Senate President Bukola Saraki said yesterday that lack of due engagement with the National Assembly may force the majority of senators to oppose President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to withdraw $1 billion to fund purchase of security equipment.
He blamed unending executive/legislature friction on lack of consultation and collaboration between the two arms.
He said that some senators have already expressed their disappointment to him on Buhari’s approval of such a huge amount of money without recourse to the National Assembly.
But he did not say whether the upper chamber will automatically block the use of the fund for what Buhari intends.
Saraki spoke in Jos, Plateau State at a retreat on “Strengthening Executive-Legislature Relations”.
It is expected that President Buhari’s approval of $1 billion for purchase of security equipment would be one of the topical issues for debate when the Senate resumes plenary on Tuesday.
The Senate President who insisted that Nigerians must be prepared to defend and protect the institution of the parliament, noted that government was all about institutions and not individuals.
He said that the number of blackmails some of them have received for doing the right thing was simply alarming.
He said that it is obvious that the National Assembly is constantly under attack by individuals who abhor the principle of separation of powers as enshrined by democratic doctrine.
Saraki insisted that protection of the institution of the parliament was the only way sustainable democracy could be guaranteed in the country “because without the legislature there will be no democracy.”
He also stressed the need to always do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time for things to work in the country.
Saraki said: “There is no way the security architecture of this country can work without a strong synergy between the executive and the legislature. When you see certain agencies who by their actions and utterances frustrate the relationship between the two arms, you begin to wonder what is going on.
“What do we need to do? Do the police need more funding or more powers? Do they need new legislations to strengthen them? These are the issues where the executive and the legislature must work together. What do we need to do?
“In a good environment, such an issue needed to have been discussed with lawmakers. Already, some senators are angry. They said they were not consulted by the executive before such a decision was taken. These are the issues we are talking about. Some people have already taken position because they were not consulted. That is why I stressed the issue of collaboration between the two arms. The issue of engagement is important.”
The Senate President who said that friction between the two arms of government goes beyond party affiliations, noted that “even during the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the executive and legislature, had some frictions.”
According to him, “It means it is not about the party. It is not about any individual. It is about the system.”
Saraki said that it seems officials of the executive arm have formed the habit of always blackmailing senators and members of the House of Representatives.
His words: “In a situation where a particular arm of government stands up and calls people from another arm of government thieves, looters and other names, how can we work together? How? It is not possible. It is not realistic. If we collaborate, the country will be better for it.”
He also wondered how President Buhari could write the National Assembly to endorse N4.6 trillion capital market bond without first discussing the issue with the leadership of both chambers.
He said:”Imagine the federal government wants to raise a N4.6 trillion bond from the capital market. The leadership of the National Assembly first heard about it through a letter written by the President. This is what happens.
“I needed to be here to speak on these issues. It is not just about today. Posterity will be here to judge us that what I am saying is true. If we do not change the way we behave, we will remain like this for many years to come.”
Also on how heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are allegedly frustrating the passage of the 2018 budget, the Senate President said that the executive arm should be held responsible.
“If you want to strengthen democracy, the priority of everybody should be to strengthen the legislature. If you do not defend the legislature, there is no way our democracy will be strengthened because government is not built on individuals. It is built on institutions.
“That is why in developed countries, governments can change, but it does not affect the stability of their democracy because their institutions are strong. We decided to run a presidential system of government. By its nature of checks and balances, there is bound to be frictions. The question now, how healthy is that friction?
“If you take the 2018 budget for example, even before people had bothered to find out where the cause of the delay is coming from, people were already attacking and blaming the legislature.
“When I led the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives to see Mr. President, he came to the meeting briefed as if the delay was that of the National Assembly. He was humble enough at the end of the discussion to render an apology.”