The Federal Government on Wednesday chided the opposition for insisting on frustrating the passage of the 2014 Appropriation Bill currently before the National Assembly.
The government’s position was stated by the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, after the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC. The meeting was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan. Fielding questions from State House Correspondents after the meeting, Mr. Maku said since the budget was the lifeline of Nigeria’s economy, any attempt at stalling its passage would amount to frustrating the economic progress of the nation.
The APC had asked its lawmakers to frustrate the passage of the budget and other executive bills until the federal government resolves the crisis in Rivers State where the state governor and several citizens have complained of harassment and abuses by the federally controlled Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu. Attempt to begin debate on the budget was frustrated by an APC lawmaker in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, who argued that the budget was not properly presented.
“When you block the budget of a country, you are stopping the work of the market woman, you are stopping the work of the farmer, you are threatening the survival of the teacher in the street, you are threatening the survival of a patient in the hospital because a lot of what happens to these people depends on the budget,” Mr. Maku said.
The minister, who disclosed that the FEC reviewed reports of the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, said it “was shocking to hear of such development from the opposition party at a time when the international community has rated the Nigerian economy very high.”
“So I’m shocked that anybody will go to the National Assembly and urge people to block the budget of a country. “I am shocked that this is coming at a period where we are making economic gains, where the economy is growing at seven per cent; where consistently for three years the world has said the Nigerian economy is the best managed in Africa, in a period policies that we lamented in the past are now being transformed in for opportunities for investments; in a period where we have been able to move from net importer to a net exporter in cement.
“At the time when we didn’t have telephones, but we now have telephone in every village in this country; where power became an issue but now power is an opportunity for investment because new policies have been unfolded to give opportunity to grow the economy; in a period where agriculture was to buy a few tractors and do fertilizers scams; where you now have Agriculture as a policy transforming farmers into business people and supporting them.
“Democracy is about service to the people and I am surprised because everybody knows that once you are elected you are no longer serving your party members,” he said.
Mr. Maku urged Nigerians to support the federal government; saying when the economy grows, it will be to the benefit of all Nigerians. “Now this kind of situation means that all our hands must be on deck to grow the economy. If we grow the economy further it does not belong to Goodluck Jonathan, is for the people of Nigeria,” he said.
The minister advised politicians to “separate narrow, negative partisan politics from the survival of our people. So we believe that every budget needs to be robustly debated by the National Assembly but not on the standpoint that my party asked me to stop passing the budget.”
He questioned the APC’s stance, saying “Nigerians must hold them to account. They are not yet in power they are already threatening the life wire of the country, so how can we then trust them with power?” Mr. Maku kept mum on the basis of the APC’s directive, the crisis in Rivers that has seen a senator reportedly shot and hundreds of people dispersed with arms by the police for allegedly declaring their support for the state governor.
“So if tomorrow they come to power what are we to expect? It means the nation will not have budget? This is very serious, no argument is acceptable for anybody to go and ask people to block a budget. So these arguments pale into insignificance when you look at the real danger that that kind of call places on the life wire of Nigeria. “Challenging our policies is different from blocking the oxygen from flowing because the budget is the oxygen of the economy.
So you are asking people to commit suicide because you have disagreement with the government? So I think this is not the right thing to do and I am urging APC leaders to think again,” he said.