unbearable, unbelievable and unpractical demands. These demands are not made on other legislators in other parts of the world. A legislator in America that earns N100 a month keeps all the N100 to himself but a legislator in Nigeria, that earns N300 a month, is expected to spend N350 out of the N300 on the constituents. And that is why you see today, legislators who are out of office are in penury because all the so-called basic allowances are spent on the constituency. I am all for slashing of allowances, if we can slash the demands as well.

People believe they are not seeing what they should see despite the fact that there are allowances for constituency projects. Why is this so?

This is another misconception, unfortunately. Constituency projects are never given to National Assembly members. I have been in the House for close to nine years – this is my third term – I have never been given a kobo for constituency projects. Never in my life! And nobody is given money for constituency project. Constituency project means you identify something that may be needed and it is only a limited amount. You identify something small that is needed in your constituency and it is put in the budget, that is your constituency project. For instance, I might decide that we need to fix a federal road in my constituency. That might be the constituency project. It may be N30m they will give each member but they will not give them in cash. It will be included in the budget not that they will give you money.

The House protested the percentage level of implementation of the 2012 budget. Is there a plan to do a follow-up on the implementation of the 2013 budget?

What happened in 2012, for me, is a good thing. It is a foreshadow of what is to come in 2013. We have made it clear that it is not going to be a business as usual. We have thrown down the gauntlet and it is for the Executive to take it up. The budget is meant to be and must be implemented. We did it in 2012; it got to a point where serious repercussions were about to happen. I am sure that the Executive fully understands that our language was hard. Our rhetoric was very serious and direct — implement the budget or face the consequence, which is what will happen in 2013.

How independent is Nigeria legislature?

Nigerian legislature is very independent. Maybe we were not in the past. That is what we have done in the seventh assembly; to ensure independence. At the beginning when we were sworn in, we independently elected our leadership of the House. It had never happened before in the history of Nigeria, at least not in recent times.

At the House, the ruling party normally dictated who was going to be the speaker, leader, etc. We were not going to have any of that and we made that abundantly clear. And we have followed that path of independence in all our decisions. That is why people think there is conflict between the Executive and the legislature. There will always be conflict because they are two separate arms of government. There will always be conflict, as long as the conflict is healthy and it is for goodness of the Nigerian people. We say ‘welcome conflict’ as long as it moves the country forward. I have no fears or worries about the independence of the National Assembly anymore. Besides, the opposition has grown in number unlike what we had before. So, that independence has been enhanced.

Does the House have any plan to empower the anti-graft agencies in their fight against corruption in terms of legislation?

We are working on it. We have set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Law. If the EFCC is being influenced by the Executive, we are working on tightening that law by amending it. I have a process of the amendment of the EFCC, where the Attorney-General of the Federation is no longer relevant in the operations of the EFCC. We are working on that; it is a bill that I sponsored — that, the AGF can no longer, under the constitution of the EFCC, issue what is called nolle prosequi. Hopefully, we will strengthen the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.

What are the prospects of the merger of the opposition parties in the 2015 general elections?

The process is ongoing and it is going on smoothly. The good thing is that it started early. The problem with the last time was that the parties came just before the electionsand that did not give us the time to meet all the necessary legal hurdles and requirements set up by the electoral law. Now we have started in good time and in earnest. I truly believe that this time around, we will have a single party forming an opposition. While we are doing that, we will ensure that elections are free and fair.

What are your challenges with tackling the ruling PDP that has the finance and government machinery on ground?

Challenges have always been in Nigerian politics. Some see it as a competition, others see it as a battle. The challenges we are looking forward to would be not just a battle of wits but a battle of issues.

 

 

via Punch

Related Posts

Recent Posts

NMA Demands Highway Ambulances

Following the death of its six members and a driver in Ekiti State, the Nigerian Medical Association has demanded from the federal and state governments the immediate provision of well-equipped functional ambulances along the major highways across the country for the purpose of immediate conveyance of injured victims of vehicular accidents to nearby hospitals. The association has raised a N20m Educational Endowment Fund for the immediate support of the families of its members in Ekiti State who died in an...

Kogi Sues National Assembly, AGF Over Assembly Takeover

The Kogi State Government has sued the National Assembly and the Attorney General of the Federation at the Supreme Court, asking for an order nullifying the House of Representatives resolution to take over the legislative functions of the state’s House of Assembly. The House of Representatives had, on March 9, 2016, passed a resolution to take over the legislative functions of the Kogi State House of Assembly. The House passed the resolution following the crisis that broke out as a result...

Panama Papers: $2.6m Penthouses Traced To Ex-Minister

  A former Minister for National Planning, Rasheed Gbadamosi, bought two luxury penthouses worth $2.6m in Panama in 2008 while serving as the Chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, according to leaked data from Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. According to a documents sighted by Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, Gbadamosi who was recently appointed co-chairman of the Lagos at 50...

FG Condemns Calls For Herdsmen To Leave South East

The Federal Government has condemned calls by some individuals and groups in the south-east geo political zone for herdsmen to leave the region. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, made the condemnation on Sunday at Uburu, Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi. He was addressing newsmen on the outcome of the All Progressives Congress (APC) South-East stakeholders meeting. According to him, the call is uncalled for, as President Muhammadu Buhari has directed relevant agencies to take appropriate actions in halting...

Army Begins Massive Operation In Sambisa Forests

The Nigerian Army said on Sunday that it had commenced large scale operations to smoke out Boko Haram terrorists from their Sambisa forest hideout in Borno.   Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, the Theater Commander Operation Lafiya Dole said this while briefing newsmen in Maiduguri. ``I want to inform you that troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole are conducting operations in the heart of Sambisa as we speak. ``The troops are deep into the forest to smoke out Boko Haram terrorists,'' Irabor said. He said that...

Gulak Denies Hijacking Adamawa PDP Congress Materials

A PDP chieftain, Mr Ahmed Gulak, has denied allegations that he hijacked the party congress materials for meant for Adamawa state. The PDP Chairman in Adamawa, Chief Joel Madaki, had accused Gulak of illegally collecting the materials. Madaki alleged that when he went to collect the materials from PDP National Headquarters at Wadata Plaza in Abuja, he was told that Gulak had already collected them. Reacting to the allegation in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Yola, Gulak said that what...

Improved Workers’ Welfare Critical To Change Agenda – Dogara

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, on Sunday assured Nigerian workers of the commitment of the House to improving workers’ welfare. A statement issued in Abuja on the occasion of the Workers' Day by Mr Turaki Hassan, the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Speaker, quoted Dogara as saying that improvement in the condition of workers was critical to the change agenda of the current administration. "The International Workers' Day was borne out of...

Walin Sokoto To Be Buried Today

The late Walin Sokoto, Amb. Hamzat Ahmad, will be buried on Monday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.   The funeral prayer for the deceased will be performed on Monday morning at 10.00 a.m. at the Sultan's Palace in Sokoto according to Islamic rites. Ahmad, an accomplished diplomat and technocrat, died at a private hospital in Lagos, aged 92. The deceased served as Personal Secretary to two Nigerian military leaders-- General Aguiyi Ironsi and General Yakubu Gowon. He had served as Nigeria's Ambassador...

NASS Restates Opposition To Grazing Reserves

The Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, says the National Assembly will not support the creation of grazing reserves anywhere in the country. Addressing newsmen on Sunday after a meeting of the South East governors and stakeholders in Enugu, Ekweremadu said that there was no bill on the creation of grazing reserves before the National Assembly. He, therefore, said that the purported bill for the creation of grazing reserves was a ``hoax’’, adding that the press should strive to stop such...

Oshiomhole Increases Workers’ Minimum Wage From N18,000 to N25,000

Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo on Sunday announced the increment of the National Minimum Wage from N18,000 to N25, 000 with immediate effect, for employees in the State Public Service.   He also promised prompt payment of outstanding arrears of salary to the staff of Local Government Councils in the state.   Oshiomhole who made the announcement on Sunday at the grand finale of activities to mark the 2016 Workers Day, said that plans had also been concluded to pay staff of...

Reuben Abati: May Day, Tiwa Savage, Her Husband And Nigeria

“Ol’boy, man don see something oh.”  “Wetin you see?” “My eyes don see something. My ears don hear, and my mouth sef, I for talk something join.”  “Talk make I hear” “No be dis Tiwa Savage and him husband matter? The husband wey say him wife offend am, he no gi am food, him wife dey form for house but him dey open leg for other men, and na another woman they give...

Richard Tayo: Stellar Hypocrisy On Show: Letter To Senator Ben Murray Bruce

I am particularly compelled to write you this letter sir knowing that the Senate is currently riddled with plethora of controversies that your 'Common Sense' campaign is yet to address. Your 'Common Sense' crusade have addressed almost every prevailing situations in this country save that of the Senate. Reason I can't just help but remind you of the stellar height you have taken hypocrisy to. Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground....

Rahaman Onike: Saraki And His Running Battle

The latest disclosure by the embattled senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki that his current travail was a price he has to pay for opposing muslim-muslim ticket when APC as the ruling party was to decide its presidential/vice-presidential candidates sounds  like a belated excuse. Assuming he has raised the allegation ab initio probably it might have received greater public sympathy. The media boost given to the assertion notwithstanding, many Nigerian still find it difficult to believe his untoward...

Zayyad I. Muhammad: The Youths in the Boko Haram Conflict Region

There are quite a number of young people in the Lake Chad region (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun and Chad)...

Olawale Rotimi: Violence in Nigeria; Causes, Effects And Solutions

Violence in Nigeria in its various forms has evolved over the decades; from use of traditional weapons, charms and hamlets, violence in Nigeria has taken sophisticated dimension. Political, electoral, religious, ethnic/tribal, cultism and other forms of violence are dominant in the Nigerian society, at varying degrees. Each region in Nigeria has its peculiar form of violence; in northern Nigeria, religious violence and extremist attacks is peculiar, in the South-South, militancy is popular and like...

Liam Hemsworth Takes Miley Cyrus To Lunch With His Parents

Miley Cyrus was pictured spending some quality time with boyfriend Liam Hemsworth & his family. The couple was seen walking together as they arrived to meet with his family in a restaurant in Byron Bay, Australia. After the lunch, she joined Liam's sister-in-law/Thor star Chris Hemsworth's wife, Elsa Pataky for a shopping trip. See more photos below...

Father Beats His 17yr Old Son Silly In Boxing Match As Punishment For Skipping School

An unnamed American father has come up with a form of 'discipline' most parents will be hesitant to apply. A video posted to Facebook shows the father challenging his teenage son to a fight after learning that the lad walked out of lessons without telling him. He then proceeds to pummel the precocious young man leaving him a bloody, sobbing mess. The video has gone viral garnering nearly 1.5million views.

Colombia Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

A top court in Colombia has officially legalized same-sex marriage in the country. Same sex couples who were already allowed to form civil partnerships, are now permitted to get married just like other heterosexual couples.  This new law places Colombia as the fourth country in Latin America to legalize same sex marriages. Argentina was the first Latin American country to take the step in July 2010 before Brazil and Uruguay followed suit.

Prince’s Sister Tyka ‘Walks Out Of Meeting As Family Gather To Discuss Estate’

Prince's sister Tyka reportedly stormed out of a meeting as the family gathered to discuss the late singer's £200million estate. Prince passed away last week without a will and a bank has now been appointed to manage his assets. It is thought the Purple Rain superstar's fortune will be divided between his sister Tyka and half-siblings John, Norrine, Sharon, Alfred and Omarr. US gossip site, TMZ reports that Tyka met with Alfred and Omarr in Minnesota on Thursday. After...

Navy Declares Suspected Pirate, Charles Parker, Wanted For Alleged Hijack Of Oil Vessel

The Nigerian Navy has declared one Charles Ekpemefumor, also known as Charles Parker, wanted for alleged hijack of MT MAXIMUS off Cote d’Ivoire waters on Feb. 11, 2016. This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday by the Director of Navy Information, Commodore Christian Ezekobe. It said investigation so far conducted by Navy operatives had identified Charles Parker as the mastermind of the hijack of the vessel. It said the notice became necessary following Parker’s refusal to honour an...

Death Of Doctors, Blow To Healthcare Delivery – Ngige

Sen. Chris Ngige ,the Minister of Labour and Employment, on Thursday in Abuja described the death of six medical doctors on Kaduna –Abuja road as a blow to heath service delivery in Nigeria. The message is contained in a statement signed by Mr Samuel Olowookere, Deputy Director Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment. The statement said that Ngige expressed his heartfelt condolences to the president and members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) over the loss. ``I received with great shock the news...