… Says no LGA in Nigeria has a Budget, Condemns Closing of Seme Border
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – HUMAN rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday said that Nigerians pay too much attention to the National Assembly as regards Budget preparation.
According to Falana, Nigerians have failed to beam their searchlight on the thirty- six states of the Federation and the 774 Local Governments in the country prepare and execute their annual budgets, just as he said that most of the 774 local government in the country don’t run on a budget.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the13 anti-corruption situation room programme organised by the Human & Environmental Agenda (HEDA), to set an agenda for the 9th Assembly, Falana stressed the need for focus on the fight against corruption not be centred at the Federal level alone, even as he said that the searchlight must move to states and local governments.
Meanwhile, Falana has also condemned in very strong terms, the shutting down of the Seme Border which led Nigerians as well as foreigners being deprived entry into the country through the border, just as he said that it was disheartening that there was no information before the closure, adding that while fighting corruption, the poor people must not be suppressed.
Speaking further, Falana who noted that apart from the budget passed by the Federal lawmakers, no one talks about states budget, said, “There is so much attention on the National Assembly when it comes to speaking about corruption but attention is not paid on states budget. If the states government are not prepared to help in the fight against corruption, we are in trouble. No local government have a budget in all the 774 LGA.”
The Lawyer who noted that the problem in Nigeria is impunity, however, stressed the urgent for the reintroduction People’s Bank where the poor can get the loan without paying back through their nose.
Falana who advised that the anti-corruption agencies should always consider the poor masses in carrying out their duties, said, “In fighting corruption, the anti-corruption agencies should spell out the right of the poor.”
In his address, the keynote speaker and a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Oladele Kayode who said that corruption has assumed an alarming dimension in Nigeria, said, “By 2030, corruption will cost the country 30 per cent of it’s GDP,” Kayode said adding that the proposed legislation that will strengthen the fight against corruption should be considered as a major national importance.
Kayode called for ethical orientation that will produce a viable action plan on the fight against corruption.
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the occasion, Professor Shehu Abdullahi said that the objective of the conference was to ensure that the national assembly looks properly on the budget processes, even as he said that budget padding or manipulation must also be looked into.
Professor Abdullahi who said that constituency project was a good idea, but picked holes in the management, saying it was wrong.
He said, “Oversight function of the legislature must be transparent. A public hearing is not done properly because, after investigation, reports are not released. Remuneration and salaries of the national assembly members must be looked at but we must not cast the blame on the National Assembly because there is an agency that set up the wages.”
Also speaking, the Chief of Staff to the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr Otive Igbuzor who urged the executive to work with the legislature to fight corruption, said, “the executive is to ensure people follow the process. Legislature makes the laws. Independent organizations, media and citizens must ensure the fight against corruption is effective.”
On his part, the Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA) Dr Garba Abari who said that his agency will continue to sensitize Nigerians on the effect of corruption, stresses that local governments in the country are faced with the challenges of corruption.
A director with Actionaid, Ene Obi, who described corruption as evil, asked Nigerians not think it only exists in high places.
She said, “Corruption leads to the issue of stealing. If you steal one naira, you are a thief. If you steal N1 billion you are a thief. Can we take the fight against corruption to all the states and local government? We need to fight corruption in toto because Buhari has shown the willingness.
“People must go to jail if they have to go to jail. Governors facing corruption charges now have safe heaven in the National Assembly.”
On his part, a representative of the McArthur Foundation, Dayo Olaide said that the challenge of corruption was very clear, just as he said that in fighting corruption, Nigerians must move away from name-calling to action, adding that it appears as if the country lost the capacity to enforce the laws.