By Henry Umoru
ABUJA —HUNDREDS of protesters, under the aegis of National Convener of Citizens’ Action to Take Back Nigeria, CATBAN, yesterday, stormed the National Assembly, protesting alleged padding of the 2018 budget by the National Assembly.
The protesters, mostly women and youths, were seen carrying placards with threats and caution to the National Assembly as they made vehicular movement impossible, even as they blocked the entrance to the National Assembly with a truck.
Led by Comrade Ibrahim Garba, the protesters accused the lawmakers of cutting the 2018 budget as well as allocating constituency projects to themselves.
The group in its demands, called for the resignation of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and their colleagues for alleged sponsoring of political killings in the country.
It said it was impossible to have Saraki continue to preside over the hallowed chamber of the National Assembly at a time there was global outrage over ethnic and politically mastermind killings in Nigeria.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “Where are the killers in the National Assembly?”, “We have not forgotten Offa robbery incident and Kogi State assassination so soon” , “Insertion of thousands of projects into the budget is tantamount to hijacking of the budget,” among others.
The convener, Ibrahim Garba Wala, said the leaders of the National Assembly, Saraki and Dogara, lacked the moral capacity to hold positions in the country.
He said: “They have shown that they lack the requisite credibility and moral capacity to hold the position of authority. It is clear that the insertions are huge, which also signifies the size of the criminality behind the intent to hijack the budget.’’
We’ll resist attempts to scrap constituency projects—Senate
But in a swift reaction, the Senate vowed to resist attempts to scrap constituency projects, just as it accused the executive arm of the government of hiring “protest contractors” in Abuja, to protest against activities of the National Assembly.
It added that more than 65 percent of protests outside the National Assembly were sponsored by government officials.
Describing the protesters as being misled to blackmail the National Assembly, the Senate noted that lawmakers do not award contracts for constituency projects as they also do not pay for the contracts.
It, however, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, investigate the protest and call his officials to order.
Senate’s decision to resist any move to scrap constituency projects was sequel to a motion by Senator Banabas Gemade (Benue North East), following the protest.
Gemade brought to the notice of the Senate, the protest outside the National Assembly complex and condemned it. He advised the executive arm of government to focus on actions that would ensure even distribution of projects.
In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Sakari, who called on those who have scores to settle to find other means of doing so, said what was important was the need to continue with the issue of educating the public on the importance of constituency projects and to correct misconceptions about the project.