A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Monday, spoke the minds of many Nigerians on the attitude of some members of the National Assembly when the national budget is presented to them for scrutiny and assent.
Speaking while delivering this year’s Democracy Day lecture in Abuja, Jega said he has “spoken to quite a number of chief executives who complained of high demand for bribes from members of the National Assembly in the name of so called oversight functions.”
To those who always wonder why budget considerations in Nigeria last too long when a country like the United States of America by far larger in scope, passes its budget in record time, Jega’s revelation has shed more light on the public perception of the rot in the third arm of government.The Senate however challenged the ex INEC boss to disclose names of senators complicit in the alleged fraudulent act is he truly has evidence to support his claims.
News space has been awash over time with complaints and suggestions over action of some lawmakers demanding gratification as condition for passing the budgets of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). An MDA official once revealed to the media how bad the scourge is, saying “demanding bribes is something that has been endemic over a long period of time. This thing started since (year) 2000, the first budget”.
Recall that in 2005, the N55 million bribe scandal involving top officials of the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Assembly swept out then Education Minister, Professor Fabian Osuji, and Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, among others. Prof. Osuji was dismissed by President Olusegun Obasanjo while Chief Wabara resigned.
That explain why over time, the integrity of these supposedly honorable members began to slide in the eyes of the public. The unceasing demand for gratification is responsible for the reluctance of a number of heads of MDAs to honour invitations by Senate and House of Representatives committees to defend their budgets.
This believably dragged the 2018 budget presented in December 2017 up till this month (six months after) before it was passed, after massive pressure from concerned Nigerians.
We believe that such misconduct by our legislators has inflicted severe injury on the economy as expectations were high on the capacity of the budget to guide the government in delivering much-needed infrastructure thereby improving liquidity.
While Nigerians were desperately awaiting relief from the economic crunch occasioned by the inward-looking policy of this administration, notable MDA officials alleged that the senators and members of the House were “brazenly harassing MDAs for bribes, using budget process and oversight… they have become very desperate this time. They ask pointedly and try to make life difficult for those who don’t play ball by summoning them endless times, asking irrelevant questions, asking for unrelated documents”.
To remedy this situation, government must wake up to its responsibility by confronting this hydra-headed monster. As President Muhammadu Buhari rightly pointed out, if corruption is not killed, it might turn around to kill this country.
We must therefore equate the crime of corruption with murder in order to underline its seriousness. There is no other way to look at the legislators’ demand than attempts to corner those commonwealth that should ideally go to the development of Nigeria’s economy.
It also demonstrates that despite the anti-corruption mantra of this government, the National Assembly members are not keying to the fight.
Therefore, the various security agencies of this great nation should heed the advice by Jega by activating their intelligence units to curtail the urge for bribes by our legislators. The anti corruption agencies should immediately swing into action to investigate and prosecute the leadership and members of the National Assembly where ever substantial grounds for action have been established.