The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and some principal officers of the House on Friday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House against the backdrop of the national indignation over the xenophobic attacks that have affected Nigerians living in South Africa.
Mr Gbajabiamila, who had earlier indicated that the lawmakers might cut short their recess to reconvene on the issue, spoke with State House correspondents on what reactions they expect from the president on the development and other issues.
What brought you to see the president?
Engagement with Mr President is not out of place even on a normal day but these are not normal days. The country in the last few days has witnessed an unfortunate incident in the last few days in South Africa.
As you are aware, I cut my trip to Tanzania to return with the hope of reconvening the House so that we can discuss this very important issue. We have called that off because events have overtaken it, the government has taken proactive steps, the same we would have taken. We are all on the same page with the president and the government. So I came to fully discuss that with Mr President and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.
Are there moves to cut bilateral ties with South Africa?
We are not there yet but nothing is off the table. We will take each day as it comes. As of now, Mr President has taken proactive steps in evacuating our citizens and recalling the high commissioner. We will stand with and by Nigerians. We have issued a statement today and is in tandem with what the executive is doing and we stand by our citizens. Our priority is to protect the welfare of our citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the president is doing.
What is your reaction to South Africans saying they won’t compensate the victims?
I don’t know if that statement is official or an off-the-cuff statement by somebody. When it’s official, we will take further steps. After the delegation in South Africa, I’m sure there are probably other avenues that are international that we can pursue.
What other issues did you discuss?
We discussed the issue of the budget. As you are aware, we want to bring the budget circle back to what it used to be – January to December and the only way to do that is for an early presentation of the budget and we have discussed that.
We discussed security issues and the issue of the recent $9 billion award against Nigeria. I say that with a smile but not really smiling. Clearly, we are in opposition to that and steps will be taken.
So are we likely to see the budget get to the National Assembly this month?
I cannot give you a definite answer but I know the budget is going to come as early as possible. It may be the end of this month or shortly thereafter, but I cannot give you any definite date. But it’s going to be an early presentation so that we can pass the budget before the end of the year and return to the January to December circle.