(D SO-CALLED SENATORS AND HOUSE REPS thieves) national Assembly members,the most wicked people in Nigeria,:
Our Constitution gives the National Assembly the responsibility to play an oversight role over the executive. This includes giving approvals for key political appointments by the executive as well as overseeing the work of ministries, departments and agencies of government.

The assumption of the Constitution is that this will be done in the interest of improved governance. It was Nasir el Rufai who first blew the whistle when he alleged in 2003 that legislators had demanded for a hefty bribe to facilitate his ministerial appointment. He has been hounded and harassed by legislators since that time. It was the hapless and naïve Professor Fabian Osuji, one time minister of education that dramatized the routine character of corruption in Executive-National Assembly relations. He had been asked for a bribe of 55 million naira to ensure cuts will not happen to his ministry’s budget. He asked his permanent secretary whether this was acceptable and he was told that it was “normal executive-legislative relations”. Having been told it was “normal”, he called the parastatals in his ministry and asked them to pay up their percentages of the bribe. He got into trouble and was sacked. His crime was allowing a memo to ask for bribe money. People laugh at him today for his naiveté. I have heard people say that the “correct” approach was to mask the bribe money in fake contracts so that the bribe does not enter official records as bribe. This is the tragedy of our nation as the public service has developed a huge capacity to mask corruption and present it as normal government business.

On Thursday 29th July 2011, the Senate President dissolved the Committee on Communications chaired by Sylvester Anyanwu for telling a lie and bringing the Senate to ridicule. The Committee had claimed that they had studiously screened the Chair, Executive Chair and Commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and it turned out that they did no such thing. Rather than carry out their legislative functions, they had been “settled” and did not even bother to go through the screening routine. No wonder that they approved over 6 billion naira for the Commission to carry out the registration of subscriber identification module (SIM) cards for GSM phones while everyone knew that the registration was being done by the phone companies not by NCC.

There are indeed clear indications that increasingly, National Assembly Committees are approving budget lines that were not conceived by the originating ministries. They make the allocations with the intention of recovering the monies later by using their “oversight might” to blackmail ministries and agencies to pass on the budget lines to them. We are all witnesses to the recent Herman Hembe scandal with regards to request for bribe to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The real issue outside the criminal element of lawmakers demanding bribes is the ethical question of committees asking government ministries, departments and agencies they are over sighting to fund the oversight process. This means the results of the oversight process are determined by the quantum of bribes rather than the facts of the case. We must develop a system of over-sighting the over-sighters.

The Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi generated controversy when he challenged the previous National Assembly on the massive cost they impose on our national finances. They consume a huge percentage of our national budget he told them and the nation. The “normal” expenditures of the national Assembly are morally unacceptable. Section 32(D) of the Third Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution gives the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission the powers to fix the remuneration of all public officers including legislators. The Commission has done its work. The Commission has fixed total remuneration for Senators including all allowances at 950,000 Naira. The Senators however multiplied their monthly income by a factor of 18 and were taking 18 million Naira each on a monthly basis. The total remuneration fixed for a member of the House of Representatives is 794,000 a month. They raised it illegally to 15 million a month. In addition to these illegal payments, our legislators also pay themselves huge sitting allowances for Committee work which is illegal as committee work is part of their normal functions which should not require further payments. It is these reckless and illegal increases of remuneration that has escalated their overhead costs. Nigerians were so furious when they found out the facts that the current National Assembly reduced the package. Recent reports however indicate that they have raised it again.

According to Premium Times, an internet news line, the Federal lawmakers’ self-assigned hefty annual allowances, which totals more than N70 billion this year. The amount, they point out would be sufficient to inject at least a 450 Megawatt of power into the national power grid. Alternatively the amount is enough to complete the dualization of one of the nation’s deadliest highways - the Abuja-Lokoja road. In the 2012 budget, after years of being abandoned, the four lots of that road that leads from the federal capital territory only received N2 billion apiece, a figure lower than the presidency’s 2012 feeding cost and the senate’s bill for new cars. Both subheads cost N2.3 billion each. Beyond the cars, the lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives will this year receive a total of about N71 billion in self-allocated allowances, most of it illegal.

Our legislators are not focused on serving the interests of the people, their actions are self-serving. They are holding the country to ransom and abusing their powers excessively. They do have oversight powers over the Executive. They have however used this power recklessly to call Ministers and Heads of Public Institutions who provide information they consider embarrassing to abuse and ridicule them in public. The way in which they shouted at and harassed the Governor of the Central Bank is clearly an abuse of their powers.

They have consistently disturbed the work schedules of ministers by regularly calling them for interrogation on trivial or self-serving issues. Ministers have an obligation to respond to legislative queries but they do not have to appear in person. They should begin to call the bluff of our irresponsible National Assembly. One of the most serious threats to sustaining democracy in Nigeria emanates directly from the irresponsibility of the National Assembly. And yet, legislatures are the only institutions that directly represent constituencies, and thereby the people. They have the power to create other powers which mean they have the monopoly of the powers to make laws through which they create new commissions and agencies, enact public policy and determine public expenditure through the process of appropriation laws.

Section 24 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act of 2004 prohibits Nigerian citizens from publishing any statement that falsely or scandalously impinges on the character of the leaders or members of the National Assembly. This means that when they tell lies about their work, steal our money, fight themselves in public and engage in disgraceful acts, we the ordinary citizens who they are supposed to be representing must shut up because they are convinced that they are our overlords. Consolidating Nigerian democracy today requires an open confrontation between the people and the legislature. We must insist on an open debate on the take home pay of every legislative member. It is curious that no member of the legislatures has to my knowledge confessed the totally scandalous monthly take home package they pocket. To save our democracy, we must confront, challenge, delegitimize and recount on a daily basis how their lives and actions betray the interest of the people and prove that they represent the god of money rather than the good people of Nigeria:
These piece was originally written by. Jibrin Jibrin

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