Senate President Ahmad Lawan has denied allegations that he and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, collected a $10 million bribe to pass the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which provides 3% to host communities.

He rejected the allegations, which had also suggested that the bribery was facilitated by a serving minister, while speaking to correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Monday.
He said even though the current administration wants to make it possible for Nigerians to freely express themselves, people must not resort to ridiculing leaders.
Lawan said: “But of course, bigger legacies will be that the orientation of Nigerians in such that they are free to say whatever they want to say about their government, about their leaders, and so on and so forth and that we have really established ourselves as an administration.

“People say anything or everything about the President, about the administration, about members of National Assembly, they call us names, and this is part of the intangible dividends of democracy.

“But we are determined to ensure that the space is wide open for everybody to say whatever he wants to say. But I will advise that don’t say things that are bad because people are in the habit of that.

“Recently somebody said $10 million was given to the Speaker and the Senate President to give to members of the National Assembly to pass 3% host community development fund. That is funny, but also very serious.

“I really want to take this opportunity to make exceptions to those kinds of unwarranted, unprovable, false and fake information being fed to the Nigerian public and the danger people will face with this is you cause unnecessary damage to the reputation of people.

“I had an occasion to take someone to court because of this kind of thing about three months ago, but Nigerians are better judges than anywhere else.

“So, the freedom of expression is there, probably more than anywhere in the world, but I want to caution that Nigerians should always think positive about their leaders and their administration and their governments and if they have issues they feel very strongly about, let them speak the truth and we are prepared to make corrections that we feel should be able to make us do better.”

The Senate President said he discussed the 2022 budget with the president and how enough money can be allocated to security agencies to make them more effective and as well for the completion of legacy projects that will be commissioned next year.

He explained: “We also had discussions on the budget 2022. We believe that the budget for 2022 will be the icing on the cake, so to speak. That is to say that we have to make sufficient provisions for the security agencies and also sufficient provisions for our legacy projects.

“We hope and our desire now is in tandem with what the Presidency wants. That is to ensure that the legacy projects are completed by next year by the grace of God.
“These are the major projects, like the second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway and so on and so forth, that these projects are completed within next year and Mr President is able to commission them for Nigerians to benefit.
“These are projects that we have to make significant or sufficient provisions in the 2022 budget so that we’re able to complete them. They should be part of what will be part of the legacies Mr President owes to this country in the area of infrastructure.”

Lawan also revealed that he had a discussion with the president on ways to enhance revenues so as to stop the current resort to borrowing, noting that the non-remittance of funds by many government agencies was a source of concern.
He stated: “We also had discussions on some other governance issues that have to do with making the revenues in the country, especially for government at the federal and the state levels, and even local governments even more. There are so many agencies of government that are not remitting their internally generated revenues, and this is something that we have to address and address as swiftly as possible and as quickly as possible because we need to find a way of reducing the borrowing that we do.

“So, if there are areas that we can now get revenues that will help us reduce the amount of borrowing, then so be it, and this is something that we all agree with Mr President that we should continue to look at those areas that we need to improve on revenue generation and collection.

“Thank God, we are on the same page with Mr President, in all these issues, and for us, it’s a renewal of our commitment to Nigerians and to the administration, that in the National Assembly, our focus is Nigeria, our priority is Nigeria, we have no personal interest in anything. What will make Nigeria better is what concerns us. At the end of the day, we will have a date with history and want to be on the right side of history.”

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