The clash between members of the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the National Assembly marred President Muhammadu Buhari’s presentation of the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Wednesday.
Efforts to persuade the PDP lawmakers, especially those in the House of Representatives, not to disrupt the presentation ceremony earlier before the President’s arrival proved abortive.
Before Buhari’s arrival, news filtered in that opposition members in the House of Representatives were prepared to stage a protest against the President.
Shortly after the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, said the opening prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf; and Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, walked up to him and held a brief meeting.
Dogara then announced that an executive session would be held, asking non-members to leave the chamber. The closed-door meeting held about 25 minutes to Buhari’s expected 12noon arrival.
The Speaker said the meeting would last only five minutes but lasted over 30 minutes.
The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and several ministers, special advisers and assistants to President arrived at 11:50am while the closed-door meeting was still ongoing.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and senators later joined their House counterparts.
The atmosphere in the chamber became tense when opposition lawmakers began to chorus a protest song, ‘Freedom come by struggle, by struggle; freedom come.’
The protesters continued with the song as President Muhammadu Buhari stepped into the chamber, while the APC lawmakers made a counter move by hailing the President, ‘Sai Baba!’ Both sides raised their voices as Buhari walked to his seat.
Three placards emerged on the floor of the chamber. As some PDP lawmakers attempted to raise them, their APC counterparts went for the placards, which led to a struggle and eventual free for all.
Two members of the House, Mr Bashir Babale (APC) and Duoye Diri (PDP), particularly had a physical struggle over a placard. Other lawmakers intervened and they were calmed.
At the other side of the isle where senators were seated, Senator Samuel Ayanwu (PDP) also engaged Senators Godswill Akpabio and Senator Solomon Adeola, both APC, in a hot argument. They rose from their seats and charged at each other.
The drama took a different turn as the President addressed the lawmakers. He was interrupted each time he mentioned an achievement by his administration.
The speech lasted one hour.
As the President mentioned each achievement, the protesters chorused, ‘No!’ Lie! Boo!’
When he said, “We have weathered the storms and made progress on every front,” they screamed, “No! Boo!”
When he said, “The economy has recovered well,” the lawmakers screamed again.
Buhari, who was displeased with the development, was forced to say, “The world is watching us and we are supposed to be above this.”
The protesters however continued, especially when Buhari said his administration had made success in its anti-corruption campaign.
At some point, a female lawmaker put on her microphone and said, “It is not true; it is not correct.”
At another time when the President said, “We are moving in the right direction,” the lawmakers chorused, “No!”
In another case, a female lawmaker said, “Iro lo pa. (‘You lied’ in Yoruba language).
As a counter-attack, the APC lawmakers began to clap and cheer the President in what appeared to be an attempt to overwhelm their opponents each time he was booed.
As soon as the President concluded his speech, the session turned more rowdy.
Saraki and Dogara were to deliver their speeches after Buhari’s but while the APC lawmakers chanted ‘Four more years!’, their PDP counterparts screamed, ‘No more years.’
After more than 10 minutes of the rowdiness, the Presidential Guards Brigade band suddenly played the National Anthem, even while Buhari was still seated.
The anthem marked the end of the ceremony, with Saraki and Dogara yet to present their speeches.
Security operatives immediately whisked the President out of the chamber, leaving the lawmakers behind.
No closing remarks were made as the lawmakers were dispersed by Buhari’s departure.
Why we disrupted budget presentation — PDP Reps
After the session, the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, led members of the PDP caucus in the House to address journalists where he thrashed the appropriation bill.
Reading from a written speech entitled, ‘2019 Budget: Yes Another Hollow Ritual,’ Onyema said, “Again, the Buhari administration has tabled another multi-trillion naira budget and, again, this hollow ritual it began in 2015 may soon be followed, as usual, with excuses for non-performance.
“Again too, as it has always done, the APC government known for its unique ideology of ‘blame-ology’ will start apportioning of blames to all else, except itself.
“For a government that came into power promising utopia, consistently dismal implementation of the national budget betrays its half-hearted, insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian people who long for genuine progress and development that will positively impact their lives.
“Yet since 2015, it has been an unfortunate harvest of lies, blames and propaganda while its over hyped campaign promises of security, economic growth and war against corruption have remained a mirage.”
Onyema said the claims by the administration of stepping up citizens’ security was “partly-punctured” by a report issued by the Amnesty International this week, cataloguing more than 3, 600 killings since 2016, with 310 attacks recorded between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 per cent of which took place in 2018 alone.
Accusing the government of lack of vision in managing the economy, the lawmaker said the daily increasing millions of unemployed or sacked Nigerians attested to the APC administration’s failure.
‘Protests against Buhari normal’
Reacting to the development, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, dismissed the attack on Buhari as normal.
Namdas said, “What happened on the floor of the House was democracy in action. There is nothing abnormal about it because you could see that the ruling party (members) were hailing the President but the opposition was not doing same. Everybody has the right to freedom of speech. But at the end of the day, the budget has been presented by the President and message has been passed, and it has been laid. That is what is important.
Responding to a question on how Dogara was not allowed to present a vote of thanks, the House’s spokesman said, “I want you to know that it was not just the Speaker, even when the President was actually reading out the budget speech, there was interruption at each point.”
Aggrieved lawmakers, defectors responsible for attack on Buhari —Presidency
In his response, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, blamed lawmakers who lost tickets to contest in the 2019 elections for the attack on Buhari.
Enang said, “This is the year of election. This is the year when members have lost nominations by their political parties. This is the year when many members have changed their political parties. We are going for elections, and any year you have elections, sometimes you see a president saying ‘I am sending the budget, I don’t want to go and face the heat of the people who lost nominations.’
“But he didn’t do that. He said ‘I am the President of the Federal Republic. I will go and address them, and perform my constitutional duty.’”
Booing of Buhari by NASS, vote of no confidence — PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday said Nigerians across the country as well as the international community witnessed the expression of vote of no confidence, direct booing, jeering and rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari by members of the two chambers of the National Assembly during the 2019 budget presentation.
The party stated that the action of the lawmakers, at the joint session of the NASS was a resounding and unambiguous vote of no confidence and unmistaken expression of Buhari’s rejection by the Nigerian public, across the divides.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan during a media briefing in Abuja said Nigerians were fed up with Buhari’s ‘incompetent, divisive and corrupt administration,’ which, he said had brought so much hunger, starvation, escalated violence and bloodletting in Nigeria.
He stated that the booing of Buhari was by lawmakers across party lines, adding that it was not instigated by the PDP lawmakers.
He said, “Today’s open rejection of President Buhari by the lawmakers, representing all the federal constituencies and senatorial zones across our country, shows that Mr. President no longer enjoys the support of Nigerians across the country; that he no longer has any political foothold and only awaits a crushing defeat in the 2019 general election.
PDP lawmakers’ action irresponsible — APC
The All Progressives Congress has condemned the action of lawmakers of the Peoples Democratic Party who shouted for the most part of the presentation of the 2019 National Budget by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.
The APC said the PDP should be aware that the disgraceful conduct and actions of its legislative caucus had succeeded in eroding the remnant of the public’s respect, (if any) that the party had in the eyes of any respectable Nigerian.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC said the development had further confirmed that the PDP was largely populated by self-serving and unpatriotic members, whose sole aim in politics was to promote their self interests at the expense of the country’s interests.
“By law, respect for the office of the president or head of government in any clime is not a matter of choice but a civic obligation sanctioned by laws. Being an opposition party or critic is no licence for such wayward conduct by the PDP legislative caucus; most especially against the president of the country.”
BMO asks Saraki, Dogara to resign
The Buhari Media Organisation has asked Saraki and Dogara, to resign for failing to control members during the 2019 budget presentation by Buhari.
Urging the two leaders to toe the line of honour and rectitude and resign immediately, the group noted it was the first time the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives would not make speeches at a budget presentation.
In a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, BMO said that it was a surprise that the duo were not allowed to make the traditional opening and closing speeches.
“This shows that majority of the federal lawmakers in the two chambers are not happy with the way and manner that Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara have been running the legislature.”