Lawmakers accuse the president of overstepping his limits
The House of Representatives has expressed outrage at President Goodluck Jonathan’s comments accusing the chamber of doing more politics than work, and increasingly becoming dictatorial.
A spokesperson for the house said the president’s remarks were “unfortunate, derogatory and uncalled for”.
“The office of Mr. President is one we hold in high esteem but for him to address an arm of government the way he did was rather unfortunate,” Zakary Mohammed, the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said Monday.
Mr. Jonathan’s remarks came Sunday in a televised interview where he was questioned about unresolved corruption cases in his government and allegations against petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke is facing an ongoing investigation by the House for allegedly misspending more than N10 billion on private aircraft charter for trips that are not often official.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke has refused to appear before the House’s investigating committee and has launched a legal suit to stop the probe.
The minister has been indicted in past investigations, but has been retained by Mr. Jonathan who came out strongly Sunday to defend her publicly.
Mr. Jonathan claimed ignorance of the minister’s lawsuit against the House of Representatives, and said the minister was right in not responding to summons by the House.
The president accused the lawmakers of “witch-hunt” and questioned why the petroleum minister should make more than 200 appearances before the House since her appointment.
“The Ministry of Petroleum has always been using jets,” he said, adding however that his government is looking into allegations of fraud in the jet hiring.
He added: “There is more of politics than work in the House of Representatives”, and warned that the nation risks “parliamentary dictatorship”.
The House is expected to raise the president’s comments on Tuesday when it sits in plenary.
Mr. Zakary said the House would not shirk its responsibilities on account of such comments.
“And let me make it abundantly clear that we are not afraid of any name that we are being tagged for supporting Nigerians,” he said.
“For a leader to tag an arm of government that has immensely contributed to his political career in that derogatory manner was really uncalled for.”
The Minority Leader of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the president had no duty appraising the performance of the House.
“I will not join issues with Mr. President. On this one I will allow the electorate to determine who plays politics and who is working.”
“I will let the Nigerian people speak in 2015 as to who they think has been the stumbling block to the wheel of the Nigerian progress. I am supremely confident of what the verdict will be,” Mr. Gbajabiamila said.