Posh Vehicles for Pampered Federal Lawmakers

RingTrue  By  Yemi Adebowale

Phone    08054699539

Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

President Bola Tinubu’s infamous July 31 speech on the economic crunch Nigerians are facing still resonates. The President declared: “Our economy is going through a tough patch and you are being hurt by it. The cost of fuel has gone up. Food and other prices have followed it. Households and businesses struggle. Things seem anxious and uncertain. I understand the hardship you face. I wish there were other ways. But there is not. If there were, I would have taken that route as I came here to help not hurt the people and nation that I love.”

The President thereafter offered, in the immediate, to reduce the burden “our current economic situation has imposed on all of us, most especially on businesses, the working class and the most vulnerable among us.”

Burden on all of us? Clearly, the economic crunch has not imposed a burden on “all of us” as alleged by Tinubu in that speech. The President’s assertion is a ruse. This is because the dominant actors in the Executive and Legislative arms of governments are still living very big and unfettered by the economic crisis. There is no load on them. This group of Nigerians don’t even know that there is anything called economic crisis. Check out their chubby looks. That was why the Senate and the House of Representatives shamelessly announced early this week that they had purchased 109 Toyota Land Cruisers for senators and 360 Toyota Prado for House of Representatives’ members as official cars. It’s a once in four years ritual regardless of the state of Nigeria’s economy. The distribution of the N57.6 billion posh vehicles would start soon.

This expensive procurement is happening amid the burden imposed on over 200 million Nigerians by the economic crunch. These lawmakers are heartless. In this same country, many go to bed without meals and get up not sure of breakfast. Many homes are in disarray, no thanks to the economic mess. Millions of Nigerians have lost jobs to the economic crisis. Hunger, poverty, unemployment and disease pervade the country, with inflation at frightening 26.72 per cent. Then, these coldblooded lawmakers get up to announce the purchase of N57.6 billion vehicles. This is a clear case of man’s inhumanity to man.

Former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, captures this national tragedy aptly: “You all had the audacity to spend scarce public resources on luxury cars at a time majority of your citizens cannot feed, transport themselves, pay school fees and hospital bills due to the cost-of-living crisis. At this stage, it is evident you want to continue with your serial bad behaviour. Since not even one of you saw the heartlessness of that decision to buy new Toyota SUVs for yourselves at this time of severe economic distress of the citizens and country, please know that you all are the biggest threat to our democracy.”

The former minister also warned the lawmakers that their actions will result in citizens collectively rising up to chase “irresponsible and insensitive people out of office.”

Then came this humorous stance from the Labour Party’s National Chairman, Julius Abure. He wants its members in the National Assembly to “kick against this unnecessary wastage of resources in line with the ideology of the party which is social justice and equal opportunity for all” by rejecting the vehicles.

Abure added: “Nigerians will hold them (LP lawmakers) responsible if they fail to live above board or give proper account of the electoral investment reposed in them. The poor must be allowed to breathe again in this country. It is saddening that with deepening poverty among Nigerians the administration has decided to increase its appetite for a life of opulence to mock hardworking but underprivileged Nigerians.”

Well, this will never happen. Abure is day-dreaming. The LP lawmakers will never reject the vehicles. When it comes to milking our commonwealth, all the members of the National Assembly unite. At this stage, no lawmaker talks about belonging to APC, LP or PDP. Nobody talks about North or South. Members of the ludicrous ruling party also simply bury their “change” mantra and enjoy the draining of our commonwealth.

For me, buying official vehicles for federal lawmakers is absolutely unnecessary. They should not even be talking about this because they get what they call “monthly running cost” running into several billions of Naira. Each senator receives N13.5 million monthly as running cost. Add salary to it and it will jump to about N14.5 million monthly. Those in the House of Representatives each get N9.5 million monthly as running costs. Add salary and it will jump to about N10.2 million monthly for each of them.

Thanks to the senator who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th National Assembly, Shehu Sani. But for him, we would not have these facts and figures. So, federal lawmakers should buy their vehicles from the illegal running cost.

Another vital point to note is that the official vehicles allocated to the lawmakers every four years as part of their emolument by the management of the National Assembly is an illegality and a blatant contravention of Section 70 of the 1999 Constitution. It has no such power under the law. The law states: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.”

I can clearly remember that in 2018, Justice Chuka Obiozor held that, “The National Assembly Service Commission has no power whatsoever to fix and determine or allocate the remuneration, allowances, salaries, emoluments or monetary values to the members of the national assembly.”

Federal lawmakers have become a burden on this country for too long. They are usually in the two chambers basically to fill their pockets. In the 2023 budget alone, the National Assembly will gulp N298 billion. That is, the 469 legislators, the civil servants and the two agencies under the National Assembly will gulp N298 billion in 12 months. Trust me, these hawks will get this money out in full.

In traumatised mother Nigeria, the National Assembly is one of the places for amassing megabucks. This has been the pattern in the last 24 years of democracy. The lawmakers feed fat while the masses of the people they represent wallow in abject poverty. This luxury must not continue in a country with a comatose economy, where millions of graduates roam the streets without jobs. It is also necessary to stop these heartless payments so that the National Assembly would be attractive only to people with ideas; not people that are after megabucks.

No doubt, our lawmakers need to cover running costs on things like travels, medicals, consultancy, maintenance of constituency offices, visits to constituency, office work and maintenance of facilities in their offices at the National Assembly and constituencies. They also need good money to effectively carry out their oversight functions. However, continuation of these monthly humongous figures can’t fly amid suffering in our land.

In 2012, the United Kingdom-based Economist magazine concluded that Nigerian lawmakers were the highest paid in the world. This must not linger. These lawmakers must sacrifice their comfort in this era of despair. I believe that the bureaucracy of the National Assembly should be allowed to handle the travels and medicals of these lawmakers to end abuse and corruption in the process. Yes, the bureaucracy would try to drag them back with bottlenecks, but with reformist leaders, these bureaucrats will fall in line.

The 10th National Assembly must cut its expenditure in the interest of Nigerians. They must cut down and free the funds for projects that will directly touch the lives of the masses of the people. Our dear legislators of the 10th Assembly must subject themselves to greater austerity measures in an era of economic depression. All outflows to the legislators must also be transparent. Cost cutting must apply to legislators at all levels of government.

While tackling our lawmakers, we should also interrogate the Executive arm of government at all levels regarding running cost. They still access frightening running costs amid so much poverty in this country. Many will be shocked if they know what ministers, heads of departments and agencies draw as running cost monthly. Ministers rock around with a convoy of vehicles, with policemen, drivers, soldiers and all manner of aides.

Tinubu’s 2 Awkward Appointments

Yes, President Tinubu buckled to wise counsel on Thursday and cancelled the appointment of 24 years old Imam Kashim Iman as Board Chairman of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), but the absurdity lingers. The appointment left me trembling. How could it have happened? Is Tinubu just approving appointments without having them scrutinised? Was he just desperate to satisfy his crony? These were some of the questions I have spent quality time trying to find answers to without result.

A boy that finished NYSC last year, and has never worked even as an officer anywhere in his life, was suddenly announced as a Board Chairman. What then will he bring to the table? Imam certainly lacks the experience and capacity for the job. A boy that should still be under tutelage; somebody that should still be enjoying feeding bottle, was chosen to chair a Board. Where is the sense in this? This decision, though now reversed, remains an embarrassment to this country. The President must fashion out a better way of scrutinizing his appointees before announcement.

There is this other man, 32 years old Khalil Suleiman Halilu, appointed as Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). This is another awkward appointment. Halilu is an Eaglet CEO! At 32, he lacks the experience and capacity for the job. Forget about his garnished CV. Experience matters a great deal. It is a key factor in leadership. Today, I’m challenging Tinubu to also reverse this balderdash.

Needless Removal of Abubakar At CAC

The abrupt removal of Garba Abubakar as Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is a set back to the gains the agency made under his leadership. Under four years, the reformist Abubakar has almost fully turned the CAC to an agency where things work in line with global standards. Virtually all bureaucratic bottlenecks were removed and the CAC became a global reference agency.

Abubakar championed the reforms on ease of doing business particularly in the areas of electronic registration, consolidation of registration forms, integration of the CAC registration portal with the FIRS stamp duty portal, reduction of registration fees, and direct registration by first directors/subscribers.

Forget about the workers celebrating Abubakar’s sack. These are people affected by his anti-corruption drive in the CAC. They are also opposed to change. Abubakar stopped “business as usual” and profligacy at the CAC. If Tinubu truly wants to turn around this country, the likes of Abubakar must be brought on board.

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