10 April 2012

Nigeria: How Many More Thieves in Government House?


At a time when we ought to have learnt one or two lessons from the Ibori trial in the Southwark Crown Court and the declaration of the former Delta State governor as "a thief in government house", we are confronted with yet another brand of kleptocratic tendency, this time around perpetrated by some among Nigerian federal lawmakers.

It is common knowledge that corruption permeates all strata of Nigerian establishment, most especially those that involve policy makers in high places and the offices they control, but one establishment, however, stands out in all respect.

The Nigerian legislature and all its vestiges of law-making are so ridden with corruption and thievery that one begins to wonder how we got ourselves into this opprobrium.

When one looks at the connection between Chief James Ibori on the one hand and our lawmakers on the other hand, one would discern that the former stole money from his own people and state, secretly defying all laws to achieve this and went as far as keeping such wealth in the trust of foreign banks through the help of financial shenanigans, while the latter openly steal the wealth or to use the word 'appropriate for themselves' monies belonging to the vast majority of the people all in the name of legislating, yet leave nothing but stagnation, misery and poverty upon the land.

To sum it up, the lawmakers are therefore, 'pretenders of their respective offices' (to borrow the words from the Southwark Court) because what they were voted to do is the opposite of what they are doing.

It is quite sad that the House of Representatives many felt was going to show more concern towards the feelings, plight and aspirations of the people, having had fresh individuals or representatives from other political parties within it, went berserk by raising their quarterly allowance from 15 million naira to 27 million naira.

As if that was not enough, the Senate whose actions in the last twelve years have been nothing short of misunderstanding of the practices of legislative duties and functions awarded for themselves 45 million naira each.

By the time one does the simple mathematics, we are confronted with a House of 360 representatives whose allowances gulp 38 billion naira, while the Upper Chamber with 109 Senators has 19.62 billion naira per year. These staggering amounts of money are not part of the emoluments prescribed by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the only statutory body empowered by law to fix salaries and allowances of public office holders.

It is unfortunate that despite the alarm raised last year by the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that the 158.91 billion naira spent on the legislature as overhead amounted to 25 per cent of all federal overhead expenditure in 2010, the federal legislature went ahead to increase their allocation to 232.74 billion naira from 111.24 billion naira earmarked for it by the Presidency.

It seems the act of law-making in our hallowed chambers has turned into money-making, in which the bellies and financial gratification of a few has become the norm. The fact that millions of Nigerians live below one dollar a day should have sent a signal to our legislatures that living in opulence at the expense of those who had voted them into power is not the step to take at this time when economic meltdown is busy tearing apart many nations.

The speech made by President Goodluck Jonathan during the January fuel subsidy brouhaha which stipulate cuts in government spending had failed to materialize within the Executive arm of government, else such initiative ought to have been extended to the legislature, whose members are increasing greedy.

If Ibori has been found guilty of being a thief in government house, our lawmakers too cannot be too far from such description. The vast majority of the people who are bled on a daily basis by these set of few hijackers of our commonwealth must stand up for what is our right and bring our lawmakers to their senses.

It is not enough to criticize on paper and hope all would be well. We must ensure that the good old days of law-making is brought back to life, while the bad eggs within the chamber, whose urge is to further enrich their pockets should systematically be flushed out and punished through enabling laws. The law must always take its course so as to keep thieves from occupying the government house.

Oluwafunminiyi wrote from Abuja

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