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LGs: You’re being misled, Buhari tells Obasanjo • He has lost touch with politics — Presidency

Posted by Segun Olatunji, Kemi Obasola and Olaolu Oladipo on 2005/08/08 | Views: 344 |

LGs: You’re being misled, Buhari tells Obasanjo • He has lost touch with politics — Presidency

The presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in 2003 and former Head of State, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), on Monday criticised President Olusegun Obasanjo for holding on to funds due to Lagos State councils from the Federation Account.

The presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in 2003 and former Head of State, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), on Monday criticised President Olusegun Obasanjo for holding on to funds due to Lagos State councils from the Federation Account.

He said, Obasanjo allowed himself to be misled by members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, who were regretting their boycott of the last council poll.

The former Head of State advised the President to release the funds without further delay.

Buhari spoke just as the Lagos State Government reaffirmed that it would not conduct fresh election into the councils as is being demanded by the PDP and reportedly by the Federal Government.

Buhari, in a two-page statement made available to THE PUNCH in Kaduna, argued that since the Lagos State Government had taken the civilised path of going through the judicial process, pursuing the matter up to the Supreme Court which had decided that the money be released, there was no basis for the President to continue holding on to the funds.

Following the intervention of a committee led by Prince Bola Ajibola, the Federal Government on Friday released N10billion out of the N34billion due to Lagos councils.

There was a strong indication on Sunday that The Presidency was tying the release of the balance of N24billion onto the conduct of a fresh poll in the state.

But Buhari accused Obasanjo of wilfully disobeying the orders of the Supreme Court and other lower courts regarding the release of the funds.

He said the President must rise above partisan politics and act like a statesman by releasing the withheld funds to the state government immediately, to assuage the suffering of the ordinary people of the state.

Buhari added, “Lagos State has done what any civilised government believing in the democratic process should do. It has gone to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has ruled that The Presidency has no power to withhold the funds due to any tier from the Federation Account.

“But the President, who publicly declared during the monthly media chat, that he would release the funds as soon as the court pronounced on the matter, has regrettably disobeyed the lawful order of the Supreme Court, hiding behind flimsy excuses.

“Moreover, the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Binta Nyako; and the Federal High Court, Lagos, presided over by Justice Dan Abutu, have strengthened the legality of the case of Lagos State by asserting that the President is not empowered to withhold the funds and that the councils created were validly created, can sue and can be sued while awaiting listing by the National Assembly.

“It is unfortunate that despite those clear judgments and the widespread public opinion expressed by statesmen and civil society organisations, the President has remained obstinate and preferred to listen to the jaundiced views of his party members than to enlightened opinion of the masses and the elite.

“With the recent intervention of eminent leaders from the South-West, the time has come now to ask President Obasanjo to rise above petty partisan rivalry, ego-tripping and assume the posture and profile of a statesman as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The President should stop seeing himself as the presidential candidate of the PDP. That election took place two years ago. Now is the time for nation-building.”

In a swift reaction, the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said Buhari had lost touch with Nigerian politics.

He said, “Mr. President does not need any lesson in statesmanship from a man like Buhari. Let him first go and check his own record in public office before he tries to tell us anything. And if he wants to talk about people smarting from a boycott in past election, the truth is that he is still smarting from his own defeat and his disastrous outing in 2003 when he was overwhelmingly rejected by the people of this country.

“Who is the person doing the misleading? Can anybody mislead a great man like that? Mr. President is the supreme leader of the nation and the supreme leader of the PDP. Nobody can mislead him.

“The allegation is coming from a drowning man, a man whose political future is dwindling by the day and a man who clearly has nothing to offer this country.

“He clearly has no idea of what is going on. Here you have a situation where somebody is trying their best to resolve this matter in an amicable and reasonable manner, and then a Buhari gets in and tries to put petrol in the fire.”

He asked Buhari not to dabble into the impasse over Lagos council funds.

He said, “Buhari does not know anything about it, he was not part of the negotiation and it is beyond his understanding. And we do not need lessons in morality from him of all people.

“We are beyond the stage of interpretation of judgment now because long ago, we agreed to disagree on the interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment. That is what has brought us to where we found ourselves very recently. But thankfully, we have moved on from there and elders committee has come into the matter and we are trying to bridge our differences in a peaceful and amicable way with LGs.

“They (Lagos State) have made some concessions and we commend them for that and we (the Federal Government) have also taken the right step in the right direction to release part of the funds. None of us needs lessons from Buhari at this stage who wants to scuttle everything and takes us back to square one.”

The Lagos State Government has, however, insisted that it would not conduct fresh election into the councils, even though it has received the N10billion.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, said fresh election was not part of the truce terms proposed by the Ajibola committee.

Alake told journalists in Lagos, "There is nothing like re- election, I think that it is the satanic wish of the political cult in the Lagos PDP.

“On what basis would we be asked to conduct fresh elections? In the first instance, don't forget that all the courts — that is the Supreme Court, Federal and Lagos High courts — confirmed the validity of the elections into the local government councils.

"Secondly, of all the states that did the same thing as we did, none of them was made to conduct fresh election before they were paid their money. Remember that there were four other states.

"Now, if we are being given a condition, I will regard that as rumour. If Mr. President himself comes out to say that we must conduct a fresh election before we are given the rest of our money, then to all rational minds, it would appear as if he is a President of PDP and not the President of the whole Nigeria, because the four other states are all PDP states and this an AD state.

"That would portray the President as being very partisan. I don't want to believe that the President would come out to make such a condition in public, I would for now assume that this is the satanic wish of our enemies.”

The commissioner said that the N10billion received was a drop in the ocean.

But he said it was welcome and would go long way in repaying the money borrowed from other sources to fund the 57 local governments in the last 18 months.

According to him, the state spent nothing less than N26billion to ensure that the local governments did not collapse, and that teachers as well as other workers did not suffer.

He said if the state had not done that, there would have been civil unrest and crisis in the state.

The commissioner described it as a misconception to think that the state settled for part payment.

He said if the Federal Government wanted to release the money in tranches, it was all well and good.

Alake added that it was sad that President Obasanjo promised at the May Day rally in 2004 in Lagos that if the Supreme Court asked him to release the money, he would do so; only to renege on his promise after the December 10 verdict of the court.

He said the N10billion already collected, apart from being used to pay arrears of salaries, would be returned to the state's coffers where money was drawn from to keep the local governments going.

He also said with the release of some funds, the state government would see if some developmental projects in the local govermnets could commence.

The National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy, Chief Bisi Akande, chided the Federal Government for attaching conditions to the release of the balance of the withheld local government funds.

Speaking with our correspondents on Monday, he said the initial decision to withhold the money was illegal.

Akande said, "It is the money of the federation, and there is a lot of difference between the federation and the Federal Government. The federation owns the money and not the Federal Government."

The PUNCH, Tuesday, August 09, 2005

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Comments (23)

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