By Ben Agande, Inalegwu Shaibu &Â Luka Binniyat
ABUJAâ€” MINORITY members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, said they were in agreement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his accusation that the National Assembly was corrupt. They, however, insisted that Obasanjo was their â€œgrand-father in corruptionâ€
Minority Leader of the Reps, Mr. Ali Ndume, ANPP, Borno, who addressed National Assembly Correspondents on behalf of the caucus, also said the comment by former President Obasanjo, Wednesday, that members of the Senate and the Reps were corrupt through allotting bogus allowances to themselves and inflating budgets to later benefit from it, were correct.
He added that it was Obasanjo who taught the National Assembly how to be corrupt.
Ndume said: â€œObasanjo is our father and grand-father in corruption. I cannot sit here and tell you that we are not corrupt. Obasanjo was correct to say that we insert constituency projects in the budget and that we decide who the contractors would be.
â€œBut that is because everyone wants to make sure that there is a project for his constituency each year. Why should I not want to insist that the contractor must come from my constituency? If after the job has been executed and the contractor comes to me, or to my father or mother and says, â€˜take ten thousandâ€™, well,Â that is another issue.
â€œBut was it not Obsanjo that bribed every member of the HouseÂ in 2006 with N50 million each to support his failed third term agenda? I want the Press to go and find out what was the asset and bank account of Obasanjo before he became President in 1999. Then go and check his bank account now, and his asset, then you will understand what I am saying.
â€œObasanjo should have said that politicians are corrupt, not only the National Assembly, because he is the father and grandfather of corruption in Nigeria.â€
Ndume also scored President Goodluck Jonathan performance in office since coming to office, five months ago. The Rep who scored the President low, accused him of abandoning his responsibility to the Nigeria people by getting fully engaged in campaigning for his 2011 Presidential ambition
He said: â€œWe are worried that with only four months to go to the end of the year, President Jonathan is yet to assent to the amended 2010 budget and also the 2010 supplementary budget.
â€œHe was the one that was adding and subtracting the budget. After adding about N400 billion to it, we still passed it last month, but he is too busy with his 2011 campaign to assent to it.
â€œThis is not to talk about its implementation, this has been our biggest problem since 1999 when former President Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, set a wrong precedent of contempt for budget implementation in his eight years rule.
â€œThe President has abandoned his duties to fully concentrate on campaigning for 2011 presidency, but he has forgotten that it is only how effectively he has ruled that he would be adjudged for re_election, if votes are to matter this time.â€
Ndume said that Nigerians hadÂ never been so insecure in the history of the country, adding: â€œOrganised robbery kingpins have taken over the land and we are all at their mercy. In the past few months, kidnappers have perfected their act and no one is spared whether rich or poor. Citizens now live in perpetual fear as everybody is at risk of falling victim to the marauding kidnapers under this government.â€
The opposition in the Reps lampooned the PDP for making â€œzoningâ€ a national affair, stressingÂ that the President has allowed himself to be held captive by political jobbers agitating against zoning in the PDP
Ndume said: â€œThis government has failed. We in the National Assembly have also disappointed the people. We have done below average as our contributions have not led to improvement in the lives of our electorate.â€
Prove we are corrupt, Senators tell Obasanjo
Senators also reacted angrily to former President Obasanjoâ€™s allegations that the National Assembly members were corrupt saying that rather than make wide unsubstantiated allegations, the former President should report those he said were corrupt to the appropriate authorities.
In separate interviews with Vanguard, the senators said though the former President was entitled to his opinion like every Nigerian, such weighty allegations should be backed with facts.
Deputy Senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma_Egba, told Vanguard that rather than accuse the Senate whose budget was only three percent of the national budget, of corruption, Obasanjo should have directed his searchlight on â€˜where the other 97 per cent of the budget was spent.
Ndoma Egba said: â€œIt is not enough to make wide accusations. I challenge him to provide more facts and we will respond accordingly. As a former President of this country, he should be ready to provide the facts. But the truth of the matter is that the budget of the Senate constitute only three per cent of the national budget so it cannot be a drain on the economy of the country.â€
Minority Whip, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, said that former President Obasanjo should desist from â€˜grandstandingâ€™ noting that the onus of proof was on the person making the allegation and that former President Obasanjo should provide the proof.
Mamora said: â€˜If he truly said that the National Assembly is corrupt, then he should support the allegation with proof. The onus of proof lies on the one who asserts. I will not say more than that.â€
Senator Mamora said that rather than single out the cost of running the National Assembly as being too high, there was the need for a review of the costs of running government in Nigeria which he admits is â€œexorbitant.â€
He added: â€œThere should be no singling out of the National Assembly. We should ask ourselves if we are not spending too much in running government both at the national and state levels.
â€œMy sincere view is that the cost of running government is exorbitant in Nigeria. That is why in every yearâ€™s budget the amount for recurrent expendi-ture is more than the capital expenditure which benefits more people. There is the need to review the entire structure of government with the view to reducing the cost of governance in order to have more funds to executive capital projects that would benefit the people.â€
Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Adego Eferiakaya said a man of former President Obasanjoâ€™s status should not â€œmake statements without facts.â€
He said: â€œIf Obasanjo knows those people that are corrupt he should submit their names to the appropriate authorities for them to look into.â€
It would be recalled that former President Obasanjo accused senators and members of the House of Representatives of corruption through the padding of the federal budget and collection of billions in unjustifiable allowances.
Obasanjo also said that the federal lawmakers were costing too much for the Federal Government to maintain, claiming that it cost more than N250 million per head.
He was quoted as saying: â€œWe should look closely at the legislature so that they can be more open and transparent in the way they do their work. Nobody knows in detail how much it costs us to maintain a senator. I believe it is more than N250 million.
â€œCompare what it cost in 1999 and 2000. It cost about $1.7 million. They come up and say something is constituency project, what is this constituency project? They insert it in the budget, they would find the contractor and the contractor would work for them, that is constituency project? They then accuse some people of corruption, who are not corrupt.
â€œNow let us talk truly to ourselves seriously. We canâ€™t continue to have a National Assembly that is consuming a disproportional part of our resources and then expect that we would be able to make progress.
â€œThey pass a budget that canâ€™t be implemented, because it has to be beefed up to satisfy their whims and caprices. Even what the ministries did not ask for, they put it.â€