Some principal officers of the National Assembly have fired back at former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Executive arm of government over alleged corruption and budget padding by the legislature.
The first shot came yesterday from the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ibn Na’Allah (APC-Kebbi South) who chronicled how Obasanjo attempted to bribe the National Assembly to secure a third term.
Na’Allah declared that he rejected Obasanjo’s N50 million bribe to support the aborted third term bid.
According to him, Obasanjo should be the last among Nigerians to point accusing finger at the National Assembly on allegations of corruption.
The second shot directed at the Executive arm of government came from the Senate Committee Chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, who explained how some ministries padded the votes in the 2016 budgets.
Abdullahi said: “The Executive arm of government was the one that padded the 2016 Budget. When you look at the original document that came to the National Assembly, they had something like, ‘New Item Requesting’. Is that a project head? We do not even understand it. And it is in the Health Ministry budget. That is padding and it was from the Executive.
“In the National Assembly, when you look at the power to make appropriations, what we have are inputs or insertions, and that is not padding,” he stated.
Na’Allah, who was a member of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2011, while reacting to Obasanjo’s allegation that National Assembly lawmakers are “corrupt, rogues and lack integrity” which most national dailies reported on Tuesday, said he is not corrupt and that he has integrity.
In a statement he signed, Senator Na’Allah challenged Obasanjo to tell Nigerians when he (Na’Allah) collected bribes from him in the course of discharging his constitutional duties as a member of the National Assembly.
He said: “I am respectfully taking exception to the statement which I express the hope is not true. To start with, it is not in my character to join issues with elder statesmen who have had the privilege of superintending over the affairs of our great country Nigeria.
“This exception has become necessary in view of the enormity of the alleged statement to my person and integrity. If former President Obasanjo can come out with one proven record of corruption against me as a person I promise to vacate my seat as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
Na’Allah continued: “For the records, I was the only member from kebbi State who did not find it worthy at that time of collecting the sum of N50 million as an inducement to subvert the constitution and provide a constitutional framework for the third term ambition of Obasanjo.”
He wondered why the former President who the international community should see as a symbol of unity and peace, should be the one fanning the embers of disunity and hatred between the citizenry and their elected representatives.
“I find this statement, if it is true, to be reckless and terrifying.
The implication of the statement is to say that the entire over 170 million Nigerians have not elected a single person with integrity among the 469 members of the National Assembly. This is definitely rhapsodic and does not conform to common sense and reason,” Na’Allah said.
At a summit organised by the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) in Abuja on Tuesday, Senator Abdullahi insisted that the Executive cannot claim that its hands are clean on budget padding because NASS can only make “inputs” and “insertions” into the budget.
He explained that: “On the issue of padding, I want to say this. I took an oath as a veterinary doctor and I never forget that oath. As a Senator, I took an oath and I never forget that oath. What is padding? Simply, it is when you put something in the budget without clearly defining what that is meant for in terms of implementation”.
He, however, blamed the Federal Ministry of Health for doing nothing to halt medical tourism in the country.
He lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has promised to reverse the trend, but wondered why the ministry in its 2016 Budget proposal had no sub-head to address the issue.
Former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who also spoke at the occasion, urged Nigerian professionals to support the President Buhari’s efforts to reduce corruption in the country.
He further appealed professional bodies to mete out stiffer measures on their members who aid and abet corruption.
Abubakar who was represented on the occasion by the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mr Ahmed Yakasai, also urged professional bodies to fight quackery among their members. He regretted that innocent Nigerians continue to die or lose their property because of the activities of quacks.
He said:: “Professionals are expected to be above board. We are expected to bring solutions to the corruption in the country, not to be part of it; because corruption will kill everything.
“Whatever you are going to do, you have to look at the openness, accountability and transparency and sincerity of purpose. Any professional who is going to do something in his area of calling must show diligence, patriotism and efficiency that would stand him out as a professional because if you are found wanting, you are no longer a professional.”
The President of the APBN, Foluso Fasoto, said recommendations from the two-day summit would cover the series of policy options to strengthen the role and relevance of professionals in Nigeria.