Custom Search

Guest Column

NIGERIANNEWS GUEST COLUMNS
| Twitter Twitter | Facebook Facebook | RSS RSS Feed

Nigerian
News

Abubakar Alkali Sokoto. Email: alkalizai@yahoo.com
Councillors Quarters,
Runjin Sambo.
Sokoto state


 

 

 

The Nigerian Senate and the Colours of Corruption

by Abubakar Alkali Sokoto
 
Tell a friend:

Nigerians are united in the call for the closure of the senate to usher in a unicameral legislature under the on-going political reforms of the President Buhari led-administration. The call reverberates on the need for a new constitution for Nigeria to give the legal backingto the closure of the senate which to all intents and purposes, has no place in the New Nigeria free of corruption that the nemesis of corruption in Nigeria and the most respected anti-corruption fighter in the world, President MuhammaduBuhari is working to build. Indeed the Nigerian senate has now allegedly turned out to be a cesspool of corruption and gradually but systematically becoming a liability to the federal republic. The Nigerian senate is simply a drain and waste on Nigeria’s meagre resources and should be closed down to reflect the current economic downturn.

The Nigerian senate is at it again when the news went round that the upper legislative chamber is hell bent on spending  about N4.7 Billion in buying 109 exotic and posh cars to be used presumably for ‘oversight functions’. The House of Representatives seem to have followed suit by also announcing that the lower legislative chamber is spending N4.2 Billion in buying 360 exotic cars also for the purpose of thesocalled ‘oversight’ functions. Put together, the total amount of tax payers’ cash to be spent on to buy 460 exotic cars for our senators and representatives will be over N10 Billion.

 

 

Just imagine how many schools and roads can be built with N10 Billion. Just conceptualize how many hospitals could be fully equipped with N10 Billion! Apparently, one would have thought that the House of Representatives (HoR) would have distanced itself from the cars purchase scandal instead of copying the senate. The HoR still has a pint of credibility left which it should have judiciously protected by staying away from the very sensitive issue of cars purchase at this critical era of austerity occasioned by the fall in global Oil prices. While Nigerians are told to tighten their belts in 2016, our senators are busy widening theirs!

The purchase of the exotic carsis not only condemnable but sheer man’s inhumanity to manwhen juxtaposed with the current astronomical levels of poverty in Nigeria. Nigerians are saying NO to the purchase of exotic vehicles by the senators and if indeed the senators are representatives of the people, they should listen to the people and drop the idea of buying these exotic cars that are not necessary at this time.

The 1999 constitution as amended is clear in Chapter 2, section 14 (2) (a) under fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy that sovereignty is to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority. In this regard, if the good people of Nigeria are against the purchase of the exotic cars, the senate should drop it as stipulated in the constitution. The principle of separation of powers cannot be used to revisit impunity to Nigeria.

Even with the on-going asset declaration scandal rocking the Nigerian senate, our distinguished senators are telling us that THERE IS NO GOING BACK on spending our N10 billion to purchase exotic cars for themselves even with the dwindling oil prices that are currently on a free fall. In addition, the senate President has vehemently refused to step aside to allow for an independent, thorough and unbiased investigation into his asset declaration case with the CCT. The senate can do itself a better publicity by entirely dropping the idea of buying exotic cars for its members under the guise of ‘oversight functions’.

The planned purchase of the exotic cars is unconstitutional and an affront on the collective will of the Nigerian people. Indeed this action is a clear case of corruption in the same vein as the $2.1 Billion arms scandal only that it is in a different colour. This action is the first major indicator that the era of impunity is trying to stage a comeback in government.

There is no any other way to describe the planned purchase of the exotic cars by the senate except corruption and no matter the change of colour, corruption is corruption. The issue of mobility to enable the senators carry out any so-called ‘oversight functions’ is effectively addressed by the network ofJumbo allowances paid to the senators. The point has been made that our senators take home about 25% of the national budget and as if that is not enough, they are going to use another N10 billion to purchase exotic cars for themselves. Is this the meaning of democracy?

In 2012, Senegal scrapped its senate in order to save money to help flood victims in the country. In closing down its senate, Senegal saved about $15 million dollars which were used to help flood victims and also prevent further flooding. In a similar pattern with Nigeria, Senegal has 100 senators (Nigeria has 109) and these senators fought vehemently to prevent the closing down of the Senegalese Senate but they lost and at the end of the day, Senegal’s senate was closed down. Senegal also abolished the post of Vice President which was considered to bewasteful and a spare tyre of the President.

While Senegal is closing down its Senate to help the poor that were devastated by flood, The Nigerian senate is voting almost the same amount (N4.2 Billion) to buy exotic cars for our senators. What a twist!

The extreme level of poverty amongst Nigerians doesn’t justify the retention of the Nigerian senate. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend over N1 billion annually to maintain one senator while leaving his/her constituents wallowing and swimming in abject poverty. The right thing to do is to close down the senate and invest the savings into our communities a la Senegal.

The constitution is clear in section 4(1) Part 2 which states inter alia that ‘The legislative powers of the federal republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National assembly for the federation which shall consist of a senate and a house of representatives. Furthermore, section 4(2) states that ‘The national assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation with respect to any matter included in the exclusive legislative list.

The power conferred on the national assembly to carry out oversight functions is encapsulated in sections 80 (1) – (4) and 88 (1) – (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution. Specifically, section 88(1) states that ‘Subject to the provisions of this constitution, each house of the national assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the official Gazette of the Government of the federation to direct or cause to be directed investigation into: (b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with any duty of or responsibility for: (ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the national assembly.

Based on the above provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, the senate is only mandated to carry out oversight functions but not given a blank cheque to buy exotic cars of their choice in the name of ‘oversight functions. If anything, the mobility of senators during any socalled ‘oversight functions’ is effectively covered in their travel allowance. A senator can submit any additional claims on mileage and petrol for administrative verification and payment where appropriate.This is what obtains in the civil service and why not in the senate? In fact why the salary and allowances of our senators can’t be based on the civil service structure?. A senator should be placed on a grade level 15 and paid like any other civil servant.

The reason given by the Senate for the purchase of the exotic cars is that they want to use it for ‘oversight functions’ but Nigerians know that this is not true. In fact, Nigerians consider the so-called ‘oversight functions’ of our federal legislators as a means for alleged self-aggrandisement and an opportunity for our senators to allegedly seek for favours from the MDA’s. Recall the case of former DG SEC ArumaOteh V Herman Hembe (member house of representatives) in 2012.

During the 7th Senate (2011 -2015), our senators bought one latest Range Rover each for themselves in the name of ‘oversight functions’ and still couldn’t detect the $2.1 billion that were appropriated to purchase arms to fight Boko haram but ended in private pockets. Indeed if our senators are doing any oversight functions as they claimed, why didn’t they detect the $2.1 billion which themselves voted for in the defence budget but was later shared among PDP chieftains and hire wire serving and retired military officers?

Even the Senate itself is not convinced that it is carrying out any oversight functions. In 2012, the then senate President David Mark lamented the abysmal performance of the senators regarding their oversight functions. In his own opinion, David Mark stated that if the senators were carrying out any oversight functions, there would have been a drastic reduction in the level of failures that characterised governance in the country.

If the Nigerian senators are performing any oversight functions, why didn’t they detect the over 70 bank accounts used by the NNPC to allegedly siphon public funds before President Buhari was sworn in?. Each year, the Nigerian senate votes N1 trillion for the defence budget to fight Boko haram yet our soldiers are left to use out dated Shakabula rifles to fight the terrorists. Why didn’t the senate detect the gross misappropriation of the defence budget if indeed they are performing any ‘oversight functions’?

Why didn’t the senate detect the massive fraud in NIMASA between 2011 – 2015 where looting unlimited was going on with companies paid huge sums without any signed contracts? If indeed the Nigeria senate was performing any oversight functions, why didn’t they detect the massive fraud in Customs 2011 – 2015 when during a particular period, customs realised about N903 Billion but only remitted about N105 billion into the federation account?

If indeed the Senate was performing any oversight functions as they claimed, why didn’t they detect the missing $20 billion in NNPC and had to wait for the erudite HRH SanusiLamidoSanusi, the Emir of Kano (then Governor of the Central bank) to blow the whistle on the missing funds?Why didn’t the senate detect the massive corruption and misappropriation of funds going on at the speed of lighting in the MDAs if indeed they are doing any ‘oversight functions? Nigeria has lost over N6.4 trillion in NNPC, 55 Nigerians stole over N1.34 trillion in 8 years, Nigeria lost $6.8 billion in 8 years as a result of corruption in ministries, departments and agencies. Why didn’t the senate detect all of these if indeed they are performing any oversight functions?

The constitution was clear in section 88 (2) (b) that the national assembly has a legal obligation to check corruption and waste in government. This relevant section states that ‘the powers conferred on the national assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to 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.

No cash should be spent by government without proper appropriation by the national assembly hence anything that happens to these funds, the senate should be the first to be held responsible because if you appropriate, you should also monitor implementation. There is no doubt that the exotic cars are meant for a differentuse but certainly not the so-called ‘oversight functions’ because there is no genuine oversight functions in the senate. The closest usage of the exotic cars is for personal and domestic matters and not any ‘oversight functions’.It is remarkable that even ranking senators who have had these exotic cars bought for them as senators in each of their last 3 tenures are sitting and waiting for another set of exotic cars to be purchased for them.

Nigerians are united in the call for the closure of the senate to usher in a unicameral legislature under the on-going political reforms of the President Buhari led-administration. The call reverberates on the need for a new constitution for Nigeria to give the legal backingto the closure of the senate which to all intents and purposes, has no place in the New Nigeria free of corruption that the nemesis of corruption in Nigeria and the most respected anti-corruption fighter in the world, President MuhammaduBuhari is working to build. Indeed the Nigerian senate has now allegedly turned out to be a cesspool of corruption and gradually but systematically becoming a liability to the federal republic. The Nigerian senate is simply a drain and waste on Nigeria’s meagre resources and should be closed down to reflect the current economic downturn.

 

 

 




  Unique visitors: 749