The frosty relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and National Assembly appears to have resurfaced in the current dispensation following actions of some ministers.
Speaking when Saraki led some lawmakers to the Presidential Villa in May 2019, President Buhari had said “relations between the executive and the legislature were not the best in the 8th National Assembly.
I will do his utmost to ensure there is a better working resincerely hope each one of us lationship between these two arms of government in the 9th Assembly so that we can serve the people better”.
Though the current leadership of Buhari and National Assembly led by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, have pledged an excellent working relationship with Buhari and have always done his bidding, that may soon come to an end as the legislative arm may move against some ministers in the days ahead.
Two weeks ago, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, had altercation with the National Assembly Joint Committee on Labour over the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians under the Special Public Works Programme which was captured in the 2020 budget.
Despite an apology from Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour, Keyamo remained adamant, maintaining that the programme cannot be implemented without his approval according to NDE Act.
“I am simply following the law. All arms of government are bound by law. How can you say that you want the minister to hands off the NDE, when by your own law, the minister is a part of the day to day administration of NDE by virtue of Section 6 of the NDE Act.
“If you complain that the minister is being over bossy on the NDE, how is that the concern of the National Assembly? Their oversight function is to check ‘inefficiency’, not ‘over-efficiency’ on the part of ministers. The way and manner the minister supervises an agency should be the prerogative of the law and Mr. President.
“They cannot give directives to the minister in that regard, but they can make up their investigative report and send to Mr. President. Cooperation between both arms of government does not mean the legislature coming over to usurp the powers of Mr. President and we are all watching”, Keyamo said.
Also last week, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, on Tuesday came under the hammer of the House of Representatives for suspending the management of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) in an alleged draconian manner.
The House alleged that Ngige who had been at loggerheads with the suspended Adebayo Somefun-led management of the NSITF over alleged financial infractions and breaches of procurement processes, unilaterally took the illegal action to pave the way for him to implement the NSITF 2020 budget.
Chairman, House Committee on Finance, James Faleke, accused Ngige of altering the NSITF budget by inserting projects alien to the suspended management.
Faleke further accused Ngige of using his wife, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, who works in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, to award contracts.
In a statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan, Ngige, however, denied the allegation of budget padding.
In the statement dated July 7, 2020, and titled, ‘Ngige to Faleke: Learn not to abuse parliamentary process’, Ngige said, “It is instructive here to note that ministers do not award contracts and neither sit in the ministerial tenders board nor tenders board of parastatals.”
The minister is yet to respond to a text message sent by our correspondent to him on Saturday on whether he will welcome a probe of the allegations.
Another minister, who is having a tough time with Buhari and National Assembly is Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Peter Nwaoboshi, senator representing Delta North Senatorial district, had accused Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of awarding N500 million contract to Akpabio and accused the minister of insider dealings and other infractions.
Similarly, Joy Nunieh, a former acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), at the weekend accused Akpabio of fraud, saying he repeatedly pressured her to take an oath of secrecy that was meant to keep her from exposing fraud at the commission.
Nunieh, who made her claim in an interview with journalists shortly after appearing before the Senate ad-hoc committee investigating NDDC on Friday, said she would have been jailed if she had succumbed to Akpabio’s ‘oath of secrecy’.
While explaining her position on the controversial contracts in the NDDC, Nunieh denied that she never made any payment without Akpabio’s knowledge, adding that the minister never signs any documents but prefers to use his subordinates as proxies.
“I refuse to go with him to the FEC (Federal Executive Council) meeting to deceive the president and the reason is because the law says if I contravene a section of the procurement Act, its five years imprisonment without an option of fine.”
She alleged that those who wanted to control NDDC from outside once instructed her to write an official report to implicate Nwaoboshi, who is the chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, over alleged fraudulent contract awards and executions.
Responding to the allegations, Akpabio in an interview with Arise Television said that the former NDDC MD had a character problem that the four husbands she had and divorced could explain.
He said that Nunieh was not sacked because of corruption, but because of her insubordination and lack of the prerequisite certificates to head an agency.