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Showdown in the making as NASS resumes

By Ifedayo Sayo (Lagos) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
18 September 2016   |   4:39 am
Come Tuesday, attention will be on the two chambers of the National Assembly, as they resume to confront serious economic challenges, and proffer a way forward from the present economic recession.
Abdulmumuni Jibrin

Abdulmumuni Jibrin

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Come Tuesday, attention will be on the two chambers of the National Assembly, as they resume to confront serious economic challenges, and proffer a way forward from the present economic recession.

A major issue to tackle is lawmakers’ response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s reported proposal for emergency powers to redirect the economy.Already, there are signals that many lawmakers may not be favourably disposed to granting the request, which they claim would infringe on their constitutional roles.

The bill aimed at granting the president emergency powers is titled: “Emergency Economic Stabilisation Bill 2016,” and is billed to be presented to the National Assembly as soon as the lawmakers get down to business.

The objectives of the bill includes; shoring up the value of the naira, creation of more jobs, boosting of foreign reserves, reviving the manufacturing sector and improving power generation in the polity. Vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Yusuf Yusuf, for instance, is of the view that the bill is uncalled for, saying the president already has numerous powers to deal with the economic challenges.

He said: “I think Mr. President has enough powers to do whatever he wants to do. The basic problem is an attitude factor, how we apply the laws, how we respect the laws.
“So, the question of requesting for economic emergency powers, I don’t think in my opinion should arise.”Yusuf, representing Taraba Central said, the National Assembly would be ready to assist the president to tackle the economic situation in any other way than to give him sweeping powers.

But the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun has explained why the president is requesting for emergency powers. She said on Friday that the purpose is to address the long procurement process, to cut down the speed of contracts awards.According to her, the procurement process was put in place to address normal times and not an emergency situation such as the country has found itself.

“The procurement process was put in place for normal times, advertise, give three months, send in bids, evaluate bids and so on and so forth. There are some provisions in the procurement process for emergency situations. That emergency process means you would not necessarily have to advertise and wait. So, what government is asking for, which is why there is discussion about seeking emergency powers, are some of these things we have to look at now,” she said

In the House of Representatives, it appears lawmakers would be divided on the request, perhaps, along party lines. The Chief Whip, Alhaji Alhassan Ado Doguwa hinted that members of the ruling All progressive congress (APC) would be disposed to accede to the wish of President Buhari on the emergency powers.

But the chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Timothy Simon Golu disagreed. He maintained that granting President Buhari emergency powers to tackle the economic recession was uncalled for.He warned against such move, saying it holds the prospects of turning President Buhari into a dictator that could not be tamed with the check and balances mechanism under a constitutional democracy.

Golu who represents Pankshin/kanke/ kanam on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said: “That would not work because it is like he is making the request stage by stage, so that after granting that one, he would now come up with another one that seeks to allow him to prepare the budget and approve it himself.”Doguwa, however, allayed the fears that granting emergency powers to president Buhari could be abused, maintaining that the request will be considered on its merit.

Meanwhile, sacked chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Dr Abdulmumini Jibrin has enjoined his colleagues to ensure that Speaker Yakubu Dogara and some of the principal officers are made to face the wrath of the law over the alleged budget padding saga.Jibrin, in a letter to his colleagues, called for the resignation of Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader, Mr Leo Okuweh  Ogor.He hinted that such powers might include granting the president the powers to channel recovered loot, running into billions of naira, to cushion the harsh economic climate.