4 July 2014

Nigeria: Money - Yes, Mr. Speaker


MOST Nigerians would agree with the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly Emmanuel Terhile Ayua that money was the challenge State Assemblies faced. However, they would not see the matter the way legislators view it.

Where is money not a challenge? In adequate amounts, it is a problem. Where it is plentiful - the windfall from oil and gas is example - it is a bigger challenge to manage. Where people make it the foundation for all things, it becomes the root of all evils.

Ayua said, "The issue of funding remains the sole issue," hampering the work of State Assemblies. He delivered his points with candour. "Unfortunately, due to funding issues and certain constitutional lapses State Assemblies have found themselves in a situation that we have to approach the Executives for funding," he said.

Financial autonomy is on the front burner for the Assemblies. They want to manage their own funds, and in the case of Benue, Ayua raised a more fundamental point - there is no Benue State Assembly Service Commission. Where staff of the State Assembly err, the Executive, which the staff do not work for, handles issues of their discipline.

Why has the Assembly not passed a law for its Service Commission in 15 years of civilian administration - or civil rule - as some pejoratively call our democracy? Is it not about pleasing the Governor who could use the Assembly staff to watch its activities?

Ayua presented honest answers, for which he deserves our commendations. His answers were not political, not even apolitical.

"We are supposed to ordinarily oversight the Executive, but sometimes it is a little bit awkward asking the person you are supposed to oversight to provide the money which you can use to carry out the oversight function. You know that oversight function no matter the good reason behind it is perceived as witch hunting," he said.

We can glean answers to the state of our democracy from Ayua. Legislators, apply their best instincts, in self-preservation, in their dealings with the Executive. Fears that demands that the Executive observes the Constitution could ruffle well-preened executive feathers, result in acquiescence from legislators.

Oversight functions, a constitutional requirement to check executive excessiveness, are observed in breaches throughout the country. If legislators consider their interests, possible threats of recall by the Executive, and withdrawal of privileges the Executive dispenses to those who are "well behaved", they keep mum as our country runs aground.

A money issue Ayua forgot is the collusion of legislators and the Executive to milk the country dry through illegal payments, under all guises, to themselves.

Money, for themselves alone, is the language of politicians. Surprisingly, Ayua complains about this.


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