Operatives of the Directorate of State Service (DSS) and police officers, yesterday, took over the entrances of the National Assembly complex, as President Muhammadu Buhari presents 2019 budget proposals to the lawmakers today.
The security operatives prevented the striking workers of the parliament from gaining access into the complex. The workers have been protesting since Monday over unpaid allowances.
A presidential aide on National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, last night confirmed that Buhari will present the budget to the joint session of the legislature today.
Enang, in a phone interview, said the president would present the budget as scheduled, saying the legislature had approved the presentation through a resolution yesterday.
“Yes, he is presenting tomorrow (today). The National Assembly has passed the resolution on the budget presentation,” he said.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that quorum was not formed at both chambers of the National Assembly during yesterday’s brief sitting, he said, “they will come tomorrow (today).”
The president is expected to present a budget proposal of N8.73 trillion as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on October 24, which considered the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019 -2021.
We won’t ridicule the president – PDP lawmakers
A PDP member in the House of Reps told Daily Trust last night that they were ready to receive the president for the budget presentation.
The lawmaker said they would not in any way “ridicule the president” during the budget presentation, apparently responding to insinuations that some members plan to heckle the president.
“We have decided to receive the president. The issue of budget is of paramount importance to the country, so we shouldn’t joke about it. We won’t allow anything like the ongoing strike to prevent us from receiving the president.
“As you saw what happened today (yesterday) on the floor of the House, the majority of members present were of the PDP, and we were the ones that agreed to receive him.
“I want to assure you that we don’t have any plan to ridicule the president in any way. He is our president, and we respect him. Our only problem is the level of implementation of the National Assembly budget.
SGF meets APC Reps
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, yesterday met All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers in the House of Representatives, to “smoothen today’s budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The meeting which started at 3 pm at the House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly was held behind closed doors with the APC lawmakers led by House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos).
Briefing newsmen, Mustapha denied that the meeting had anything to do with the budget presentation or ongoing strike by National Assembly workers.
He, however, described the meeting as a routine get-together with APC lawmakers aimed at mapping out strategies for the 2019 general elections.
“We are preparing for the 2019 elections, and you know they (the lawmakers) will soon go on recess. So, we need to plan,” the SGF said.
He further said he had no knowledge of either Buhari’s position about the striking workers or “purported plan” by some lawmakers of the opposition PDP to boycott today’s budget presentation.
Although Gbajabiamila declined to speak to journalists, the meeting was said to have dwelt extensively on today’s budget presentation by the president before a joint session of the National Assembly.
N/Assembly workers delay Senate, House plenary
The ongoing strike and siege on the National Assembly entrances yesterday led to a delay of about two hours in the plenary for both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
While senators were supposed to commence their plenary at about 10:30am, their counterparts in the House were billed to commence at 11.am.
However, plenary did not commence in the Senate until about 12:30.pm. It was observed that at the commencement of the Senate plenary, there were less than 20 senators in attendance, which is less than the one-third (36), required as a quorum for sitting.
The senators went ahead to sit briefly at plenary, where they considered and adopted a motion sponsored by Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi), and mandated the committees on judiciary and police to probe the police arrest of an activist, Deji Adeyanju, and report back in one week.
On the other hand, about 25 members of the House of Representatives went ahead and held plenary sitting despite the ongoing strike by National Assembly workers.
At 12:15 pm when the plenary kicked off, Daily Trust counted only 25 members seated at the legislative chamber.
Presided over by the Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun (APC, Osun), the plenary was dominated by deliberations on how to resolve the ongoing strike by the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN).
Laying a motion on the strike before the House, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) regretted the effects of the strike, which crippled virtually all legislative activities at the complex the previous day.
He said the shutdown of the legislative arm of government as a result of the strike was uncalled for especially as the lawmakers themselves had nothing to do with its causes.
The Presiding Officer, Yusuf Lasun, however, called on the government to expedite action and ensure that the strike was resolved so as not to disrupt the official presentation of the 2019 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari today.
The protesting workers, under the platform of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), had commenced their 4-day warning strike on Monday owing to the National Assembly management’s inability to meet their demands.
The workers prevented legislators and other support staff from gaining access to the parliamentary building on Monday.
Sensing that the same scenario would obtain yesterday, being Tuesday, when the lawmakers begin their weekly plenary, the leadership of the National Assembly invited the police DSS to ensure adequate security within the vicinity of the National Assembly.
This, the leadership said, was to enable members and staff to gain access into the complex to perform their legitimate duties without any hindrance.
The directive was passed after a meeting of the joint leadership of the two chambers with the management and representatives of the security agencies, a statement by the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mohammed Sani-Omolori said late Monday.