LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT AND CORRUPTION

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended) has empowered the National Assembly in section 88 to by a resolution published in its journal or the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed an investigation into:                                 

1(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws; and

(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, Ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for:

executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly; and

disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.

2        The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to:

make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and

expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence  and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.

Therefore, it is mandatory for Standing Committees of the National Assembly to exercise oversight of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs to assess policy objectives and implementation strategies; identify lapses and factors inhibiting successfully implementation of projects; advice on improvement; and identify misapplication and mismanagement of funds. Reports of oversight visits are expected to be presented in plenary of the two chambers and if need be, the provisions of Section 88 of the Constitution evoked for full investigation.

Regrettably, since the return to democratic rule in 1999, oversight of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs by Committees of the National Assembly have been ineffective in exposing corruption and waste in the public sector. Serious allegations of committees members demanding for example, MDAs to fund their local or foreign trips or to provide funds for public hearings, and solicit contracts among others, from the same MDAs they are expected to oversee has negative effect of diminishing the role of the National Assembly in promoting good governance. It also undermines the principle of checks and balances in the conduct of governmental affairs.

Furthermore, the budget approval process has been adjudged by members of the public to be less transparent. Allegations of committees conniving with MDAs by “burying” huge sums of money in the budget with a view to retrieving same after the budget has been passed and signed into law abound. Budget hearings have become mere rituals and do not guarantee judicious deployment of scarce resources to the most felt needs of citizens nor promote transparency and accountability.

Equally worrisome, is the incessant fight of members of the National Assembly over the so called “juicy committees”. Section 62 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as Amended) empowers the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint a committee of its members for such special or general purpose… and delegate any functions exercisable by it to any such committee. Therefore, “juicy committee(s)” is strange to our constitution and in conflict with the expected role of committees as envisaged by the Constitution.

In other jurisdictions, committee assignments are perceived by a legislator as opportunity to offer meritorious service to one’s country.  The Nigerian experience has shown that private gains as against national service  is a major factor in the constant fight on the floor by legislators over the so called “juicy committees” There is clearly conflict of interest between self gains and national service. Flowing from the above, it can be asserted without fear of contradiction that failure of legislative oversight in Nigeria is responsible for the massive corruption and impunity in the public service.

Indeed, the numerous investigative hearings conducted by committees of the National Assembly whether in the power sector, aviation, petroleum subsidy, capital market, etc., are pointers of failure of legislative oversight. Committees as the engine house of their respective chambers should be proactive in exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the public sector and not wait for things to happen before commencing investigations.

The President of the Senate Bukola Saraki was quoted recently lamenting that “poor oversight by the National Assembly caused the financial scandal of the former National Security Adviser, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki.” Pointing out that “if the Senate committees on National Security and Intelligence as well as the one on defence had performed their Constitutional roles on monitoring and investigating how funds allocated to that sensitive area had been utilised, the nation will not be witnessing the mind boggling stories that are coming out.” Therefore, the President of the Senate advised committees “to take their duties more seriously to prevent the high rate of abandoned projects and fraudulent tendencies of government officials.” (Daily Trust, December 16, 2015)

It is only time that will tell whether the wise counsel of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki has been heeded by committees of the National Assembly. Let us pray!!!

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR NIGERIA?

Since President Muhammadu Buhari took office on 29th May, 2015, Nigerians have been making demands severally in the media on issues they would want the government to address. The wish list of citizens is so long.  The government alone cannot solve all problems confronting our country.  We all have to find solutions to the numerous problems beginning right from the family level, community, local, state, national, civil society organisations, faith and community based organisations and Nigerians in the Diaspora.

The challenges before Nigeria are enormous and require that all good hands must be on deck in order to tackle head-on these problems. Is it insecurity, corruption, infrastructure deficit, epileptic power supply, youth unemployment, kidnapping, human trafficking, extreme poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, pollution, ethics and values, lack of  social housing, disease, illiteracy, ignorance, indiscipline, impunity, absence of  community service, among others.

It is therefore worrisome that Nigerians daily make demands on government without indicating what they can do to make a difference to their neighbours, communities, and the country. Or what they can do to inculcate moral values in their children for the betterment of society.

The level of indiscipline in our country is mind-boggling. A visitor arriving Abuja the Federal Capital from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport is welcomed by pedestrians dashing across the express way at great risk to their lives and those of motorists instead of using the overhead bridges provided for their safety. Equally disturbing is the fear of head-on collision with motorists who drive against the traffic without regards to the great risk they pose to other road users.  Why has the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) not deemed it necessary to address the nuisance being perpetuated on the Airport Express Way and that of Kubuwa.

The roads leading into the capital city from Zuba and Keffi axis expose visitors to the slumps and squalor dwellings of Abuja. The Keffi dual carriage way now serves as a dumping ground for refuse. The situation of the Zuba road which has the Zuma Rock tourist site is equally filthy. This kind of attitude does not support development.  The inhabitants of these settlements should organise themselves to watch over   their environment to ensure that refuse is only dumped in designated collection points.  The Nasarawa State government is doing its best but the sheer huge population of these settlements namely; Marraba, One Man Village, New Nyanya, Ado, Karu and Masaka present a great challenge which calls for all good hands to be on deck to tackle this problem. This is just one example of the numerous challenges facing our country. Government alone cannot address all the problems.

It is therefore necessary for all Nigerians to join hands with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the numerous challenges facing our country. With each one of us contributing positively in his or her little corner and by so doing bring CHANGE to our fatherland.

POWER OF THE PEOPLE

The just concluded 2015 presidential election in Nigeria has brought  to the fore the power of a  people to take their destiny into their own hands.  That Nigerians have the power to vote out a government that has failed to meet their aspirations is no longer news. The Nigerian people have ably demonstrated this power and politicians can ignore this fact at their own peril. The signs of an impending defeat at the polls by the incumbent  were there but those who surrounded President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan failed to decode. They were engrossed pursuing personal agendas and creating enemies for the President and could not decipher the warning signs on the political horizon. The impunity of those in the corridors of power continued unabated. Genuine and constructive criticisms of government actions or inactions by respected elder statesmen and citizens were met with indecorous language from these political aides. Rather than response to issues, insults, and curses were heaped on well meaning Nigerians while the President looked the other way. The Cabal held the President hostage and contributed to his failure at the 2015 polls. The true electoral value of these political gladiators has been revealed by their inability to win votes for President Jonathan even at the Ward level in their States. These members of the Cabal thrive best in an atmosphere of confusion.

The Lagos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Jonathan Support Group led by Senator Musiliu Obanikoro for example, spent millions of Naira in newspaper advertisements for the sole purpose of tarnishing the integrity and capability of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega to conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria.   The actions of the Group contributed in no small measure in aggravating tension in an already charged political environment. Indeed, the attempt to spread outright falsehood rather than vigorously peruse issue based campaigns further alienated their Principal form the people and hampered his   re-election chances.  Similarly, the culture of IMPUNITY exhibited by political office holders and the systematic destruction of public institutions are issues which the incoming administration of the All Progressive Congress (APC)  need to confront head on so as to avoid the pitfalls of the past.

Nigerians Deserve A Better Deal

The elections are here again and politicians are out in the field crisscrossing the country canvassing  for votes from the electorate using fair and foul means to outwit one another. The history of politics in Nigeria since the First Republic (1960) indicate that mudslinging rather than issue based campaigns has been the norm. It is not sixteen years since the return to  democratic rule. Regrettably,  the content and quality of  the ongoing political campaigns have remained hollow. Rather than canvass support on how  they intend  to tackle the numerous challenges confronting Nigeria, politicians have resorted to   mudslinging, ethnicity, sectionalism and outright hate campaign against opponents. The political gladiators are so naïve, selfish, desperate  and out of touch with the true aspirations of majority of Nigerians.

Hunger, poverty, disease, deprivation, hopelessness, do not recognise religion, tribe, north, south, east and west. The Nigerian voter is  more interested in how politicians intend to tackle the challenges of insecurity, corruption, poverty, the economy, unemployment, food security, collapsed public infrastructure, housing deficit among others. So far, neither the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nor the All Progressive Congress (APC)- the two major political parties have presented to the Nigerian electorate a concrete plan on how to tackle these problems. President Jonathan who is seeking re-election has not being convincing as how he intends to tackle these issues either,  if given a second term. The smaller political parties have simply been swallowed by the sound and fury of the two giants.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party claims to have done extremely well and as such deserves a second term to complete its transformation agenda. However, it is worth pointing out  that even within the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, urban slumps have sprung up, refuse collection,  solid waste management, inadequate housing  have remained  a huge  challenge. Primary and Secondary schools within the F.C.T are over crowded and lack basic facilities. The satellite towns despite proximity to the seat of power  lack basic amenities such as water, electricity, roads and housing. Indeed, women and children spend hours scooping water from virtually dried up streams in competition with animals. The situation in most Nigerian cities and rural areas is not different.

Against this background therefore, it is in the best interest of politicians to come up with concrete plans on how they intend to tackle the numerous problems confronting Nigeria. The Nigerian voters  of  the February, 2015  general elections are politically enlightened. They are united by frustrations of failed dreams and aspirations. Therefore, attempts by desperate politicians to divide and rule them along religious, tribal and sectional divide will fail woefully.

Nigerians we cannot seat on the Fence any longer

The problems that led to the collapse of the First Republic (1963-1966) have continued to bedevil governance in Nigeria. These problems among others are; corruption, poverty, nepotism, tribalism, indiscipline, impunity, ignorance, disease, mediocrity and sycophancy. The political class has not learnt any lessons as the collapse of the Second Republic (1979-1983) was also related to the problems listed above. The long years of Military rule failed to tackle these problems even though they were the very reasons given for the overthrow of the democratically elected government. The Third Republic (1993) collapsed following the annulment of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election. The Military again overthrew the Interim Government and ruled the country until 29th May 1999. It is 15 years since the return to civil rule. Regrettably, the problems of the First Republic are very much with us. As a first step, Nigerians of voting age must obtain Voters cards to enable them elect credible Leaders at all levels of government during the forthcoming general election in February 2015. The time for action is now. We can no longer seat on the fence.