ABUJA – THE Senate Thursday said that the allegation by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the National Assembly was using constituency projects to siphon the public funds was a total lie meant to denigrate the sanctity of the parliament.
The Senate also claimed that it was the Obasanjo’s administration that approved the constituency projects to be built in the national budget which was executed by the executive.
Speaking through its chairman on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate described the allegation of corruption against it by the former president as unfortunate and an attempt to tarnish the image of the National Assembly.
According to the statement, the Red Chamber said it was unfortunate that the former President would distort the issue of constituency projects as meaning a direct monetary advance to lawmakers and thus amounting to the “promotion of corruption” by the National Assembly.
Describing the allegation as spurious, Abaribe in the statement said the former President’s comment was distant from the truth and nowhere near reality, adding that if it were so, the former President would not have tolerated such for the period he was the President of the country.
According him, “President Obasanjo for the avoidance of doubt, was the initiator of the constituency project in the year 2000 as a means of ensuring that projects were fairly spread across the country using the Senatorial zones as the spring board.
“To ensure execution of the projects, President Obasanjo again factored the constituency projects into the annual budgets to be implemented by the executive depending on availability of funds. That is to say that no lawmaker ever comes close to the funds or even determine the contractor for the said projects or when the said contract would be awarded.
“So, it looks curious and surprising that President Obasanjo would turn around after over ten years of initiating such a project to allege that the National Assembly is performing the function of both the executive and the parliament.
“Is it not preposterous for anybody to believe that members of the National Assembly would against the provisions of the constitution with regards to application of separation of powers, award contracts ‘to their agents to execute’ and expect the Presidency under a President Obasanjo or any other President for that matter to pay for what they are not part of?
“Such allegation stands logic on its head, as it amounts to an indictment of the Presidency for wilfully contravening the budget laws by ceding its power to execute to the National Assembly, if it was the case.”
The Senate according to Abaribe therefore, challenged the former President to go a step further to furnish Nigerians with details of how the National Assembly members became executors of national budget rather than being law makers.
He said, “It will also help to clear the allegation once and for all, if any presidency official not only from the time past but currently, could come forward and explain the true position of the so called constituency projects. Doing so would at least set the records straight.”
The Senate spokesman cautioned political leaders to be wary of the consequences to our democracy of dragging the revered institution of lawmaking to public odium just to score some political point.