KADUNA State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai yesterday fired back at the House of Representatives and its Speaker Yakubu Dogara over the National Assembly budget controversy.
“I don’t share public funds like you,” the governor told the lawmakers.
He was responding to Tuesday’s attack on him by Speaker Dogara, who published his pay slips. Besides, the Green Chamber, which accused the governor of distracting the National Assembly and advised him to face Kaduna’s problems.
The House accused El-Rufai of publishing what it called security budget as his security vote, challenging him to publish his personal security vote like the Speaker’s salary’s pay slip.
All efforts to reach the House spokesman, Abdulrasak Namdas, for reaction to the governor’s statement were unsuccessful as he did not pick his calls.
Namdas’ deputy, Jonathan Gaza and the Speaker’ Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, could not also be reached.
The text messages sent to them were also not replied.
El-Rufai drew the ire of the lawmakers by challenging them to make their budget public. He told his challengers that there was nothing like security votes.
Faulting the legislators ‘unnecessary distraction’s response to a simple request for a transparent National Assembly budget, El-Rufai picked holes in Dogara’s pay slip.
In a statement by his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan, El-Rufai said: “The figures in the pay slips presented for the Honorable Speaker are in stark contrast to the declaration by The Economist regarding the earnings of NASS members. One of the claims cannot be right.”
Insisting that he has no security vote, the governor said: “The Kaduna State Government has presented details of its security budget. What was presented represents the only security vote for the entire government. As the figures show, there is no security vote for the Governor of Kaduna State.
“This may be a shock to those used to the notion of security votes as barely disguised slush funds, but we do not operate such a system in Kaduna.
“Our budgets specify what is voted as assistance to security agencies, and its expenditure is properly recorded and accounted for. These are not monies given to or spent by the governor.
“If the leaders of the NASS have security votes allocated to or personally collected by them, they might wish to disclose such.
“Our security spending does not operate like the NASS system of sharing public funds in such an opaque fashion that even NASS members do not know how their entire budget is broken down or what the leadership gets as its ‘running costs’.
“The House of Representatives has responded with predictable tetchiness to a simple and clear demand that details of the National Assembly budget be made public. “It is inconceivable that an important institution, vested by the Constitution with representation, lawmaking and oversight powers, has for at least seven years ignored the imperative to set an example of transparency, despite being severally urged to do so.
“Despite the rush to personal attacks on a matter of public policy, we cannot allow the enthronement of the republic of distraction. It is important that everyone who is interested in protecting and advancing democratic discourse should stay focused on the issue.
“It is strange that persons entrusted with high office will justify their abdication of the responsibility to be transparent in such cavalier fashion. We don’t believe that most of our esteemed legislators will construe a demand for transparency as aimed at undermining the National Assembly.
“However, notwithstanding the intemperate response of the spokesman of the House of Representatives, the demand that the NASS budget be made public will not go away. It is not personal, and there is a strong civic constituency that is demanding it. The sooner all of us in public life recognized that the game has changed, and that segments of civil society and indeed everyday citizens of Nigeria, are much more aware, astute and advanced than the state of our politics, the better for our democratic health.”