Oct 11, 2011 – Anger in House Over Summons of Speaker, Chairmen by Presidency -There was disquiet yesterday between members of the House of Representatives and the Presidency over an emergency summoning of Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, principal officers and committee chairmen to the Presidential Villa for briefing on the 2012 budget.
Members were angry that the summon was against the principle of Separation of Powers.
But the Speaker and some members defied the anger of their colleagues to go for the session.
The Federal Government is proposing N4.8trillion budget for 2012 with a $75 benchmark price for oil.
Apart from the take-off of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), the government is also proposing savings of about N1.2trillion from the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
A source said that there are also some fiscal measures which will be implemented by the government to reshape the economy.
It was learnt that the President summoned the meeting to put House leaders into confidence on the issues in the 2012 Budget to avoid delay in passing it into law.
Members however felt the method adopted by the Presidency was wrong.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that most members were shocked by a sudden text message sent to them by the Chief of Staff to the Speaker.
The text message reads: “Dear Honourable, you are requested to join the delegation to State House for a briefing on the Budget from the Minister of Finance, scheduled for Monday 10 October 2011 at 8pm.
“Kindly join Mr. Speaker at the House of Representatives New Building at 7pm prompt. Kind regards. Chief of Staff to the Speaker.”
According to findings, the text was hardly circulated when members began to query why they had to be summoned to the Villa for a session on the budget.
It was gathered that the Minister of Finance ought to have come for a closed door session with the Speaker and members in the House.
A member of the opposition in the House, said: “We cannot understand why we have to be asked to come to the Villa like school children for briefing on the 2012 Budget.
“We have made our position known to the Speaker that respecting such an invitation could erode the principle of Separation of Powers between the Executive and the Legislature.
“When last did you hear President Barrack Obama summoning members of the US Congress to White House?
“Some of us believe that the Executive ought to have been more tactical in handling the matter.”
Another member said: “I think we do not need to be railroaded into a predetermined meeting at the Villa.
“Instead, the President should have asked the Minister of Finance to meet with us like top security chiefs did to the Senate and the House recently.”
A source in the presidency, however, said: “The meeting is part of the consultative policy of the President, it is not meant to undermine the Senate or the House in any manner.
“It is a kind of initiative to foster Executive-Legislature relationship. We want to avoid the usual disagreement between the two arms over grey areas in the budget since 2007.
“Of course, the issue of withdrawal of subsidy is throwing up some socio-economic issues which require the understanding of the members of the National Assembly.
“The government wants to lay its cards on the table, especially the true financial situation of the country and remedial steps being proposed to reshape the economy.”
A principal officer of the House, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have been pleading with our members to bear with the leadership over this briefing.
“We do not see it as erosion of separation of powers. If as president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan wants to see us and confide in us on state matters, we have to honour it.
“We decided to defer to the President as a matter of respect and not to sell out. Budgeting is an issue that affects all.
“Some of us prevailed on the Speaker to honour the session at the Villa.” The Nation