By Carl Umegboro
THE parliamentary arm of the Federal Government has seemingly remained a drainpipe that impedes economic growth in the country since this democratic system commenced in 1999. Comparatively, a Nigerian senator or member of the House of Representatives earns several times more than their counterparts across the world. Still, corruption sways in the chambers. In fact, during the previous administrations, ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags with megabucks were practically turned into lobbying and legislative tools for screenings, confirmation of appointments and passage of budgets. As a result, reckless, profit-motivated and episodic impeachment motions became the order of the day on any president in power particularly during the Olusegun Obasanjo years which all ended in pecuniary deals. Later, it became a routine in the successive governments until the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. In effect, do-or-die politics ruled the polity as belonging to the parliament became the fastest money-making venture.
Notwithstanding the gross aberrations, the lawmakers advantageously allocated outrageous allowances to themselves. The recently exposed monthly-running costs of a whopping sum of N13.5 million to each senator which if allocated to visible developmental projects across all the constituencies will no doubt, concurrently boost development across the nation, remains mind-boggling. It is indeed heartless, iniquitous and greed that as much as the amount is self-allocated and collected monthly by each of the senators separately from consolidated salaries on inconsequentialities. Some lawmakers once in a while will fix a quasi-amenity but file up fictitious copious receipts without substantiation. Meanwhile, the people in their constituencies remain in misery, joblessness and poverty. Then, additional N200 million for constituency projects is allotted annually. Perhaps, it should be appropriately renamed paper-projects since they are non-existent anywhere. Little wonder, the polity is pitiable and abandoned. Without doubt, these actions fall below the bar of civility.
This believably, accounts for the unbending attempts to intimidate the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu out of office to pave way for a companionable new helmsman. The fundamental question for the lawmakers is; how could the Public Procurement Act they passed into law specify how projects should be bade for and executed but they indiscriminately allocated public funds to themselves albeit the council is yet to be constituted? Or is the country comparable to George Orwell’s Animal Farm where some animals are more equal than others? For example, Section 16(17) of the Public Procurement Act 2014 provides that “a contract shall be awarded to the lowest evaluated responsive bid from the bidders substantially responsive to the bid solicitation.” By the way, how could the legislature prepare and pass its budget and also clothe itself with powers to override the president? Indeed, this is a blinder.
The recent episodes are glaringly satirical. Lawmakers fantastically misappropriate public funds that could help improve the economy but always shed crocodile tears over unemployment ratio in the country. Sensitively, if the plights of the youths truly move them as portrayed on the controversial Peace Corps Bill, the appropriate action should be to expand the budgetary allocation specifically as employment interventionist policy which will enable the executive expand its workforce including the existing security agencies and thereby absorb more youths into their respective personnel. Unfortunately, legislature’s budgets alone keep rising yearly with outrageous masked allowances. Over the years, politicians often play on the sensibilities of the vulnerable citizens especially the youths, during election periods. Interestingly, the red chamber is presently manned by unique identities; commonsense advocate, great anti-corruption crusader, voice of the new generation, defender of the down-trodden, economic empowerment strategist and many other titles who relentlessly criticise the executive every now and again. Yet, they collaboratively overlooked, concealed and promoted for several years, the fraudulent running costs and constituency projects sufficient to improve the country in few years if prudently expended.
Presently, the 2018 Appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly early enough, precisely on November 7, 2017 by the President to stimulate the economy that was critically hit by recession, sadly still hops up and down at the end of first quarter. Incontestably, the lawmakers work for their personal interests. The constituency projects astutely envisioned has constituted conduits to the treasury. The bicameral legislature itself is the grand drainpipe. As a developing democracy, Nigeria shouldn’t have clichéd the developed system verbatim but modify progressively.
It therefore suggest that the anti-graft agency has a lot of work to do. No amount of propaganda should dampen the spirits from moving into action towards recovering misappropriated public funds, however unselectively.
It is absolutely ridiculous, height of aberration and totally unacceptable to enthrone mediocrity and expect developments. From 1999 the running costs and constituency projects came into existence, it is rare to find any such projects anywhere except few that managed to complete a borehole in one community or repaint a community-market with giant sign-posts. It is fittingly inhumanity to man that lawmakers freely loot public funds while the masses they use satisfactorily during elections are drying up in hunger and hardship. Egocentricity has clearly defeated the objects of constituency projects solicitously aimed at spreading rapid developments to the grassroots through the representatives. Probably, this is where Charley Boy’s “OurMumuDonDo” initiative will appropriately and effectually make sense than the defunct ‘resume or resign’ crusade. Until the legislative arm is reformed, things may hardly fall in shapes.
Umegboro, public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja via: email@example.com (07057101974 SMS only)