REPS TO JONATHAN: Accept $79 benchmark or forget 2014 budget

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BY Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU

ABUJA—Indication emerged last night that the House of Representatives would not change its position on the $79 per barrel as the oil benchmark for the 2014 budget.

Findings by Vanguard revealed that the Presidency was upset with the resolve by a majority of the lawmakers to ensure that the $75 oil benchmark being proposed by the Federal Government did not see the light of the day.

It was learnt that in a bid to checkmate the stiff opposition to the $75 per barrel being tabled by the government, some lawmakers loyal to the Presidency had been trying to lobby their colleagues to support their position.

From left: President Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Patience; mother of the President, Mrs Eunice Jonathan; wife of the Senate President, Mrs Helen Mark; Senate President David Mark; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Sen. Hope Uzodimma; Sen. Philip Aduda; and the Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Ighiadomhe during a Memorial Service for the Late Nelson Mandela at Aso Villa Chapel, Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

From left: President Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Patience; mother of the President, Mrs Eunice Jonathan; wife of the Senate President, Mrs Helen Mark; Senate President David Mark; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Sen. Hope Uzodimma; Sen. Philip Aduda; and the Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Ighiadomhe during a Memorial Service for the Late Nelson Mandela at Aso Villa Chapel, Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

The lobby, however, appears to have failed to sway the majority, Vanguard was told last night.

A member of the National Assembly leadership confirmed, yesterday, that the lawmakers were not ready to go below the $79 per barrel benchmark.

The lawmaker said that it would be wrong for the people that were elected by Nigerians to accept something that was inimical to their progress and well being because it was being proposed by the President.

The source said: “The plot to recruit sympathisers of the Presidency to talk to us concerning the oil benchmark has failed woefully because the protagonists of $75 per barrel cannot justify what they will do with the excess funds arising from rising oil price which at all times is above $100 per barrel.

On $100,000 bribe

“It was when they failed to impress their logic of stagnation on us that they went to town with the allegation that the Presidency bribed us with $100,000 each.

“But they have forgotten that we are not children who can easily be hoodwinked.

“Now, if the Presidency claims it gave us the money they are talking about, how come that we insist that the oil benchmark must remain at $79 per barrel?

“Let me assure all Nigerians that even if the Presidency gives us the money today, we won’t soft-pedal on the $79 benchmark,” the official added.

When contacted, the spokesman for the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said those peddling the rumour of $100,000 bribe were agents of blackmail, out to cause disaffection among the members and derail them from serving Nigerians.

Mohammed pointed out that no amount of blackmail and intimidation would sway the lawmakers from doing what is right and in the interest of the people that elected them.

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