Nigerian lawmakers accuse Okonjo-Iweala of blackmail, inciting comments over 2013 budget

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala

The lawmakers have asked for a formal explanation of the offending comments.

The two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday took a swipe at the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, accusing her of using her comments on the lingering 2013 budget crisis to blackmail them, and incite Nigerians and the Executive against lawmakers.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, while appearing as a guest on a radio programme on Monday in Abuja, had warned that the Federal Government might not be able to meet its obligations of paying workers’ salaries by September, as well complete projects approved under the 2013 Appropriation Act, if the lingering budget impasse is not resolved immediately.

“The country has been running from January up until now and we have been implementing the budget that was passed,” the Minister said during the programme. “But, we have got to a point where some amendments have to be made and this is why Mr. President sent this amendment to the National Assembly. We can continue for a little while longer but at some point, we need the amendment to pass because, come September/October, we may not be able to pay salaries. We would need to restore about N32 billion for salaries that were moved around. We also need it for the SURE-P programme, which is experiencing some difficulties now, [in order] to continue the community services programme that [are] creating jobs.”

However, during the plenary session on Tuesday, the House of Representatives frowned at the Minister’s statement describing it as insulting and a blatant blackmail calculated to incite the public against the lawmakers.

In a motion by deputy minority whip, Samson Osagie (ACN, Edo State), the lower chamber was told that a similar threat last year led to the actual removal of the fuel subsidy which grounded the nation and almost crippled the economy for nearly a week; warning that the House cannot continue to accept such disparaging insinuations from a minister who was not elected but appointed into office. Mr. Osagie urged the leadership of the House not to treat the matter with kid gloves.

Consequently, the deputy speaker, Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, who presided over the proceedings, ruled that the committees on Finance, Appropriation and Legislative Complaints should meet with the minister, demand an explanation, and report back to the House within one week.

In its reaction, the Senate accused the Minister of an attempt to pitch the National Assembly against President Goodluck Jonathan over the lawmakers’ refusal to consider and approve several contentious amendments to the approved 2013 Appropriation Act.

Describing Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s statement as alarmist, the Senate, through the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said lawmakers would not take it lightly.

“The feeling of the Senate and of course, the National Assembly has always been that we do not expect Ministers of the Federal Republic and appointees of the President to make comments that tend to give the impression of a collision course between the executive and legislature because we are all working towards the same purpose, which is to make sure that we take care of the welfare of Nigerians,” Mr. Abaribe said. “Therefore, we find it not to our liking when a comment is made that tends to say that government will shut down if the National Assembly doesn’t do anything. We do not agree with that.”

Accusing Mr. Jonathan of reneging on an earlier agreement which stated that legislators would approve an immediate follow-up amendment that would be sent to them if Mr. Jonathan signed the 2013 budget, Mr. Abarbe told reporters that what the president forwarded were “voluminous” amendments as opposed to specific alterations agreed under the deal thus prolonging legislative consideration.

“What we got from the President, which is actually the third Amendment, is a sort of document amending the budget,” the Senate spokesperson said. “Now, we found that these documents are even larger than the budget itself. There is absolutely no way that the Senate and even the National Assembly can consider amendments of this nature during the short time that we have, until we come back from our vacation this year.”

He added that the main bone of contention was not the differences in the amended report but the additions to it that expanded it even further.


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  • emmanuel

    The NASS is gradually taking over roguery and gansterism from the NGF and i see the house collapsing someday. There is no party line in this discovered crude oil theft of mega budget padding with constituency projects for pocketing.They are all in it together and the minister is their nemesis.

    A style that makes the senate president earn the largeat salary globally (much more than the president)

    Nigerians must rise to the occassion. This is cheap blackmail, which we saw in Otteh and Faruk Lawan/Otedola saga.

    PT, please tutor me on the difference between Ms and Mrs. Which one is the ministers appelation?

  • Ndidi

    The NASS were equally angry with CBN’s Sanusi when he told them their salaries, allowances and other perks were too expensive for Nigeria to maintain.

  • Dankasa

    The Chief Economist of the Nigerian Federation should have advised her Oga to implement the 2013 Budget and in the areas of short funding, prepare a supplementary request to take care of the short fall not to engage the country in a blame-game which will not favor this economy. As a matter of fact, Nigeria is cash-trapped no two ways about it. There is no financial discipling in the economy, she knows that! officials steal Government money with impunity and there is a complete absent of due process in the management of this mono-cultural economy (which is invaded by vandals and bunkerers) with Government fighting an arranged war in the north that only benefits some few “defense contractors” who are using the gimmick called Boko Haram to justify it. Ngozi is playing fools out of the entire Nigerians. she is trying to hide her inadequacies by shifting blame on NASS not minding we all go schools, read same ABCD and 1234. ibo, advise your sister before she run this economy down by mortgaging it to the West.

  • AbujaKenneth

    I think this NASS is taking too much and should be disbanded. Just like GEJ I cannot single out any achievement they have recorded for two years now. All they know is to flex muscle with the Executive and line their pockets. They refuse to make known their salaries and allowances. They don’t represent Nigerians, they don’t represent their villages but themselves and their families. How can they withhold budget for a parastatal

  • Sadiq Garba

    The senate seems only afraid of collusion with Mr President.
    This same woman was said to have been the prime instigator of the attempt to increase the pump price of fuel in 2012 which was greeted with resistance by all Nigerians in unison. The effect of the action attempt expose corruption in the leadership of the country, which the state quickly blocked with gimmicks, tales and litigations.
    The basic question is – what was wrong with the 2013 budget as passed?
    Has the presidency consider the time it will take the NASS to study, review and consider the proposals?
    The lawmakers are right. Let Ngozi resign if she can not do without the new budget.