Nigeria’s National Assembly on Friday kickstarted an “eye service” project which will see muslim federal lawmakers join President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House for jumaat service every Friday.
The arrangement, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, told journalists, is to enable lawmakers meet the president more regularly, with a view to improving on the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
Mr. Ndume spoke on Friday shortly after he and five other lawmakers (two Senators and three members of the House) joined Mr. Buhari in prayer at the State House mosque.
“We are trying to improve executive and legislature relationship,” Mr. Ndume said. “Part of the ways is for few selected members of the National Nssembly to join the president in prayers on Fridays.
“As you can see, there are three members of the House of Representatives and three members of the Senate. You will be seeing more of this in the near future in order to cement our relationship.”
Taking an action just to be seen to be doing so or to simply please another person is commonly referred to as “eye service” in Nigeria.
The relationship between President Buhari and the Senate deteriorated after the Federal Government decided to prosecute Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of Senate Rules that brought them to office.
Messrs Saraki and Buhari engaged each other in a war of words after the former was arraigned, alongside his alleged conspirators.
To remedy the situation, Mr. Ndume said the National Assembly was deploying selected Muslim lawmakers to observe Jumat service at the State House so as be seen by Mr. Buhari every Friday.
The Senate Leader also spoke on the alleged budget fraud scandal rocking the lower chamber, saying federal lawmakers did not pad the controversial 2016 budget.
He said the crisis in the House of Representatives was a result of the “personal differences” between Speaker Yakubu Dogara and estranged ally, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Mr. Ndume dismissed the budget padding allegations as a creation of the media.
“The issue of budget padding is more of a media hype than reality,” he said. “We are not doing budget now, we only have appropriation act which is a law and you know the process of implementing a law.
“I do not know where the issue of this budget padding we are talking about is coming from. If we are not to tinker with the budget as submitted by the president, then there would not have been the need to submit it to the national assembly.
“We have the constitutional duty to add, subtract and adjust. That was what was done. This is the first time we did a budget that was collectively produced in the sense that it was done in such a way that the senate, house of representatives and the executive played different parts.
“This time, the president took his time to ensure that he did not only sign the budget, but also signed on budget details that he is satisfied with.
“What is happening now is a fallout between individuals, it is more of personal thing between Dogara and Jibrin.
“That is not the way differences should be settled. We have an in-house process that is followed if we have such issues.”
There have in the past one week been accusations and counter accusations of budget fraud between Speaker Yakubu Dogara and former Chairman of the House Committe on Appropriations, Abdulmumuni Jibrin, with a group of lawmakers named “Transparency Group”, and civil society organisations calling on anti-corruption agencies to investigate both lawmakers and others named in the scandal.
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