- Dogara: N/Assembly ready to answer questions on funding
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun has explained that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (M-TEF) sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, could not be approved because it did not reflect the realities of contemporary Nigeria.
Lasun added that MTEF and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2017 budget, did not take into cognizance the dwindling price of crude oil, and was also affected by the fact that concerned government agencies were working with different foreign exchange rates.
The Deputy Speaker provided the clarifications at a ceremony yesterday, where he inaugurated the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the investigation of the activities of state-owned Development Finance Institutions, (DFIs).
The committee is chaired by Emeka Anohu (Anambra PDP) and is expected to proffer modalities to strengthen the DFIs, to mitigate against the adverse effect of the current economic recession.
The DFIs include Bank of Industry, (BOI) the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), among others.
Lasun lamented that there had been speculations that the National Assembly is deliberately frustrating the presentation of the 2017 budget by the President.
“So, if the National Assembly either by way of performing its legislative functions or because of their professional callings, put to question some of the documents presented by the executive, then people at least should give us the benefit of doubts that all the 469 members of National Assembly are not dullards.
“In the last three years, we have not done up to 2.2 million barrels and our budget has been consistently premised on at least 2.2 million barrel per day and at best we have achieved is 1.8 million barrels per day, and so if National Assembly says please go and look at this so that you know what to do before you bring your budget, I don’t think that needs an expert advise,” he added.
“We are the most criticised because the nature of our job is conducted in the public; the only arm of government who’s functions are performed in the open.”
The Deputy Speaker’s sentiments were shared by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who at a different function yesterday, said the National Assembly was the most maligned arm of government, but should be ready to answer questions on its activities and funding.
Dogara spoke at a roundtable conference on Civil Societies and Development Partners organised by the House Committee on Civil Societies and Development Partners in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja.
“Time has also come for democratic institution like the National Assembly, to communicate better, its processes and activities to the public. Time has come for the National Assembly to publicly answer any questions relating to its activities and funding. It seems to us that over the years the legislature has adopted the policy of non-response when its activities are called to question. Most often a simple explanation is what is required. But when none is forthcoming, mischief makers, ignorant and misinformed pundits are left to fill the public space with lies, falsehood and misinformation,” Dogara said.
The Speaker added that there would be no effective representation, if an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion exists as to the intentions and rational for the actions of the elected persons.
“The desire of elected representatives to make an impact in their constituencies is borne out of the need for service. No elected person worth his salt would be satisfied if he is unable to point out at the end of the day, what he has been able to accomplish within the period of his mandate,” he added.
He advocated for communication between the parliament, and the electorate to be more effective through regular town hall meetings, regular consultative processes, and regular media engagement.
“The legislature is the most maligned arm of government even though it works very hard to fulfill its constitutional mandate. The legislature is often misunderstood because its role is unappreciated. The work of the legislature is mainly intangible but the public hunger and measure of performance relates to tangible things,” Dogara said.