The House of Representatives does not intend to issue a formal response to the fresh label of ‘unarmed robbers’ pinned on federal legislators on Thursday by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was learnt yesterday.
Obasanjo,speaking at a book presentation in Ibadan on Thursday, had described the legislators as a bunch of unarmed robbers because,as he said, “they are one of the highest paid in the world where we have 70 per cent of our people living in abject poverty.”
The House said yesterday that its response to an earlier accusation in the heat of the budget padding controversy in 2016 is sufficient for the latest accusation by the former President. House spokesman Abdulrazaq Namdas, contacted by The Nation said: “There is nothing to say because the House has responded to the former President previously.
“The accusation this time is the same as before, so there is nothing to add. Our position has not changed from what we said in 2016.”
Besides, Namdas said that on a personal basis ,he was not prepared to cross fire with Obasanjo in view of his age and position as a former President.
His words:”He is an elder and in my culture, you don’t respond to elders every time.
“You don’t banter words with your elders.Having responded once and he accuses you again and again, what you do is you keep quiet.
“Remember he is a former President and an elder statesman. I will not say more than that.”
Several other lawmakers contacted by The Nation also declined to respond, saying that the former President has not said anything.
One of them who chose not to be named said: “I will not like to respond to this allegation on the basis that he is an elder and a statesman, but that does not validate his claim.
“I can only describe the accusation as coming from people seeking relevance. Not that Obasanjo is seeking relevance, but the fact remains that if anyone wants to be in the news, all you need do is to hit members of the National Assembly.
“For instance, someone like former President Ibrahim Babangida who has found a new love for restructuring. Why did he not make it happen when he had all the opportunities in the world as the head of the military government then?
“What did he do? Nothing! But it is now convenient to shift the blame. You know we like playing the blame game in this country.
“As such, I will rather not comment on it, I will give him that respect, but that does not mean what he said is true.”
Another lawmaker seen by The Nation as he left a committee meeting said: “In my place, we don’t respond to elders like that . Moreover, Namdas has given the position of the House. Thank you.”
A lawmaker from the North Central said the former President should be allowed to express himself and enjoy it while it lasts.
“You know, he is an old man. Let him enjoy himself.
“Responding to him will only spark an unnecessary debate, and since he has a fixated mind about us, so be it’.
Namdas, in responding on November 24, 2016, to Obasanjo’s description of federal lawmakers as corrupt at the height of budget padding controversy, called him a blackmailer, acting as a lifetime opposition leader.
He said: “He ventured to accuse the National Assembly of budget padding, accused the House of criminal activities of threatening the life of a ‘whistleblower’, lampooned constituency projects which he approved as President, ventured to discuss the budget of National Assembly which is highly underfunded?
“The House of Representatives would ordinarily not join issues with the former President as he has held an office that deserves respect and reverence.
“However, because of the material misstatement of facts, outright lies and falsehoods, and mischievous innuendo introduced in his statement, we are left with no option but to correct him.”
Mr Namdas went on to address all issues raised by the ex-President during the controversial lecture:
“We have repeatedly maintained that there was no ‘padding’ of the 2016 Appropriation Act, which is a legitimate document passed by the National Assembly, authenticated by the Clerk to the National Assembly as provided in the Acts Authentication Act and assented to by Mr. President…
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no crime that was committed by the National Assembly by exercising its constitutional function of appropriation.
“If Chief Obasanjo has an issue with the execution of the 2016 Budget or indeed other Appropriation Acts, he should direct his anger elsewhere.
“He claimed that the National Assembly Budget is very high, when by all standards, the National Assembly is grossly underfunded and is hampered from effectively and legitimately carrying out its constitutionally assigned functions. The National Assembly Budget funds a bureaucracy of about 5,000 civil servants.
“It has some other agencies under its preview such as the National Assembly Service Commission with its own staff of about 500, even the Public Complaints Commission is now a parastatal of the National Assembly.
“National Assembly Budget also funds the National Institute for Legislative Studies, which is a legislative think-tank and highly rated academic institution that serves both National and State Houses of Assembly and even international legislators.
“All these agencies also have their capital budget including development of their headquarters, procurement of office equipment, procurement of regular items for running their offices; the National Assembly maintains legislative aides of about 3,000 in number, that aid the work of the Assembly; it also conducts regular public hearings involving the media and stakeholders and oversight activities, involving huge sums of money.
“The cost implications of running the National Assembly is high because of the nature of our Presidential democracy.
“Then, of course, there are 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives that require proper equipment to function effectively. They require adequate travel and transport support to carry out legislative functions.
“The National Assembly also has buildings and offices to build and maintain. National Assembly staff and members attend conferences, trainings, seminars to keep abreast of legislative developments worldwide. The activities are very encompassing and expensive.
“It is also unbecoming of a former President to quote figures of sums of money that are factually incorrect. No member of the House of Representatives receives N10m every month.
“The salaries and allowances of members of the House are as determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
“Of course, further sums of money are spent as running costs, that is, the cost of running the office of a member.
“If a Minister, Chief Executive or Director in a Ministry travels on official duties, for instance, do you include the cost of his ticket and accommodation as part of his salary or allowances?
“Does the cost of stationeries and maintenance of equipment like computers used in their offices form part of their salaries and allowances?
“These are some of the costs that must be taken care of by the National Assembly and the media calls these costs “jumbo pay”. For goodness sake, the National Assembly is an arm of government, not just an ordinary agency of government.
“The budget of many agencies in the Executive Branch are indeed higher than the current Budget of the National Assembly that is an arm of government.
“Examples abound, CBN, NNPC, NCC etc. Allowances paid to even junior staff of some of these government agencies cannot be compared to what members of National Assembly enjoy.
“Undoubtedly, the former President Obasanjo is understandably angry with the National Assembly as an institution having foiled his ambition for a third-term in office even after trying to corrupt the members with a bribe of at least N50m each.
“Lest we forget, the person who introduced corruption to the National Assembly is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“He birthed the 4th Republic National Assembly with corrupt practices from day one; indeed the first day of the Republic. He bribed PDP, ANPP and AD legislators on their inauguration in 1999 to vote against the majority candidate of PDP, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. That was how Senator Evan Enwerem became Senate President.
“Have we forgotten the sacks of money displayed on the floor of the House of Representatives being bribe money paid by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to some Honourable members to impeach Speaker, Rt. Hon. Ghali N’abba?
“Have we forgotten that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo used his position as President to extort money from businessmen and contractors with his government to build his presidential library?
“The list of his corrupt acts while in office is endless. Unquestionably, he is the greatest corrupt person ever to hold office in Nigeria.
“He remains the grandfather of corruption in Nigeria and lacks the moral authority to discuss corruption or indeed abuse of office in Nigeria as he remains the most corrupt Nigerian on record.
“It is unfortunate that he has started his very familiar method of bringing down governments. He did it to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, he did it to Gen. Buhari, he did same to Gen. Babangida, he attempted to bring down Gen. Abacha before he imprisoned him for treason; he made frantic efforts to derail the government of President Yar’Adua when he couldn’t use him.
“He supported President Goodluck Jonathan, but when he refused to take dictation, he turned against him. He supported President Buhari, but since he has sensed that Nigeria is having economic difficulties under him, he has pounced to derail his government.
“The way Chief Obasanjo talks gives the impression that he is a lifetime opposition leader who has never held any office. What did he do about the issues he raised in his 8 years as President?
“This is a man with unlimited access to President Buhari. Or is it because he has not appointed all his cronies as requested? We may never know. His stuck in trade is blackmail, subversion and treachery.
“We wish him well.” The Nation