2015 budget: Okonjo-Iweala begs Tambuwal, House leaders

Ahead of today’s laying of the 2015 budget on the table for National Assembly’s consideration, Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday pleaded with House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal to facilitate the bill’s passage.

There has been no love lost between the executive and the Speaker since he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Tambuwal’s security guards have been withdrawn and he and some of the members were prevented from accessing the National Assembly complex on November 20.

They were also tear gassed.

In response to the police invasion and the declaration by Inspector General of Police Suleiman Abba that he does not recognise Tambuwal as Speaker, the House has restricted policemen to the gate of the complex.

A principal officer, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “The Minister of Finance met with Tambuwal to solicit the support of the House for easy passage of the 2015 budget.

“For about two hours, she begged the Speaker and other House leaders, including the chairmen of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, on the presentation of next year’s Appropriation Bill.

“There is need to fast-track the budget in the overall interest of the country. The Minister decided to by-pass the legal cold war between the Presidency and the House to make a strong case for the nation’s economy.”

Another principal officer said: “Okonjo-Iweala briefed the session on some realistic projections surrounding the 2015 budget, including the $65 per barrel benchmark.

“She spoke on the likely challenges the nation might face with the implementation of the 2015 budget and the plans put in place by her ministry to manage these shocks.

“She marshaled her points in an emotional manner.

“She came to plead with the House to put the survival of the economy above petty politics overshadowing the activities of the House.

“The nation’s economy will be in dire straits if the row over the plot to force the Speaker and others to vacate their seats festers.

“I think, it is this kind of rapprochement that the nation needs. Tambuwal assured the Minister of the readiness of the House to facilitate the quick passage of the budget whenever it is presented or laid.”

Notwithstanding the visit of the Minister, Tambuwal staved off the plot to force him to vacate his seat following House decision to stop the police from manning all the gates to the National Assembly Complex.

Policemen have now  been restricted to the entrance checkpoint, which is about two to three kilometres to the main gate of the National Assembly Complex.

Instead, sergeants-at-arms were directed to take over security in the National Assembly.

Besides the security build-up, it was gathered that the rejection of an ex-parte application to sack Tambuwal by Justice Ahmed Mohammed put the anti-Speaker’s camp in disarray and the plot failed.

Those behind the plot have also discovered that they could not muster the required number to force Tambuwal  to vacate his seat because of issues over primaries, which had forced some members to defect from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) to other parties.

A source said: “We did not want a repeat of the invasion of the Assembly complex by the police. So, we have prepared ahead to forestall any attempt to use the police to force Tambuwal to vacate his seat. We took pre-emptive measures.

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