By Lekan Fatodu
No doubt, this present time will go down in history as one of the most trying for Nigeria. The government seem not to have found the key to providing basic necessities for the benefit of its people.
Curiously, to unravel the underdevelopment mysteries, some top government functionaries have inferred that the nation would need to wait for the emergence of public service magicians. As such, for weeks now, Nigerians have been enduring probably the worst economic spell in recent memory.
Power outages have soared forcing several businesses, universities and essential public services to either completely shut down or resort to skeletal operations. Similarly, the prolonged and worsening fuel scarcity in Nigeria has impacted so negatively on socio-economic activities and the general way of life of the people just as the lack of potable water has made life more miserable for many while critical infrastructures that could enable speedy economic recovery remain comatose.
Noting that the country required massive public funds to fix her many problems, the presidency presented a record budget proposal of N6.08 trillion for year 2016, which, conventionally, had to pass through the National Assembly’s (NASS) appropriation.
Expectedly, the budget was scrutinised by the relevant committees of the NASS to ensure that the items on the fiscal document are geared towards the improvement of the economy and the conditions of all Nigerians before approval.
In that process of scrutiny, it was discovered that the budget was replete with embarrassing errors, omissions and duplication of projects.
This startling revelation obviously compelled the Joint Committees on Appropriation of the NASS led by Senator Danjuma Goje and Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin to meticulously work on the document to ensure that all the shameful discrepancies and inconsistencies were properly rectified.
For such a task, I never doubted that Abdulmumin Jibrin, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, would ensure probity and transparency in discharging the constitutional duties of the NASS on the budget.
I have known Jibrin for long as a personal friend. His attention to details and penchant for excellence is made manifest in the inspiring leadership he provided and success achieved in the private sector as a leading entrepreneur and as former chairman of the Abuja branch of Nigeria-British Chamber of Commerce before his foray into active politics.
Here is a proactive young man who always allows the interest of the masses and humanity in general to direct his steps.
This much is attested to in the exemplary role he played in saving the country’s treasury from hemorrhaging and ensuring that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) received necessary revenues from relevant government agencies when he (Jibrin) was the Chairman House Committee on Finance in the 7th National Assembly between 2011 and 2015.
Then, as part of the finance committee’s efforts in sanitizing the system, the committee exposed the non-remittance of the sum of N450 billion by the NNPC to the federation account. The committee also discovered billions of funds unremitted to the consolidated revenue fund and subsequently compelled defaulting corporations to make all payments due to the government’s purse.
All these convinced me that Jibrin would demonstrate such a sterling feat and even surpass his previous milestones in public service under the APC government of which he is a notable member.
It is however preposterous to note that after the Joint Committee of Appropriation had completed its work, saving about N17 billion for the nation, there emerged series of allegations of misconduct against the committee on the “disappearance” of a critical item on the bill.
No sooner had the committee returned the budget to the President for assent, than news started making rounds that Calabar-Lagos Coastal Rail project, which actually was not included in the initial budget proposal presented to the NASS had allegedly been removed by the heads of the committee to favour their various communities.
I must say that the poor management of public information, particularly on the side of the executive, emboldened the purveyors of falsehood to run wild with negative stories undermining the reputation of promising public officials like Jibrin.
It’s highly indecent to read on some portal that Jibrin had allegedly moved part of the funds allocated to the controversial item to benefit himself and his immediate community when it had been established that there was no Calabar-Lagos Coastal Rail project in the initial proposal submitted to NASS and that the executive only tried to slot the project into the budget at a later time, which clearly points to the failures of public administration in our country.
And the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogora didn’t pull punches on the issue as he unambiguously affirmed thus: “The lie is that the NASS removed the project from the budget estimates. Our contention is that it was not there. Period”.
Though I’m yet to engage Jibrin on the issue, I can tell from his public utterances that he is determined to lay the facts bare for the understanding of all Nigerians and also to keep his integrity intact.
In the same way, the Presidency, as I once stated in one of my previous interventions, is beyond a spartan President and a puritanical Vice president. As such there should be serious coordination of actions and objectives within the system and strict punishment for any individual that wittingly or unwittingly works contrary to the change agenda of the President.
This approach, I’m sure, will go a long way in saving the Presidency from public disrepute and also preserving the reputation of some outstanding Nigerians in politics and public service.