•Balarabe Musa, lawmakers kick as Sagay, others endorse it
From Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Taiwo Amodu, Chinelo Obogo and Adewale Sanyaolu
President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to present sweeping emergency economic powers bill to the National Assembly this week was yesterday met with outrage.
But the proposed bill received the endorsement of the President’s All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers in the federal legislature. The opposition is kicking against it.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the President has more powers already, and granting him more, might not be good for the country.
Also, former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, last night squealed against the proposed bill. Speaking with Daily Sun on phone, the former governor dismissed the move as a possible affront on the powers statutorily assigned to the National Assembly, as he noted that a sitting President in Nigeria has enough executive powers.
“The situation doesn’t call for President Buhari having such powers. He has already enough powers under the Constitution to do anything. The powers of the President under the Constitution is enormous, he is an executive president.
“So, there is no emergency to warrant such powers. Whatever problem, the National Assembly can handle it. He should work with the National Assembly.”
This is even as Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), head of the Federal Government anti-corruption agency, sees nothing wrong in the proposed bill.
According to reports, part of the aims of the bill titled: “Economic and stabilisation Bill 2016”, which is in three parts, is to secure special powers for the President to enable him rescue the dying economy which has ‘technically’ entered into a recession, create more jobs, boost foreign reserves, revive the manufacturing sector, among other things. The bill is expected in the Assembly this week.
But lawmakers, who spoke with our correspondents in Abuja yesterday were sharply divided on the possibility of the bill being passed.
Frontline supporter of President Buhari and Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum ( Downstream), Senator Kabir Marafa, said he will wholeheartedly support the bill if it is eventually forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration.
He said as a member of the ruling APC, he was duty-bound to support any good initiative of the party, adding that the proposed move would be in the overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Marafa said: “I will support anything from the Presidency. I am a party member. I will support anything from my party, my government and above all, it is in the interest of the country and the economy. There is no Nigerian that will not support anything good for the country and the economy, regardless of his or her party affiliations.”
He, however, downplayed fears of some lawmakers that the bill will usurp their powers. He said: “I think we are getting things wrong. There is no way you can strip the National Assembly of its powers. There is an Act which set up the National Assembly and it is stated in the Constitution. The Act of the National Assembly can override the Constitution.
“I am sure whatever the executive arm wants to present must be in line with the extant laws. It cannot strip the National Assembly of its powers. Even if you want to do that, it will be null and void. That fear should be exercised.”
Also, the Senate Committee Chairman on Power, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said he may support the bill if it is in the interest of the country. He said he was open to anything that would put the country back on the track of growth.
Abaribe noted: “Such a bill is coming is still in the realm of speculation. Because of that, it will not be right for us to decide if it will be a good or bad bill. We are yet to see it. Secondly, if it’s something that will lead to a resolution of the economic crisis Nigeria is facing, I do not think any legislator will be against it.
“We have to see the bill and secondly, we have to see what is contained in the bill and so as long as it does not in any way offend the Constitution, I am sure every Nigerian and every legislator will support what will help us get out of this quagmire we are in at the moment.”
But a member of the House of Representatives from Edo State, Hon. Joe Edionwele, said the bill would die on arrival. He said if the proposed bill is allowed to sail through, it will amount to dictatorship.
But he urged Buhari to act like a politician since he is now a civilian president, wondering why the normal procedures in seeking approval should not be followed.
Edionwele said: “That is pure dictatorship. The bill will be dead on arrival. That amounts to dictatorship. If that is what he wants, we should not be running a presidential system of government. He does not require such laws to perform. What does it take to get approval for anything instead of this bill?
“Is there anything he has ever asked for and he was not given? We do not have to encourage dictatorship in this country. Buhari is a politician now and he should operate within what the laws provide.”
Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonaniyima said his colleagues in the House will look at the bill critically, including grey areas. However, he said the house will support whatever that will be in the interest of majority of Nigerians.
Agbonaniyima, who represents Egor/Ikpoba Okha Federal constituency of Edo State, said for him, what is important is not what he thinks about the proposed bill, but the disposition of his constituency to it.
“We will look at the bill. If it is in the interest of nation, we will do the needful. If it is not, we will also do the needful. But for me, I will have to make recourse to my constituents. I will support anything that will make life easier for them and other Nigerians that is not against the Nigerian constitution,” he said.
In his reaction, former Chairman of Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ayo Arise, said giving President Buhari such powers would give him the latitude to push through his economic package to jump-start the economy. He, however, insisted that such sweeping powers must be timed in order not to permanently erode the powers and relevance of the National Assembly.
“I think ordinarily, under extraneous circumstances like we have now, yes, he could ask for it, but it must be time barred. But I believe such virement be actually lifted to enable him jump-start the economy. But if there is any suspicion that he his trying to take virement power from National Assembly, they might look at the situation and try to protect their powers, he said.