The House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, delivered an indirect rebuke at President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, as he cautioned “state actors’’ against misapplying state prerogative of mercy either to corrupt officials, or violators of the nation’s security.
Mr. Tambuwal stated this at the opening of a two-day national conference on corruption and national security in Nigeria organized by the Institute for Anti-Corruption Studies, University of Abuja.
He said for the nation to succeed in the fight against corruption “state actors” must have a “better understanding of the law”.
“A situation whereby you misapply the law even to grant pardon or whatever it is, we need to really look at that. Because if you don’t understand the law you may tend to misapply the law,” the speaker said.
“So there is the need for us at the high places to increase our capacity of understanding our legal system, and the laws that relate to issues of security and fight against corruption for us to apply them in the best interest of the citizenry.”
The Speaker’s indirect comments are the first from the National Assembly leadership since the controversial state pardon granted former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former Managing Director of Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama.
The Chairman of the National Assembly, Senate President David Mark, was at the National Council of States meeting that approved the controversial pardon; and he did not oppose it.
Mr. Tambuwal’s remarks also come as the nation struggles to come to terms with a proposed amnesty for extremist groups.
He has made a reputation for his often cutting remarks at the presidency-a part of an entrenched frosty relation between the House he leads, and the executive.
The speaker spoke days after receiving an animated endorsement from former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, to seek “higher office” -a recommendation widely interpreted to mean a push at the presidency in 2015.
In his address on corruption and security, Mr. Tambuwal said both were key challenges facing the nation, and regretted that government agencies working in these sectors had faced serious budget cuts in recent years.
“There is the need for the government to properly fund the security agencies for them to have proper training to face the challenges of insecurity especially terrorism, which is a new phenomenon around here,” he said.
“There is also the need for our anti-corruption agencies not only to be independent in paper but also to have adequate funding and the requisite financial muscle to face the uphill task in the fight against corruption.’’
He challenged the conference, largely made up of personalities from the academia and the civil society, to study the funding pattern of the anti-corruption agencies over the years.
He said attempts by the National Assembly to address the funding anomaly in the budget had often been misconstrued by some sections of the public as “padding of the budget and meddlesome”.
“I have not blamed anyone for the poor funding and I am not exonerating the National Assembly from that lack of funding for anti-corruption agencies.
“But we need the support of every Nigerian to understand that when the National Assembly says a particular funding being proposed by the executive to any agency of government is inadequate, we will make efforts to provide for such critical agencies.
“So I am using this platform to appeal that Nigerians should understand the role of the legislature in the budgeting process. We are not meddlers, we are not being meddlesome when we say certain provisions being proposed by the executive arm of government should be enhanced for that agency of government to function effectively,’’ he said.
The speaker also called for a critical overhaul of the legal and justice system in the country to boost the fight against corruption and insecurity.