The Federal Government has said Senate President Bukola Saraki is at the root of delays in implementing its laudable projects because he is behind delays in passing budgets in the last three years.
According to the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in his strange accusation, “We have a National Assembly in which we had a clear majority in both houses but which treated the Executive with contempt and who actually slowed down the work of government. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, our budgets were delayed. We can understand 2015 budget because we came in, in the middle of the year. But 2016, 2017, the earliest we got our budgets was June.”
A cursory check however shows that in the 19 years of Nigeria’s present democratic experience, all the budgets, save two, have been passed earlier than March, with a majority operating from almost the second quarter.
Mohammed was not done in his barbs against the principal officers of the National Assembly and other defectors. He added: “Key appointments, nominations and confirmations for key organisations that could move the government forward like the CBN, like the NDIC, were delayed. Really, it couldn’t have been worse if the PDP had a majority in the National Assembly.”
“The fundamental thing is that for us, it would have been better that they left a long time earlier because they have strangulated this government for too long. When you are now being betrayed by your own party is more painful because we can’t fight back as much as we want to fight back.
“I just want to establish that the foundation of what you are seeing today was laid as far back as the day he became Senate President.”
He dismissed claims by Saraki that the State was not favoured by the Mohammadu Buhari-led administration.
“I think it is a blatant lie that Kwara State was not considered in appointments. There are 26 appointees to boards, parastatals, either as members or DG to Kwara State and of these 26, I recommended only two. The other 24 were done by Dr. Bukola Saraki.”
“In terms of development, the arterial road of Ilorin, Jebba, Mokwa, Birnin Gwari road is 80 per cent completed. It is one of the major roads that links the state. On the other hand, it is this same government that awarded the contract for Lokoja-Omu Aran-Ilorin road. In terms of housing, we are building many two bedroom houses in Ilorin. Again, in terms of appointment, one of the chairmen of parastatals, is the out-gone chairman of APC, Ishola Balogun Fulani. So it is blatant lie.”
To him, the defection of Saraki from the Special good news to the people of Kwara State, because as put it, “as far as the people of Kwara State are concerned, it was as if finally, the state was being liberated. The excitement today in Kwara State is akin to how Nigeria felt on the eve of Independence.
“The moment he joined the APC, the former ACN, former ANPP, former CPC members who are in APC, many of them left APC because they could not be in the same camp with him. So what we are witnessing today in Kwara State is like a liberation and from the support I have received so far including the entire leadership of the party led by the Chairman, Akogun Oyedepo Iyiola, who met with me and the National Chairman with 17 other leaders including Professor Oba Abdulraheem, Senator S.S Ajibola, all the three Senatorial district chairmen of the PDP in the state gives me confidence that Saraki’s days in dominating Kwara politics are limited….”
On the siege laid by security operatives on Saraki’s residence in Abuja allergy to prevent him from presiding over the Senate session that witnessed the defection of 14 Senators, he said: “It was fake news, it didn’t happen. I called the IG and the Police PRO went on television that it was not true. In this age of fake news, you could manipulate picture in a manner that something that happened somewhere could be transported here.”
Mohammed also spoke on the nexus between the shrinking Lake Chad and the insecurity in the North East and North Central parts of the country.
His words: “Nigeria had 45 million people when we became independent in 1960. Today we are 190 million people. So it is about struggle for resources. Secondly, Lake Chad was 25,000 sqm surface area in 1963. The same Lake Chad has shrunk today to 2,500 sqm yet Lake Chad was supporting 35 million lives from Nigeria, Central African Republic, Benin, Chad, Niger and Cameroun.
“Those 35 million people were using that water to fish, farm and do irrigation. There used to be about 3000 different types of fish in Lake Chad, it has now shrunk to about 500. So it is about resources that are dwindling combined with population explosion and, of course, criminality.
“The good thing is that we are looking at this problem in a more holistic manner than people want to know and that is why Nigeria has hosted twice the Conference of Lake Chad Basin Countries. The only solution is to reflate the Lake and we are talking to all the countries. It is very expensive but it is the only way out. Until more water is brought back into the Lake Chad, we will continue to have this problem.
“When you look at farmers-herders crisis, it is not restricted to Nigeria, it is in Ghana, it is in Southern Sudan, it is in Kenya. The good thing is that while we are looking at the long term solution, we are also looking at the short-term solution, that is why we set up this quick response wing of the Air Force to tackle herdsmen-farmers clashes in Zamfara, in Taraba, in Benue state. The Military has established two new Battalions in both Zamfara and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna. Just recently 1000-combined force of security agencies are tackling the matter is Zamfara and every day we are recording successes.”