Amid a mixed public reaction that appears to have emboldened its position, the House of Representatives on Monday insisted that its resolution to impeachment President Goodluck Jonathan over poor budget implementation remained firm and unshakable.
The House said in a statement that the move, which it has now confirmed to be its official resolution, was “noble, bold and patriotic” and would not be forced down by “intimidation and blackmail”.
Spokesperson Muhammad Zakari also denied that the resolution was either sponsored by an opposition political party or borne out of lawmakers’ grievance over the fuel subsidy bribery scandal involving its member, Farouk Lawan, and the legislators’ inability to secure constituency project allowance.
“No amount of blackmail or intimidation would cow us to abdicate our constitutional responsibility which we signed with our employers the (Nigerian people) to stand firm and protect their interest,” Mr. Zakari said.
The notice followed intense meetings between the presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly over the weekend, according to reports, amid the controversy that has been generated by the House decision last Thursday.
In a well-backed motion on Thursday, initiated by Sam Tsokwa(PDP, Taraba state), and amended by Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to reflect the impeachment proviso, the lawmakers said Mr. Jonathan had until September to implement the budget or be forced out.
At present, national budget performance averaged 30 per cent, the House Appropriation committee chairman, John Enoh, said, despite impressive revenue yields from all government sectors.
A touchy subject that has, for years, elicited stormy exchanges between the executive and the legislature, Nigeria’s budget implementation, since 1999, has not performed more than 50 per cent. In the past, governments have cited dwindling revenue and at times accused the lawmakers of padding allocations, during appropriation exercise, beyond what it could implement.
This time, all government revenue generating projections have been met for the first two quarters of 2012.
The House of Reps’ position this time, one of its fiercest yet, has been applauded as much as it has been condemned.
“The President, by failing to implement the budget as passed by this honourable House, violates the 1999 Constitution and is therefore liable to be impeached under section 143 of the 1999 Constitution”, Mr. Gbajabiamila had said.
“So therefore, I want to hereby submit that, come September, we will begin to invoke and draw up articles of impeachment of Mr. President”, he declared before he was forcefully interrupted by a colleague that represents President Jonathan’s constituency in the House.”
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties backed the threat in a statement on Sunday. Spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, said it was “patriotic, germane and timely.”
“We are at a loss how the gross unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure and decadence of social services can be addressed without implementation of the Budget,” Mr. Okechukwu said.
Critics have accused the lawmakers of acting a routine script that has only been triggered by the strings of clashes it has had with the presidency lately.
Spokesperson of the House, Mr. Zakari, however claimed the House was acting in the interest of the public, to forestall a degeneration of an already fragile state of the nation.
“To then insinuate that the House of Representatives took this noble step to satisfy pressure from a political party or because the constituency projects were not awarded to members or because of the drama that followed the presentation of the fuel subsidy report, is to say the least maliciously damaging and uncharitable to the image of the Assembly,” he said.
“To assume that we are guided by some forces outside the House of Representatives is mischievous and a deliberate ploy to misrepresent the House before the Nigerian public.”