“WE have not forgotten Offa robbery and Kogi assassination so soon.” “Saraki must resign and stop mocking the dead.” “The national assembly is not for armed robbers”. These are some of the inscriptions on the placards carried by protesters at the National Assembly premises on Tuesday.
The protesters, who said they are members of a civil society group – Citizens’ Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), on Tuesday, stormed the main entrance of the National Assembly to demand the immediate resignation of Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Ibraheem Wala, convener of the group said Saraki and Dogara do not have the moral authority to lead the National Assembly, especially given the recent budget padding scandal revealed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“They have shown that they lack the requisite credibility and moral capacity to hold the position of authority,” he said.
“It is clear that the insertions are huge, which also signifies the size of the criminality behind the intent to hijack the budget.”
But while the protest was going on outside the National Assembly premises, the senators deliberated on one of the reasons for the protest, which is the call for the scrapping of constituency projects.
Barnabas Gemade, Benue State lawmaker raised the motion, saying that the idea of constituency projects is for the impact of government to be felt in the lowest rung of the society.
Similarly, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, said the call for the scrapping of constituency projects is the “height of insensitivity”.
“The issue of protesting today against constituency projects is to say the least very embarrassing,” he said.
“I come from a constituency in this country where indeed constituency projects is working and I challenge anybody who says it’s not working to come with any contradiction of what I am saying that constituency projects in my senatorial district has been implemented as allocations were released. There is no abuse whatsoever.
“I challenge anyone who feels it has been abused to come up with evidence of such.
“No amount of blackmail or intimidation should stop the implementation of constituency projects, I admit like every other thing in life, it is being abused in some places and by some people but that is not to suggest that the benefits outnumbers some of the issues we have raised. If anybody has any particular evidence of the abuse of constituency projects, the senate and indeed the national assembly is prepared to deal with it.
“But to say that constituency projects should be discontinued, I believe that is the height of insensitivity to the interest of our people. So whoever is collecting money to come to the National Assembly to come and oppose the issue of constituency projects, that is not going to happen so I want to advise my constituents.”
Ekweremadu described the protests as the handiwork of politicians who are taking advantage of the unemployment situation in the country.
“Let me recognize that we have problems and challenges in Nigeria. But I would limit myself to the issue of unemployment and poverty,” he said.
““What is happening is that some people go to government officials or governors who they believe are opposed to the National Assembly. They gather protesters and give them N1500 each. Some they pay them only N500 as in the case of today to come protest in the front of national assembly.
“So each time I see them, I feel sorry for this country that some people are doing things they do not believe in.”