Lawan urges prudence, accountability in govt spending
One of the top contenders in the race for the Presidency of the 8th Senate, Ahmed Lawan, has urged lawmakers of the incoming National Assembly to recognize the fact that a new direction must be charted for the nation in accordance with the desire of the country’s new leadership under the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Lawan who represents Yobe North Senatorial District in upper legislative chamber and has been a member of the National Assembly, first as a member of the House of Representatives at the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, said in an encounter with The Guardian yesterday, that the lawmakers must align themselves with the dream of the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to make positive change for the benefit of all Nigerians.
According to him, a symbiotic relationship that must be facilitated by the ruling party and sustained by mutual agreement and oneness of purpose between the executive and legislative arms of government must be entrenched so that the reasons why Nigerians voted for the new government would be met.
He advocated a new direction in government business to include expansion of revenue base, blocking of leakages in government purse and prudence and accountability in the management of public funds “so that the needed financial muscle to deliver the dividends of democracy would be secured.”
He said: “both arms of government must work together to have a balanced budget and of course, we have to emphasize transparency and accountability in such a way that Nigerians would have confidence in their government.”
Lawan lamented what he called the bad public perception of the Nigerian public about the roles, operations and the personalities of the people at the National Assembly saying there was need to correct the wrong impression that legislators are drains on the country’s purse.
He added: “The National Assembly has a big public relations problems. The public perception is that of a corrupt parliament but that is not the true position.
“People talk for instance, of ‘huge amounts’ being spent by the legislature but our people get it wrong. In the last four years, N150 billion was budgeted for the running of the National Assembly out of a total of N4.9 trillion that the country spent in the same period.
“So how much of the national purse was allocated to the legislature. And when you consider the fact that this money is spent on running the National Assembly and the parastatals and other service agencies of parliament, you will discover that it is not what people are insinuating.
“I agree that we could do an analysis of what we are spending and do a reduction accordingly even though as a Senator, five personnel are attached to me. But in doing that let us look at all the other arms too.”
“For instance, how much is the take home of a Minister? How many cars are in his pool? The same searchlight should be beamed on heads of agencies and others. Let us look at everybody, not the legislators alone. I am not against making sacrifices in line with the new direction.”
Meanwhile, existing rules on ‘due process’ governing the election of the Senate president put Lawan in good stead to emerge as the head of the National Assembly, according to a group of ranking senators-elect.
The group of ranking senators-elect who rose from a brain storming session in Abuja yesterday on the stance of Buhari and APC on the Senate presidency race said if indeed “due process will be allowed as the red book stipulates, then Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan is the aspirant to beat.”
Armed with the ‘red book’, which is the ‘Senate Standing Order’ they quoted Order 3 Rule 2 governing the election of presiding and other officers, which gives priority to ranking of Senators.
The rule states that “Nomination of senators to serve as presiding officers of the senate or on any Parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of senators. In determining ranking, the following order shall apply;(i)Senators returning based on numbers of time re-elected; (ii)Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives and (iii)Senators elected as senators for the first time.”
The ranking lawmakers pointed out to their distinguished colleagues that going by the Order, Lawan is the most qualified among the contestants as he shall conclude a period of 16 years as a legislator at the end of the current Assembly, stressing that he spent eight years as a member of the House of Representatives and another eight years as a Senator.
According to them other aspirants like Senators Bukola Saraki and George Akume, would have spent a period of eight years each as legislators at the end of the current assembly session.
“In fact, Senator Lawan is the highest ranking APC senator in the 8th Assembly and we have no doubt that both the President-Elect and our party will be guided accordingly,” the group said.
According to them, if indeed the president-elect and the party are for due process and rule of law, then Lawan should be the next Senate president.
The ranking senators-elect advised that the in-coming administration to abide by its change mantra, which means that it would be no business as usual.
They pointed out that even under the PDP-controlled 7th Senate session extant rules of the upper chamber were not compromised.
“It should dawn on the party that there is the urgent need to adhere to parliamentary culture already in place in the conduct of the primaries and elections into National Assembly election positions,” the ranking senators-elect said.