It was a bad day at the office for President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday who got a double whammy from the National Assembly.
“The committee believes that a person over the age of 70 years will be unable to perform this task optimally,” said the report. The senators also said that when questioned, Mr. Aderemi, “was also unable to answer satisfactorily questions relating to the global dimensions on anti-corruption.” The senate committee said, “As a Justice of the Supreme Court, the integrity of the nominee is not in doubt. The committee however, have serious concerns about the capacity and ability of the nominee to meet the demands of the job.’’
The snub to Mr. Jonathan was a rare show of defiance from a National Assembly resuming after painful primaries that had seen most of them denied nomination to contest this year’s general elections.
The enforcement of last year’s N4.6 trillion budget and its three supplementary spending bills, as in other years, was expected to have ended December 31, 2010 as the terminal point of the fiscal year.
But Mr. Jonathan requested and secured a late extension from the lawmakers in December citing as excuse the perennially poor implementation of badly needed developmental projects that have always received the least allocation.
The lawmakers in a motion tabled and passed yesterday, said Mr. Jonathan on Wednesday last week, approved a decision of the Federal Executive Council to place an embargo on further implementation of federal projects in 2010 budget against the terms of the extension which now forms part of the Appropriation law 2010.
“This being a law, the FEC cannot take any other action; they are bound by it,” said Ita Enang, the chairman House committee on Business and Rules, who brought the issue to the attention of the House. “They can only do one thing and that is to bring a repeal proposal.” As it stands, Mr. Enang said, road contracts and other major capital projects stated in 2010 budget, which need the approval of the FEC, have been suspended by the government while less important projects that can be awarded at the level of Ministerial Tenders Board, could still go on.
The statement stirred members to fury, especially as many of them reportedly laid the blame for their woeful outing at the party primaries at the doorstep of the presidency.
“Some of our members here were looking for projects to point to their constituents and could not find any due to this same problem of implementation,” said Alex Ukam, who represents Biase and Akamkpa of Cross River State.
The new Minority Whip of the House, Samaila Kawo, called for the commencement of impeachment procedures against the president for breaching the law, and the new House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, suggested that Mr. Jonathan should not be “urged” to reverse his stance as contained by the prayers of the motion, but should be “directed.” Both calls were rejected.
However, the House condemned the decision of the executive and urged the president to fulfil the law, and order the release of funds for the implementation of the budget, which the House Finance and Appropriation committees yesterday confirmed, still has over 50 per cent of the total N1.7 trillion allocated for capital spending unused.
A political analyst, Peter Webo, suggested that the double snub happened because the lawmakers who fell at the recently concluded primaries are still bitter.
“Don’t forget many of them felt betrayed during the primaries,” Mr. Webo said. “This may be their own way of getting even with the Presidency. It will be interesting to see how many of the President’s policies sail through in the coming weeks.”