By Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE House of Representatives, yesterday, told Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i of Kaduna State not to deceive the public with his alleged published security vote.
According to the lawmakers, what the governor published is his security budget and not security vote.
The House also advised Governor el-Rufa’i to be conscious of his past and how the company he had interest in, Pentascope, allegedly operating from an abandoned church in The Netherlands, ruined the Nigeria Telecommunications, NITEL just as they asked him to publish the monthly break down of what he takes home as security vote.
Addressing journalists, yesterday, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Abdulrasak Namdas, advised the governor to concentrate his efforts in governing Kaduna State and stop undermining and distracting the National Assembly from playing its constitutionally assigned role in nation building.
Namdas, flanked by members of the committee, said: “He launched an attack on the National Assembly on Friday, April 7, 2017, and continued on Monday, April 10, 2017. We are aware that there are serious security issues he should be grappling with in Southern Kaduna and other governmental issues facing him.
“He should not give the impression that he has no challenging work to do in Kaduna State. These attacks are coming on the heels of his now famous letter to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, where he made strenuous effort to undermine his government, by openly lampooning him when he has unhindered access to His Excellency, Mr. President.
“The National Assembly budget is not opaque. Since 2010, when the constitution was amended and National Assembly was placed on first line charge, its budget became part of statutory transfers, together with the Judiciary, INEC and others.
“The leadership of the National Assembly has already directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to publish details of the National Assembly Budget from 2017 and so to continue to repeat the same call made three days earlier, smacks of propaganda and cheap blackmail.”
“The Kaduna State governor chose to give headings of its budget on security related matters. Maybe he will give further details of actual security expenditures at the appropriate time. He claimed that the state’s accounts have been audited.
“No grounds have been broken here. The response by the Kaduna State governor completely missed the point. Mr. Speaker’s call was for El-Rufai to extend the campaign for openness and transparency to other arms of government, including the governors’ expenditures on security votes and local government funds.
“He merely doubled down on his campaign on National Assembly budget, leaving out the other aspects of Mr. speaker’s request.
“The Kaduna State governor claimed that in 2016, the National Assembly’s budget for its 469 members was larger than the entire budget of several Nigerian states.
“This statement is patently misleading and a terrible display of ignorance and falsehood or a deliberate attempt to blackmail the parliament.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the National Assembly’s budget includes the salaries, allowances, expenditure and running cost of 469 members. It includes the salaries, allowances of about 3,000 legislative aides; it includes the salaries, allowances, equipment and maintenance of about 5000 staff in the Bureaucracy of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly has agencies too. The National Assembly Service Commission has a staff strength of about 500. The National Institute for Legislative Studies is also a parastatal of the National Assembly that serves as a legislative think-tank and a highly rated academic institution, which serves not only the National Assembly but also State Houses of Assembly and the international community.
“It is currently building its headquarters which is world class. It has to be funded. El-Rufai’s mischievous publication carefully ignores the fact that the Bureaucracy of National Assembly and its agencies and 469 members need travel and transport support.
“They require medical attention, offices, equipment and all the support available to others in the public service.
“El-Rufai conveniently forgot that the National Assembly has buildings to build and maintain. He discountenanced the need for training and re-training of staff and even capacity building for members.
“The narrative is such that he excludes the need for National Assembly members and bureaucracy to attend conferences both local and foreign. Some of the most critical work the National Assembly does is Oversight.
“It costs a lot of money to conduct proper oversight of executive agencies to save money and ensure governmental efficiency for the Nigerian people.
“Public Hearings by the National Assembly and its Committees have become a regular feature of our democracy, because citizen engagement and consultation is cardinal for running a democratic government. It costs a lot of money.
“It is most uncharitable to ignore the fact that the National Assembly is an arm of government, not a department in the Executive branch.
“The Budget of so many agencies in the Executive is higher than that of National Assembly, an arm of government. Such agencies as NCC – N102billion, CBN – N421billion, NPA – N250billion, NIMASA – N100billion, FIRS – N146billion, Customs – N81billion and NNPC whose budget runs into trillions are some examples.
Also reacting to what the Kaduna State governor published, the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, said the governor misinformed the public by publishing security budget as security votes.
Ogor said, “There is nothing wrong publishing our budget as he asked for, there is no big deal at all.
“Like our media man, Namdas (Abdulrazak Namdas) stated, as soon as the budget is passed, it will be published.’’
“I remember vividly meeting with El Rufa’i at his specific time, but my take is that if you want us to publish our budget or our take home or whatever, the salaries are almost the same thing, we will publish all those things for him, we will bring the budget in black and white.
“I pray he doesn’t take us to the Pentascope era where probably we will have to go back to Netherlands and go back to those Churches. I am a bit amazed that today El Rufa’i is telling the National Assembly to publish our votes, I really don’t know the reasons behind it.
“Our appeal to him is that he should be open minded and if he wants to publish something, he should publish his security votes. Let him not publish but not his security budget.
“So what he published was clearly a yearly budget, let him give us the monthly break down of what he takes as the security vote on a monthly basis. But I don’t want to join issues with him because these are minor issues I believe our committee will definitely published. We have agreed to make everything transparent so it is a non issue.”
On what is wrong if the principal officers publish what they collet in 2016 instead of waiting for 2017 budget, he said, “you have the budget, the budget is an open document, we have passed this budget, if you want a break down we can go ahead and publish it.
“You have a copy of the budget, I can bring yo you a copy of the budget tomorrow so that you can go ahead and publish it, it is not a hidden budget, it is a document that is probably online. What you will say is that, it is not specific.
“My salary is about five hundred and something thousand Naira like his own salary. He should concentrate more on security vote and not security budget, there is the difference between security vote and security budget.
“Pentascope borders on NITEL and I can tell you categorically that I am the person that chaired that investigation where El Rufa’i hired a specific company called Pentascope with their head office in an abandoned Chirch in Netherlands.
“These are the people that ruined NITEL NITEL has among the best infrastructure, it was at the top of the range but these guys came and cannibalised the place and when we started the investigation, they packed their bags and baggages and abandoned the country in the night because then I wanted to get all of them arrested.
“But unfortunately before we got all the approvals, they had escaped. I know the pressure that even came from high quarters over that particular investigation. The committee indicted him then but how that subject matter became what it is today is a very long story.”