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Budget 2017 and Nigerian leadership irresponsibilty

By Dele Sobowale

“In every community there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably, the most dangerous people seek power” —Saul Bellow. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 124).

When future historians turn their attention to the years 1999 to 2017, they must ask themselves several questions. The first must be: what crimes did the people of Nigeria commit to deserve the people they elected into the offices of President, Vice President, Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and State Governors? The second naturally follows from the first. How on earth could Nigerians stand idly by while those elected ruined their lives and those of their kids for generations to come?  Even for a country that apparently can no longer be shocked, the months of February to mid-April 2017 have provided more evidence to prove that this country is now not only led by people who are dangerous to the rest of us, but, they have remorselessly surrounded themselves with friends and associates who are even more dangerous. Huge sums of money have been discovered in four different places, apparently abandoned by people whose lunacy must be suspect while their kleptomania is not in doubt. The N13bn discovered in a flat in Osborne Road, Ikoyi, serves to illustrate the run-away madness that has taken control of our leaders and their associates. A few hours after its discovery was announced by a less than professional, but publicity-seeking Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, claims regarding ownership were made by several people who probably need to have their heads examined.

Two Governors (?) and a discredited former spokesman of the former government proclaimed that they knew the owner. Naturally, the finger of accusation was pointed at their known political foe. Then, the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, stepped forward to claim it. Other rumours state that the money was approved for the NIA by former President Jonathan – who left office almost two years ago. The politicians’ statements should not delay us. What can one expect from political slum gutter dwellers?

Joint public hearing on 2017 budget

It is the NIA’s claim that should bother us because Nigerian news is on the internet. That admission, right or wrong, should be so embarrassing to the Federal Government and Nigerians as to warrant the dismissal of some top people. What would the world think of us after reading that those running our “intelligence” agency have no more brains than someone with an Intelligence Quotient, I.Q, of 10 – meaning an idiot? Whoever heard of any group of intelligent people keeping in cash more money than seven states of Nigeria would receive in a month? The discovery and the open admission of ownership will eventually raise more embarrassing questions than the Federal Government can reasonably answer. Two will illustrate the problem.

One, is that all the pool of money taken out of the banking sector and stored away by this government agency and if not where is the rest and how much? Two, who authorized it? If, as is being speculated, it was Jonathan, was Buhari told about it? And, are we supposed to believe that they have been spending funds approved by GEJ two years after the man left office? Why? The reader can easily see how the guys at NIA, by publicly, instead of covertly, claiming ownership had pushed Buhari into a tight corner – after disgracing their country.

Irresponsible as the NIA’s approach to claiming the money was, assuming the agency is the owner, it pales by comparison with the irresponsibility of Nigeria’s top four public officials. The President is the nation’s number one servant employed to perform certain tasks – failing which he should honourably resign. The Vice President, number two, is the one occupying the position which the Americans describe as “a heart beat away from the Presidency”. It is automatic that the VP takes over in a Presidential system once the former is indisposed. So, he shares the responsibilities of office in the Executive branch.

The Senate President is the leader of the Legislative Branch whose functions are also well-spelt out in the constitution and every statute enacted. His counterpart in the House of Representatives is the Speaker.  Since there is a political opposition, the leaders of opposition like the Minority Leaders constitute the rest of the leadership of the second estate of the Realm called parliament.

The third estate – the Judiciary – is exonerated in the charges against the political leadership that will follow because they are just victims, like the rest of us, of the irresponsibility exhibited by the Presidency and the lawmakers – irrespective of political affiliation.

The Fourth Estate of the Realm, as Edmund Burke, 1729-1797, had called the Media, also shares in the blame for the issue at stake here. The Media has allowed the Executive and the Legislature to get away with dereliction of duty bordering on sabotage of the Nigerian economy.

This article is being written on April 16, 2017, Easter Day. The next day is a public holiday. So, work will not resume for most Nigerians until the 18th of the month. But, the National Assembly, NASS, is on its Easter break (“from what?” you might ask) and the “lawmakers” generally never in a hurry to return from holidays will probably not return to work until later. Even if they resume on April 18, 2017, it would still be too late and condemnable. Why?

For several days before they went on recess, the Senate President and the Speaker instructed the various committees of the NASS to submit their budget reports before departure for undeserved rest.

Saraki and Dogara might as well have been talking to mules. They were both ignored by their colleagues. Not a single Senator or Representative raised a voice in protest on behalf of the people to remind our “servants” that it is not only disgraceful to place pleasure before business; it is highly unethical. No single committee handed in its report before they went home. That also tells us a lot about the leaders at the top of government in Nigeria. Without exception, all the legislators share the blame for this because it is a bi-partisan show of shame. But, the All Progressives Congress, APC, now in the majority, must be held primarily responsible for this atrocity.

Sadly, the NASS was not solely responsible for the mess in which Nigeria finds itself. The Executive branch, especially the Presidency, was a willing participant in the outrage. After sending in the 2017 Budget, as usual, without all the details required for the NASS to arrive at informed decisions on the proposal before them, information available indicates that some of the Ministries and Agencies were still sending amendments to the original bill Buhari presented to the NASS. Some organs of government, Customs, EFCC for instance, are still to defend their estimates for obvious reasons.

Furthermore, related issues such as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, which showed significant deviations from the 2017 Budget got in the way. The touted Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP, promised for February was launched twice – once in March by the VP and then again in April by Buhari. Meanwhile the 2017 Budget languished in the NASS without anybody in the Executive pressing for timely passage. While Buhari was away for health reasons, the VP, who also doubles as Chairman of the Economic Management Team, EMT, embarked on a number of cosmetic initiatives for which he received high praises from the gullible. Not once was Osinbajo known to call on the NASS to speed up action on the budget.

The government’s Liason Officer in the NASS, former Senator Ita Enang’s past provides an explanation regarding how the Buhari administration continues to get entangled in confusion. Despite the obvious dangers posed by so much delay in passing the 2017 budget to the vital interests of the country, Mr Enang remained silent…

To be continued.

SHORT AND SHARP

Buhari missed the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting of Wednesday April 10, 2017, though he was in Aso Rock. Alhaji Lai Mohammed later announced that it is not unusual for Presidents to miss FEC meetings even when they are in the rock.  The Information Minister once complained that somebody called him “Lie” Mohammed without pointing to a lie he told.  Well, we need not look far.  No President military or civilian ever missed a meeting when present in the Rock.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.