A correspondence from President Goodluck Jonathan requesting the input of the House of Representatives in the forthcoming celebration of Nigeria’s centenary has caused division among the lawmakers.
The president, in his letter asked the House to allow the the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to brief the House on the preparation for the centenary celebration.
But even before the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal had finished reading the president’s letter, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Samaila Kawu raised a point of order, asking the House not to acknowledge the letter.
Hon. Kawu noted that the president’s letter was in breach of privilege of the House, saying “Mr President had refused to honour our invitation in the past, so we cannot honour his own too.”
He won support for his view from the Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who said, “Respect should be reciprocal. If the President could ignore our invitation last year, I think we should do same to him by rejecting the letter. The celebration is going to make us to spend more money at a time we are even saying we lack money to fund the budget.”
However, another member, Hon. Linus Okorie, gave the members a word of caution, saying that moving against the president would portray them as opposing him all the time rather than being seen to promote the interests of the people.
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa also cautioned her colleagues not to make the president’s letter an issue, stressing that those against the correspondence should wait for the time when the issue would be raised for discussion.
In his ruling, the Speaker urged members to exercise patience until the time comes when a resolution would be taken on the matter.
In a separate development, President Jonathan sent four letters to the Senate in which he requested for the confirmation of two ministerial nominees and also presented before it the 2013 budget proposal for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He also sought the confirmation by the Senate of Alhaji Suleiman Barau as deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In the first letter, the president in keeping with Section 147(2) of the 1999 Constitution, forwarded the names of Alhaji Tanimu Turaki and Professor Chinedu Nebo to the Senate for confirmation as ministers.
He also proposed the total of N253bn as the 2013 budget for the FCT, out of which N155bn was for capital spending, and N48bn and N48.5bn were for personnel and overhead costs respectively.
As regards the centenary celebrations, the president wrote, “…The first of January 2014 marks one hundred years of our union as a nation.
“Notwithstanding our challenges, it is considered that this is a significant anniversary deserving of celebration by the citizens and Government of Nigeria.”
He explained that the purpose of the letter was to request a convenient date for the Senate to receive a full briefing on the proposed centenary celebrations programme, with a view to accommodating the Senate’s input.
He expressed the hope that the letters as contained in the four letters would be expeditiously considered by the Senate.