Jonathan, National Assembly, Others Sued over 2013 Budget

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President Goodluck Jonathan

* House set to probe job-for-cash scandal in public service

By Onwuka Nzeshi and Chuks Okocha

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has been asked to declare the  2013 Appropriation Bill awaiting presidential assent as inchoate following the zero allocation given to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC)  in the budget.

This came as the House of Representatives is getting set to investigate allegations of bribery and outright  sale of job slots in the Federal Civil Service.

The suit, filed by  one Mr. Ezugwu Emmanuel Anene, has as respondents President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark;  the House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; the Attorney General of the Federation and the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The plaintiff, in the originating summons to the suit dated February 1, said the 1999 Constitution stipulated in section 4 (2) 5 (1) that the National Assembly should make laws and legislation for peace, order and good governance of the federation and therefore by giving  zero allocation to SEC, the legislature has failed to make laws for peace, order and good governance.

He also urged the court to hold that the zero allocation  to SEC violated sections 1 (1) 8  (2) 13, 19, (1) (2) of the Investment and Security Act.

Among questions he is seeking answers from the court are whether the 2013 Appropriation Bill passed with zero allocation to SEC, a body established by the Act of the National Assembly is constitutional; and if no, whether the 2013 appropriation bill is inchoate?

He averred that if the court should consider the bill inchoate, it should decide on whether the president could assent to an inchoate bill; and if the answer is no, the court should rule on whether the National Assembly has by its action had repealed SEC.

He is also asking the court to decide whether the Director General of SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh, could be removed by a resolution of the House of Representatives and whether  the failure to remove her  in line with the resolution of the House is enough grounds for the National Assembly to give zero allocation to SEC.

The plaintiff is also seeking reliefs from the court, which include a  declaration that the National Assembly has no constitutional powers to give zero allocation to SEC and a further declaration that by the zero allocation to  SEC  the 2013 Appropriation Bill pending before the president for assent is inchoate.

He argued that the president “cannot assent to an inchoate bill, as doing so in the instant case will technically repeal SEC, a body established by an act of the National Assembly.”

He is also seeking a declaration restraining Jonathan from assenting to the bill and another declaration that the House has no constitutional powers to ask the president to remove Oteh.

The suit is expected to be assigned tomorrow to a judge for hearing.
Meanwhile, the lower chamber of the National Assembly had last December  passed a resolution mandating its Joint  Committee on Public Service Matters, Employment Labour and Productivity, Anti-corruption, National Ethics and Values to investigate allegations that recruitment into the civil service had become  a matter of  cash and carry.

Chairman, House Committee on Public Service Matters, Hon. Andrew Uchendu (PDP/Rivers), said yesterday in Abuja that the investigation would  be directed at the  recruitment rackets in various  Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to unearth to who have compromised merit and  the quality of service delivery in the federal bureaucracy for pecuniary benefit.

Uchendu said  already members of the joint committee had held preliminary meetings and decided to invite memoranda from  the MDAs and  the Federal Civil Service Commission on the issue.

“We have done  a random sampling of organisations and agencies  in the federal public service and we have requested them to send us memoranda detailing all the recruitments  they have undertaken between 2007 and 2012 as well as the procedures they adopted in these exercises.

“The fact is that a number of Nigerians have written petitions complaining that they have been shortchanged in various  recruitment exercises into the public service.
“We want to take a second look at some of our key policies such as federal character, quota system and zoning because experience has shown that they have become indirect ways of enthroning mediocrity in the polity.

“We think that it is time for Nigeria to go back and enthrone meritocracy in the conduct of all our affairs, particularly in the civil  service, which is the engine room of  governance,” Uchendu said.

The lawmaker recalled that in recent years, the civil service has been criticised over how it was discharging its core duties.

He explained that  it has become a national consensus that the civil service has lost its  pride and  become a major contributor to poor service delivery and bad governance in Nigeria.

According to him, the problem of the civil service  starts with recruitment just as he accused the Federal Civil Service Commission of promoting mediocrity and incompetence during the recruitment into the  service.

The bribe-for-job  scandal reached a head on January 15 when some MDAs tacitly admitted before the Senate Committee on Federal Character  that they were involved in the practice as none of their heads could categorically denied that their organisations do not take money from applicants before giving them jobs.

Senator Uche Chukwumerije during a session involving the Senate Committee, Federal Character Commission (FCC) as well as MDAs, had asked the representatives of the agencies to boldly raise up their hands if they knew they were not taking bribe before recruiting employees into their organisations.

Except the representative of National Security for Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who raised up his hands, others who had earlier boasted of observing merit in their recruitment processes could not summon courage to raise up their hands.