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

0 thoughts on “MINORITY GOSPEL: Slash our allowances — House Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Trump Warns Of World War III If Clinton Is Elected

Donald Trump warned in an interview Tuesday that Hillary Clinton's policies as president to address the Syrian conflict would lead to World War III, arguing the Democratic nominee would draw the US into armed confrontation with Russia, Syria and Iran. "What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria," Trump told Reuters on Tuesday morning at his resort in Doral, Florida. "You're going to end up in...

Fires Rage Across Calais Refugee Camp Amid Evacuation

Massive fires have been raging overnight through the refugee camp in the French port city of Calais that has been at the center of much controversy recently. This as authorities have been trying to evacuate thousands of refugees to other reception centers across the nation. It is not exactly known who started the fires, with initial reports pointing the finger of blame at refugees opposed to the destruction of the camp. But French authorities said later that they were investigating claims...

May Says Brexit Vote Will Not Undermine Northern Ireland Peace Deal

There is no reason Britain's June vote to leave the European Union should undermine a 1998 Northern Irish peace deal, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and Irish nationalist parties oppose Brexit, saying it could undermine the 1998 Belfast Agreement and reinstate a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. "I don't believe there's any reason to believe that the outcome of the referendum will...

30 Year Old & 25 Year Old Hong Kong Legislators Defy Barring Order

Hong Kong's legislature has descended into chaos after two young pro-independence lawmakers defied a barring order and barged into the chamber as democrats formed a human chain around them, forcing the session to be adjourned. At a swearing-in ceremony two weeks ago, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung modified their oaths in an act of defiance by using a derogatory word for China. Yau also slipped in an expletive. After Yau and Leung of the Youngspiration party entered the...

President Obama Ridiculed On Snapchat By His Daughter Sasha

President Barack Obama has disclosed that his youngest daughter recently mocked him on Snapchat. The US leader said Sasha had recorded him discussing the social network at a family dinner and then quietly posted a reaction to her friends. It is not the first time the president has discussed his 15-year-old's online activities. In July, he said she also tweets, leading several media outlets to try to identify her account. It remains...

Senate Moves To Ban Street Begging

The Senate yesterday began a move to enact a law to ban street begging in the country. The move was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Isah Hamma Misau (APC, Bauchi Central), tagged “menace of street begging and need to rehabilitate beggars”. Misau expressed concern over increase in the scourge of street begging and nuisance it constitutes on the street of major cities across the country. “Though street begging is a global...

Army Arrests 2 Officers, 2 Soldiers For Conniving With Boko Haram

The Nigerian Army has arrested two officers and two soldiers for conniving with the Boko Haram sect in the war against insurgency. The army disclosed this in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Sani Usman, yesterday. According to him, two policemen and 24 civilians were also arrested for the alleged offence, adding that more suspects would be arrested. “Please be informed that the ongoing investigation on suspected Boko Haram terrorists, collaborators and saboteurs in...

Don’t Borrow Above $22.8bn In 2017- DMO Tells FG

The Debt Management Office (DMO) has advised the Federal Government not to borrow above $22.08 billion in 2017. It gave the recommendation on Tuesday in its 2016 Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) report, obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos. In the report, DMO stated that the end-period on Net Present Value (NPV) of the Total Public Debt-to-GDP ratio for 2016 for the Federal Government was projected at 13.5 per cent. ”The maximum amount that can be borrowed...

Teenager Bags 12 Months For Stealing N5,000 Phone

An Oredo Magistrates’ Court in Benin, Edo, on Wednesday, sentenced a teenager, Shegun Olamide to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour for stealing a N5,000 cell phone. The Magistrate, Mrs P.E Foy-Yamah, sentenced Olamide, 18, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of theft and begged the court for mercy. The Prosecutor, Insp. Ada Johnbull told the court that the accused committed the offence on Oct. 21 at about 4:00pm in Benin City. Johnbull said...

Another Nominee Rejects Buhari’s Appointment

The Chairman-designate of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Professor Akintunde Akinwande, has rejected his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the agency. The rejection marked the third time an appointee by Buhari would reject his or her nominations in recent days. Mrs. Pauline Tallen (Plateau) and Usman Bugaje (Katsina) recently rejected their ambassadorial appointments. Indications that Akinwande had rejected his appointment arose when he shunned his invitation to appear before the Senate Committee...

83 Workers Get Permanent Appointment After 20 Years In Service

A total of 83 workers of Taraba State Broadcasting Service have been offered permanent appointment, 20 years after some of them started work at the station. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that those affected had served the station, owned by the Taraba Government, for between five to 20 years as adhoc staff. They included presenters, artists, reporters, engineers among others. A total of 83 workers of Taraba State Broadcasting Service have been...

60 Year Old Man Held For Producing Fake Dollars Worth N3m

The Lagos State Police Command has arrested a 60-year-old man, Highsent Nwogu, for allegedly producing dollars worth N3m and defrauding residents of the Ogba area. Nwogu, a father of five children and grandfather of three, said that he ventured into the “washing” of fake dollars to make ends meet. It was learnt that Nwogu would ask his victims to buy some goods from overseas, and thereafter offered to get dollars for them to pay for...

No Plan To Increase Petrol Price, NNPC Tells Nigerians Not To Panic

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Muhammad Garba-Deen, has said there was absolutely no plan by the Federal Government to increase pump price of petrol above N145 maximum level. He said a statement people were referring to was made within the context of technical explanation, not within the context of downstream operations. According to him, if there is going to be anything like a price hike, the agency responsible for...

EFCC Arraigns Driver For Duping Briton 182,064.99 Pounds

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned a driver, Chinwoke Onyedinazu before Justice M. A. Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for duping a Briton, Paul H., the sum of One Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand, Sixty Four Pounds, Ninety Nine Shillings (182, 064.99). He was docked on a nine- count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence. Onyedinazu was a former driver of Mr. Paul while he...

Alder Consulting pulls Subomi Plumptre out of Media Conference because of Bobrisky.

Yesterday, a flyer was circulated on the internet showing Bobrisky as one of the individuals to speak at the New Media conference organised by Enough is Enough Nigeria(EIE). Not too long after, Nigerian Twitter went into a frenzy, with many questioning the relevance of Bobrisky at such an event.   Bashir Ahmed, Personal Assistant to the President (New Media), did not waste much time thereafter to announce his withdrawal from the event. Today, Subomi Plumptre followed suit. Subomi Plumptre is now the second...

Nothing is working in Nigeria, it will still break up – Uwazuruike

Leader of the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike has stated that, the prophecy by the United States of America that Nigeria would split is still very much possible. Speaking through his Director of Information, Mr. Chris Mocha, the BIM leader said resultant effect of the US army’s prediction included unabated insurgency in the North, herdsmen’s menace, militancy in Niger Delta, separatist agitations for Biafra Republic, the economic recession that had brought sufferings, poverty, looting spree and bribery and...

No provision for fuel subsidy in 2016 budget – NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has said it has no plans to increase the pump price of petrol from N145 per litre, neither was it contemplating a return to subsidising fuel. The rebuttal is coming on the heels of a statement credited to the Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division, NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari, that the sale of petrol at N145 was no longer feasible at the current exchange rate. In a swift reaction yesterday, the NNPC, through its...

Bribery allegation: In defence of Amaechi, morality and common sense – Odoma

Blackmail is another weapon Nigerians deploy to flaunt their innocence whenever they are at threshold of being nailed on any issue. Most times, the manner Nigerians resort to blackmail stands logic on its head, twist morality and offend laws of the land. Although, several justices in Nigeria are under investigation, but the case of the two embattled Supreme Court Justices John Iyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta’s whom DSS raided, arrested and detained for alleged judicial corruption has assumed an asinine...

FG to launch Information Portal for Nigerians at home and abroad – Minister   

The Federal Government will soon launch an Information Portal to keep Nigerians at home and in the diaspora abreast of government’s programmes and policies and also get their feedback. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday when he received the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diapora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, on a courtesy visit to his office. “I think what is lacking today is that most of our people...

Akon set to star in a Jeta Amata movie

Ace Nollywood Director and Producer Jeta Amata is working with Akon on the set of a new movie ‘The American King’ in Los Angeles California. Earlier when Raham Sadau was banned from Kannywood, Akon and Jeta extended an invitation to her to join them on set of their movie but the part she is to play has not been revealed yet. See some BTS photos from the set:

Former Brazil captain Carlos Alberto dies aged 72

Former Brazil captain Carlos Alberto has died, aged 72. Alberto skippered Brazil to World Cup glory in 1970 and scored arguably the greatest goal in the competition’s history in the final against Italy. Alberto suffered a heart attack and later died in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. The defender was widely considered one of the best right-backs in the world during his illustrious 19-year career and he enjoyed success as a manager with the likes...