National Assembly backs government’s action against South Africa

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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Nigeria's National Assembly

The national Assembly says it is on the same page with the executive arm of government in addressing the matter of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.

Speaker of the House of representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila made the declaration on Friday while addressing Journalists soon after he met behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said the legislators would ensure that all citizens of Nigeria are well protected wherever they find themselves.

“Engagement with the President is not out of place even on a normal day but these are not normal days. The country in the last few days has witnessed unfortunate incidence in the last few days in South Africa. As you are aware, I cut my trip to Tanzania to return with the hope of reconvening the house so that we can discuss this very important issue. We have called that off because events have overtaken, the government has taken proactive steps, the same we would have taken.

“We are all on the same page with the president and the government. So, I came to fully discussed that with Mr. President and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.

“I believe we will stand with and by Nigerians. We have issued a statement today and is in tandem with what the executive is doing and we stand by our citizens. Our priority is to protect the welfare of our citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the President is doing.” he said.

Compensation

Commenting on the call by the Nigerian government that Nigerians affected by the attacks be fully compensated and reports emanating that the South African government had said there are no provisions for compensation in their laws, the Speaker said there are many other ways of tackling the problem.

I don’t know if that statement is official or an off the cuff statement by somebody. When it’s official, we will take further steps. Beyound the litigation process in South Africa, there are probably other avenues that are international that we can pursue, the Speaker stated.

On whether the matter will lead to the cutting of diplomatic ties with South Africa, he said: We are not there yet but nothing is off the table, we will take each day as it comes. As of now the President has taken proactive steps in evacuating our citizens, recalling the High Commissioner and other things will follow.

National Issues

Speaker Gbajabiamila said his discussion with the President at Friday’s meeting centred on national issues like security and the early presentation of next year’s budget to the National Assembly.

He said: “We discussed the issue of the budget, as you are aware, we want to bring the budget circle back to what it used to be, January-December and the only way to do that is for an early presentation of the budget and we have discussed that. 

“I cannot give you a definite date for the budget presentation but I know the budget is going to come as early as possible. It maybe the end of this month or shortly thereafter, but I cannot give you and definite date. But it’s going to be an early presentation so that we can pass the budget before the end of the year and return to the January to December circle.”

“We discussed security issues and the issue of the recent $9 billion award against Nigeria. Clearly, we are in opposition to that and steps will be taken.”

Omolayo.A