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Friday, June 1, 2012

UNSIGNED BILLS: Mark hits back at Jonathan

Senate President David Mark yesterday took on President Goodluck Jonathan over his failure to assent to some bills passed by the National Assembly.
Mark also said the President “distorted facts” when he said on Monday that the lawmakers tore up the budget proposal sent to them thereby making it difficult for the executive to implement it.
“A number of bills that would have changed a lot of things for this country have not been signed,” Mark said at the opening of a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology on a bill to set up an erosion control commission.
“So, my advice to the executive is to dialogue with the legislature in matters like these and find a common ground instead of shifting blames,” he added, speaking through his representative, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
At the Democracy Day symposium on Monday, Jonathan squared up with Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal over the bills that have stayed for a long time in the President’s in-tray.
Tambuwal said Jonathan was shirking his constitutional responsibility by sitting on many bills passed by the National Assembly. In his response, Jonathan accused lawmakers of “tearing” the budget bill and of acting against the manifesto of the ruling PDP.
Yesterday, Mark joined the fray.
“We expressed our displeasure over some of the bills which we have sent to the Presidency for assent since last year that have not received presidential assent. And in response, the president said that it is because we are creating agencies. We will continue to create agencies if it is important, because that is why we are here,” he said.
“So, we have to do our job. Most of those bills have nothing to do with agencies. I remember we have the State of the Nation Address Bill, it has nothing to do with any agency and it has not been signed. We have the National Health Bill. It has nothing to do with an agency. It has not been signed. We have the Air Force Institute of Technology Bill and Tobacco Bills.”
He added: “If institutions are to be created, they will definitely be created. So any person who thinks that the creation of institutions should stop is wasting his time. It would not stop because the society itself is dynamic.”
On the budget bill, Mark said, “I also believe that the issue which he (Jonathan) also raised regarding the Appropriation Bill was also a distortion of facts. The president said that we tore the Appropriation Bill into pieces which made it impossible for implementation. Certainly, that is not so.
“I am aware that the 2012 Appropriation Bill was returned to the executive substantially the same way they brought it. So, we are challenging them to ensure that the 2012 Appropriation Act is fully implemented. They have been complaining that they could not implement the budget because of the inputs of the National Assembly.
“So, this year, we said we are not making any input, we are going to give you the bill the way you brought it as a challenge to ensure that it is implemented.  So we expect them to implement it 100 per cent because that is their own vision.
“Of course, he also made reference to a point where they wanted to go to court to challenge the role of the National Assembly in altering Appropriation Bills. Well, that will be a welcome development.
“So we want to suggest that the executive should please take that step of going to the Supreme Court or any court they wish to look at the constitutionality of our role in terms of appropriation for this country. We will be happy to see the outcome, and of course, we will obey whatever the court says.
“But we believe the National Assembly has the ultimate say when it comes to the appropriation of funds because that is what the constitution says. If the Supreme Court or any other court says otherwise, we would succumb to it and do exactly what the court says.
“Some of these things I think are things we should be able to discuss with the executive. There is need for closer collaboration between the parliament and the executive because if we are close to each other, we can always discuss, we can always dialogue. But if we are far in between, of course, we will be shouting at each other because for you to hear me if we are far between, I have to raise my voice. So I don’t think that is good for democracy.”