For those who have followed, closely, the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, they would attest that he shoots straight from the hips, especially on issues that pertain to the National Assembly (NASS).
Last week, in his usual element, he declared that the N128bn annual budgetary allocation of the NASS was not enough for them to work effectively and efficiently.
As expected, Kalu’s declaration has sent shock waves across the country. This, and other stories, enriched conversations around the NASS past week.
NASS REPUBLIC: Rationalizing lawmakers’ deaths. Two other stories, and a quote to remember
On March 11, Kalu said that the NASS, particularly the House of Representatives, was facing bankruptcy.
“The House is broke, I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid to say it. The House is broke and it is afraid to appropriate the sufficient amount for them to do their job. That is why today, here (briefing room) is hot. That is why the hearing rooms are not fixed. That is why the House is indebted to contractors who provide one form of service or the other. This is a fact,” he said while addressing journalists in Abuja.
He added: “The budget of the National Assembly is supposed to be reviewed, in view of its purchasing ability, of the services that will help the parliament to move forward. At the moment, it is a weak budget and that is the truth.”
Kalu’s bold declaration, no doubt, adds to growing discourse around the state of the Nigerian economy. However, for a parliament that is reported to be one of the highest paying in the world, his statement comes as a shocker to most Nigerians.
Indeed, there are concerns in some quarters that Kalu may just be playing a pitiable music to divert the attention of Nigerians on the juicy gains allegedly enjoyed by the Federal legislators.
His statement, therefore, raises some fundamental questions on how well Nigerian lawmakers are committed to the long term survival of the country and its economy.
A major worry borders on why the lawmakers, knowing the prostrate state of the economy, would want to insist on a continuous jamboree instead of trimming their excesses.
With a robust N128bn budget, the question on the lips of many is why Nigerian lawmakers cannot take patriotism a notch higher by pushing for a unicameral legislature that could guarantee lower administrative costs.
Here, cutting the cost of governance is expected to begin with them.
Even more germaine is the urgent need to activate government machineries intended to thoroughly scrutinize the disbursement of appropriated sums by the National Assembly, given widely held views that massive looting of meager resources are going on there.
So, why Nigerians ponder over the supposed bankruptcy of the legislature, they have the right to know how they expended their previous annual budget(s).
NASS MEMORY LANE
“I wish to bring to your notice a worrying situation going on in my constituency, in which the Kaduna State Government is using it to play politics, deceive the world and shun its responsibility to my people. I wish to state that nothing could be far from the truth than this assertion. The truth is that there is a steady and unrelenting onslaught on isolated communities in Southern Kaduna and environs, which has not been reported by the Press since last year. The murders, kidnappings, rapes and provocative destruction of crops, all by persons that the victims believe are Fulani, are just too numerous to be captured in just a Press Statement, since June 2015, till date?”
Answer: See end of post
Two other stories
Rescuing Yewa residents
The Senate, on March 10, asked the Federal Government to help return people on communities in the Yewa Area of Ogun State who had fled to neighbouring Benin Republic as a result of attacks by suspected herdsmen.
The Senate made the request after a Point of Order raised by Tolu Odebiyi who lamented the spate of insecurity in the State and State Government’s inability to tackle the menace alone.
Odebiyi said: “The State Government alone, cannot be left with the onerous task of resettling these displaced citizens, hence, the need for support from the Federal Government to effectively return the affected citizens back to their various communities.”
“If the Benin Republic that is a neighbour to Nigeria could accommodate Nigerians, give them food and set up a refugee camp for them, Nigeria needs to positively step up on how we treat our citizens who are victims of an internally induced crisis,” he added.
Odebiyi’s concern mirrors the failure of the Federal Government in the performance of its primary duty of securing Nigerians. It exposes the untold suffering Nigerians are exposed to due to the unresolved farmers/herders conflict.
What troubles Nigerians more is why the Federal Government has not shown enough leadership in containing the conflict before it got escalated.
Given government’s usual tardiness, it is hoped that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) will hearken to the request of the NASS and undertake on the spot assessment of the affected communities, and provide needed relief.
Whether the Nigerian Senate will sustain the pressure on the executive arm to act appropriately is a matter of conjecture.
EFFC’s seized, abandoned properties
On March 11, the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Abandoned Properties had asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately commence the process of disposing all seized and forfeited properties rather than leave them to deteriorate.
The Chairman of the Committee, Ademorin Kuye, gave the directive at the resumed investigative hearing on abandoned property in the country. He questioned why EFCC would transfer some seized properties to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, without following due process.
Kuye, however, reminded the Commission that the Federal Government has said that part of the 2021 budget would be financed from sales of properties, noting that if the properties were not sold, it would affect the budget.
Their investigative hearing brings to light some of the brewing intrigues around the operations of the EFCC.
First, it strengthens the argument of some members of the public who believe that the recent appointments in the anti-graft agency had been deliberately done to weaken the institution and grant excessive powers to the office of Attorney-General of the Federation.
Also, it adds some flesh to wide reports that the anti-graft agency was neck-deep in re-looting some funds and properties which they had seized/confiscated.
It is undoubtable that these concerns mean that the new EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa has his job cut out for him, and that he must rise to the occasion and prove critics wrong.
Answer: Senator Danjuma Tella
Tella made the statement on December 7, 2016, after the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, said that the security situation of Kaduna has improved since he assumed office. Tella represents Kaduna South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.