2019 Budget: Buhari scolds unruly lawmakers

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President Muhammadu Buhari was yesterday forced to caution some recalcitrant members of the National Assembly who jeered at him as he presented the 2019 Appropriation Bill.

They interrupted his remarks at the presentation of the N8.83 trillion budget proposals, but the President remained calm, even as he gently scolded the unruly lawmakers.

“May I appeal to the honourable members that the world is watching us… we’re supposed to be above this,” Buhari said calmly.

It was, however, not all booing and jeering at yesterday’s presentation to the joint session of the National Assembly.

Some of the lawmakers at the Green Chamber, venue of the yearly “ritual”, hailed President Buhari as he did a chronicle of his achievements.

Following the intermittent hostilities exhibited by some of the opposition lawmakers and aggrieved All Progressives Congress (APC) members, the President cautioned them to be mindful of their behaviour.

”The world is watching us,” he said and added: “you are only messing up yourselves.”

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There were signs that all was not well when the President entered the lobby of the National Assembly to behold lawmakers singing anti-Buhari songs.

As this went on, other groups of lawmakers cheered the President as he made his way into the House of Representatives chamber.

There was confusion in the complex as anti and pro-Buhari elements squared up to one another.

Inside the chamber, a protest by mostly members of the House welcomed the President.

On sighting Buhari, some House members and senators burst into songs.

“Freedom comes by struggle, freedom comes by struggle, by struggle, freedom comes,” they sang.

But pro-Buhari members replied, singing: “Sai baba, sai baba”.

The development was demeaning, observers said.

The National Anthem was taken amid the confusion as Senate President Bukola Saraki laboured to maintain decorum in the tension-soaked chamber.

Saraki continued to bang the gavel on the table to keep the peace to no avail.

The shouting became even more serious when Buhari told the lawmakers that the details of the Appropriation Bill would be given by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Amina Mohammed.

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What followed was “no, no, no”.

The President said the economy had substantially recovered. The lawmakers yelled “no, no, no; you are lying.”

Buhari was then compelled to offer some words of caution saying “the world is watching us”.

Every step the President took was booed and jeered by the irritant hecklers.

When the President said that the Federal Government had made some milestone in the fight against corruption, the lawmakers screamed “no, no, no, grass cutter, grass cutter.”

The sharp division almost marred the presentation of the budget but President Buhari kept his cool, ignoring side comments.

As President Buhari reeled out the progress made in the water sector, one of the lawmakers shouted “lie, lie, lie; it is not true, it’s not correct, propaganda, campaign speech.”

A lawmaker was heard shouting: “This is open challenge to the President. It is completely unacceptable.”

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Another shouted: “Some of our colleagues have gone to a ridiculous level to embarrass Mr. President. We should not allow that.”

At a stage, it seemed that some of the antagonists descended to the level of tampering with the microphone to make it impossible to hear the President.

The stage appeared to have been set when Saraki merely introduced President Buhari without backing it up with the usual complimentary speech.

When the President concluded his presentation, some aggrieved senators and House members blocked the Speaker Yakubu Dogara from giving his vote of thanks.

On Tuesday, All Progressives Congress (APC) senators met to articulate how to forestall any unpleasant development during the presentation of the budget.

It was learnt that the House held a closed door meeting early yesterday to prevail on their members to behave themselves.

Some aggrieved APC lawmakers, who had come with placards to the chamber, were prevailed upon not to embarrass the President with their protest.

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