Sunday, 13 December 2015

Alleged Pocketing of Constitution fund: Enough of these Premium Lies 


The following is a complete text of a statement issued by the office of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerremadu denying a media report which insinuated that members of the committee on constitutional review of the 7th National Assembly pocketed N8Billion in the failed Constitution Amendment exercise.


The attention of the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has been drawn to a purported investigative report by an online medium, the Premium Times, which claimed that he and other Members of the Committees on Constitution Review of the 7th National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, “pocketed” N8 billion in “failed” Constitution amendment exercise.

However, this report did not come to us as a surprise. It could be recalled that the Office in a statement dated September 29, 2015 had warned of “some clandestine efforts by desperate political elements to publish false and defamatory information against the Office and person of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu”.

It is easily recalled also that the Office alerted that “These elements are currently making desperate efforts, including scavenging through Senate accounts and Committees he has ever served on, with the sole aim of misrepresenting information, maligning, and running him out of office by hook or crook or force him to resign from office as the Deputy President of the Senate.”

Therefore, even though these latest bogus allegations appear an institutional matter of the National Assembly, it is not surprising that the report is in content, deliberate manipulation, and body language, one directly targeted at the person and Office of the Deputy President of the Senate.

The Office wishes to state categorically that there was no “pocketing” of N8 billion by members of the Committee on Constitution Review in the 7th Senate chaired by Senator Ekweremadu. Such fathom pocketing of public funds is a figment of the peddlers and their paymasters. For emphasis, the Senate Committee on Constitution Review DOES NOT have any account domiciled with the Guarantee Trust Bank as alleged by the report.

For clarity, constitution amendment as an expenditure item is covered by the Appropriation Act of each year and disbursed by the appropriate bureaucracy of the National Assembly for the purpose it was appropriated in accordance with extant rules.

The submission in the report that the lifespan of a parliamentary committee ends with the submission of its report, as Premium Times sought to miseducate unsuspecting public, is not true and goes further to show that some political desperados, were at work.

It is equally imperative to state that Members of the 7th National Assembly and the 36 State Assemblies did not fail in their legislative duties towards the realization of the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution. Members diligently and successfully piloted the most elaborate amendments to the 1999 Constitution through all the legislative due process. They were indeed amendments that held great promises for the nation’s democracy.

Therefore, the ambush and lynching of the 4thAlteration Bill by a conspiracy of divisive agenda and malevolent political forces through the withdrawal of an already given presidential assent cannot be described as failure on the part of the National Assembly. Doing so is tantamount to barking up the wrong tree.

The National Assembly was like the lone voice in the wilderness when some people in the presidency were manipulating the system to upturn the entire effort because of some critical amendments like the separation of the Office of the Minister of Justice from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation with far-reaching autonomy and security of tenure to enhance the independence and efficacy of the justice system, creation of Office of the Accountant-General of the Federal Government different from the Accountant-General of the Federation with both enjoying security of tenure to enhance accountability, timeline for presidential assent to bills, and devolving of more powers from the Exclusive List (Federal Government) to the Concurrent List, financial autonomy for State Assemblies, etc.

For the records, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, is proud of what the National Assembly has achieved with the constitution amendment project from 2010 till date.

Apart from breaking the jinx of amending the 1999 Constitution, it needs to be reiterated that the various amendments have helped to deepen the nation’s democracy. For instance, the federal legislature has, by these amendments entrenched extensive electoral reforms, including financial and administrative autonomy for INEC as well as freeing the electoral umpire from political manipulations. These, among others, account for the incremental improvements in our electoral process culminating in the seamless and unprecedented transfer of power from one political party to another in the nation’s political history.

Therefore, any efforts, including the premium lies in focus, to diminish these achievements or run the Deputy President of the Senate out of office will fail, just like the malicious allegations of forgery of Senate Standing Rules, assassination attempt, and efforts to undo him at the election petition tribunal, etc.

Consequently, we urge the members of the public to disregard the report in its entirety.

While we, once more, appreciate the principled stance of most media houses, who refused to be used in this business of blackmail, falsehood, and cheap propaganda, we nevertheless charge the media to be more circumspect about so-called exclusives so as not to fall prey to political desperados who would stop at nothing to hit their political targets.

Uche Anichukwu
Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy president of the Senate
13/12/15

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