• Defends non-assent to budget, Jonathan meets NASS
• Caretaker panel not targeted at Obasanjo, PDP insists
SINCE President Goodluck Jonathan is committed to fulfilling his mandate to Nigerians, he should not be distracted by the controversy over his eligibility for a second term or not, according to the Presidency.
Besides, the Presidency Wednesday defended again the delay in assenting to the 2013 Appropriation Bill by Jonathan, saying the action was in the overall national interest. However, it acknowledged that consultations were ongoing with the appropriate stakeholders to resolve grey areas in the budget.
Consequently, Jonathan last night held a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly jointly led by the Senate President, David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Dismissing the single-term debate as diversionary, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, said Wednesday that it was ill-timed.
In a statement, Okupe said: “Our attention has been drawn to issues raised by some political leaders to the effect that President Goodluck Jonathan signed an agreement with some governors elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party prior to the party’s presidential primaries in 2011. From time immemorial, for every major event or contest in the world, there is always a time and a season apportioned.
“We wish to state categorically that this is neither the time nor the season to begin electioneering campaign or related discourse for the 2015 presidential elections and so President Goodluck Jonathan will not jump the gun. Mr. President will therefore stoutly resist any disguised or open attempt to drag him into any debates, arguments or political discussions relating to a presidential election in 2015.
“The president considers this as an invidious attempt to sway him from his chosen pursuit of the set out constituents of the transformation agenda which form the basis upon which Nigerians overwhelmingly elected him to steer the ship of the nation in 2011,” Okupe said.
He continued: “For now, this is our position on this matter and we assure Nigerians of Mr. President’s resolve to continue to devote his energy to a successful implementation of the transformation agenda, fix Nigeria and thereby justify the mandate freely given to him by the Nigerian people.”
Also, following the crisis rocking the South West chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the national headquarters of the party yesterday said the insinuation that the setting up of 17-member caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the party in the South West zone was an act of vindictiveness was not true.
The caretaker committee Chairman, Chief Ishola Filani, said that the setting up of the caretaker committee for the South West was not directed at the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, but it was a fulfilment of a court order.
Inaugurating the committee in Abuja, the Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Sam Sam Jaja said the party was only obeying a court order and charged the committee members to reconcile party members who have issues.
“The inauguration is in obedience to the court order. The caretaker committee is inaugurated to take charge of the affairs of the South West zone. Your task and responsibility is not an enviable one, it is quite demanding, you have to make some sacrifices. Your being inaugurated is for the interest of the party to ensure that the party takes it place in the South West,” Jaja said.
Filani acknowledged that the task of the committee was onerous, but said that the party was only following due process.
“Ours is to reconcile the people, we require your support and prayers so that we can succeed,” he said.
Also sworn in was Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju, as the new National Auditor of the party, following the removal of Chief Bode Mustapha, by the leadership of the party.
Other high-level government officials at the meeting of Jonathan with NASS leaders included the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Affairs, Joy Emordi and Director General, Budget Office, Bright Okongwu.
But it was not clear at press time when the budget would be signed.
Speaking in Abuja to State House correspondents at the post-Federal Executive Council (FEC), Presidential Spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, explained that government was intent on finding the best deal possible for the people on the budget.
He said it “is all about making sure the best is done in the interest of Nigerians,” adding that the position of government on the issue was predicated on the submission of Okonjo-Iweala.
He noted that there were grey areas in the document that needed to be cleared but assured that once this critical stage was crossed by the two arms of government, the president would sign the budget.
Abati said since the issue involved two arms of government there would be the need for clarification but he regretted that the media appeared to present the false impression of conflict or territorial breaches.
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