South-West governors, not long ago and without any tangible reason for our taxes spent on their jamboree, came out with a verdict commending the party’s members of the zone in the National Assembly. There were no specifics.
Ideally, these South-West governors should have spelt out reasons for awarding their members in the National Assembly pass marks. Since the governors failed on that score, they should be confronted on why the party’s (APC’s) National Assembly members (have) failed woefully in their performance. Indeed, so abysmally have they performed that, where possible, each APC member of National Assembly from that zone should be asked by their constituents to account for why he/she should be re-elected in 2019.
By the way, it should be noted that only South-West zone members of the National Assembly were so pampered with pass marks by their governors. As of now, a substantial portion of national anger (so widespread) is directed at National Assembly members as a whole. For their zonal governors, therefore, to have singled them out for purportedly doing a good job means that South-West governors don’t even feel the genuineness of the national anger against the National Assembly members.
Grudges of Nigerians against National Assembly members are too many and so glaring to everybody, except certainly state governors whose pass mark to their protégés must be a contemptuous response to the prevailing provocation of the public. The fact that the South-West APC members of the National Assembly are on the ticket of the ruling party is no excuse for them to acquiesce in injustice, corruption or, at best, dereliction of responsibilities. Yet, for all these, South-West APC governors commended their members in the National Assembly.
Before these fellows were re-elected or even elected at all as members of the National Assembly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had monetised virtually all their entitlements, especially transport and accommodation. Yet, the first thing National Assembly members did after their inauguration, was to provide themselves vehicles at taxpayers’ expense through various designs, one of which was membership of the various Senate or House committees.
In fact, with full public knowledge that members of National Assembly already collected individually various huge amounts in lieu of official vehicles, as per Obasanjo’s monetisation policy, the idea of providing vehicles for them generated nationwide criticisms. Such was public disgust on this issue that President Muhammadu Buhari had to be taken up in his maiden television chat. Buhari’s response was unmistaken when he asked: “where is the money for that?”
Well, from whatever source, National Assembly members got themselves the money. APC members mostly comprise membership of National Assembly committees. Were South-West state governors unaware of this abuse of office by their party’s members in the National Assembly? Yet, they were commended for purportedly doing a good job. The escape route for these chaps is the constitutional arrangement of so-called separation of powers or autonomy of each arm of government in which the executive is not supposed to have any control over the National Assembly.
Consequently, National Assembly members, over years, progressively increased their budget estimates and where the allocation is considered inadequate, they are not answerable to anybody. Should Buhari himself flex muscles, the response of blackmail is instant as the National Assembly asserts its independence. That is the same thing state governors would never concede to state Houses of Assembly.
How many Nigerians are aware that all their conversations on telephone, which are supposed to be private, as guaranteed under the Constitution, are monitored by security agencies? If only because of their priviledged status, state governors should be aware of this unlawful invasion of our privacy. As a measure of the caliber of men and women representing us, National Assembly members, majority of them APC, ignorantly or unconsciously, legalised that violation of our constitutional right (to privacy) by passing the bill.
Right to privacy? Yes. But what is that discussion on telephone to which the state should not have access? That question can be asked of all democratic societies, which jealously guarantee and guard the citizen’s right to privacy. Despite violation of our human rights in many forms, some of them unknown to us, at least, Nigerians, compared to our fellow Africans, can proudly claim not to live in a regimented society. We must, at the same time, be concerned that we do not sleep-walk into a police state.
It is also conceded that, in emergency situations, the state may abridge even the most fundamental of human rights. But that is usually for a specified period. A good example was when the American Congress granted the state the authority to monitor phone discussions of their citizens, following the 9/11 invasion and bombing of the country. But that law was for a limited period and as soon as the country stabilised, the same American Congress not only announced the lapse of the temporary authority given the state but also publicly ensured that ordinary Americans regained their right to privacy. On the contrary, APC members of the National Assembly gave unlimited power to our security agencies to be invading our private discussions on the phone. Yet, for this scandal, APC governors from the South-West zone commended their National Assembly members?
Here is another scandal for which South-West APC governors inadvertently or, perhaps, deliberately acclaimed their members in the National Assembly. Nigeria must be the only country in the world where salaries and allowances of parliamentarians are unknown to citizens, and, when demand is made for such, only arrogance and defiance come in response. Does President Buhari himself know how much these guys earn? If he knows, even he is not telling us for fear of being accused of under-mining the National Assembly.
At best, Nigerians are told by the National Assembly that their salaries and allowances are fixed by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, which itself does not feel Nigerians have any business to know the earnings of their elected representatives. Do these South-West governors know or care to know anything about the salaries and allowances of their party’s members in the National Assembly?
In the absence of official figures, we have the right to believe the claim that each National Assembly member earns at least N10 million a month, apart from other allowances for costume and newspapers. Meanwhile, ordinary Nigerias are inflicted with ever-rising taxes and rising costs for every service. And South-West APC governors thought it fit to praise their members of the National Assembly?
Lagos-Ibadan and Sagamu-Benin expressways are the busiest and most accident-prone in the country because of their poor state. The main reason is that Lagos, the former federal capital, remains the destination for most Nigerians, whether from the farthest or nearest part of the country. According to Lagos State government, tens of thousands of Nigerians pour into the state every day. The evidence is vivid with heavy concentration of population in every part of the state. Residents of Lagos travelling to any part of the country, whether near or far, pass through Lagos-Ibadan or Sagamu-Benin expressway. Such heavy traffic and the poor job by original contractors, all resulting in wear and tear, soon rendered the two expressways notorious death-traps for travellers in both private and public transport vehicles, all within 15 years. In civilised societies, such major highways last centuries. Examples are London to Liverpool, London to Birmingham, Chicago to Indiana, Washington to New York or New York to New Jersey.
To be fair to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, he awarded contract for the reconstruction of Sagamu-Benin expressway. Regretfully, that contract ended up as the scandal of road reconstruction in Nigeria. The reconstruction started most strangely at Benin and ended at Ore, the border of South-West-Edo. Road projects normally commence from starting point but the Sagamu-Benin expressway reconstruction commenced at the end – Benin instead of Sagamu. The sad fact is that Benin to Ore (end of South-West) has been completed. The reader can find out the fate of Ore to Sagamu.
No South-West zone member of National Assembly has ever mentioned anything about the Sagamu-Ore portion of that expressway and these governors acclaimed them?
Lagos-Ibadan expressway is the main exit to Oyo, Ilorin and to the North and records fatal accident almost every day. President Buhari awarded contract for the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway to be completed within two years. The volume of reconstruction on the expressway and instant impact were remarkable. Almost half of the entire distance was completed to make journeys very comfortable for all travellers. Above all, the rate of fatal accidents dramatically reduced.
Then came the disaster. APC South-West members of the National Assembly ganged up with their colleagues to reduce the budget allocation for Federal Ministry of Works specifically for the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The mentality of these guys is that they are doing Minister Babatunde Fashola a favour and, therefore, must cut him down to size. The result? Construction work has stopped on Lagos-Ibadan expressway and fatal accidents are on the rise again almost every week.
Without any construction work on Lagos-Ibadan expressway for over six months, the uncertainty is whether or when the construction will be completed. Contractors seem to have abandoned work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway since they were not paid. Are South-West governors aware of this sorry state of affairs? And yet they expressed total satisfaction with the performance of their zonal members of the National Assembly? What really are the values of our political office holders?
Last time, Obasanjo was criticised for not reconstructing the Lagos-Ibadan expressway throughout his eight-year tenure. Buhari returned to office and prioritised the same Lagos-Ibadan expressway for total reconstruction, only to be frustrated by, among others, South-West zonal members of the National Assembly.
The probability is that, till now, South-West APC governors are incapable of correctly judging events leading to the stoppage of construction work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Are APC South-West National Assembly members any more capable of realising implications of their conspiracy to cut the allocation of funds for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway? Birds of the same feather?
We must give it to one APC members of National Assembly from the South-West, Senator Sola Adeyeye, who lately rehabilitated himself by standing out. Adeyeye courageously acknowledged poverty in the land and called for drastic reduction of the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly. At least, he spoke the truth, much to the embarrassment of his colleagues none of whom could rise to support him. Also, Senator Ali Ndume’s victory in law courts against his suspension must have saved Sen. Adeyeye from suspension.
Last week, I wrote that William Pitt Jnr. became youngest British Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24. The year came out as 1983. Nothing could be more embarrassing.could be more embarrassing.
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Author: Uche Atuma