Nothing is more assured in the country today than a sense of empirically nauseating feeling of general public profligacy and corruption of etiquette. It is an evolving perilous quicksand-laid foundation that portends an ominous sign which if not halted, can accelerate the ripeness of the Nigerian society for political perdition. Our people yearned for a good form of government in a democracy – we got it but owing to bad leadership, the government has found it impossible to correct the putrid system that has been in place for some time. And to worsen the situation, the country’s constitution has become ineffectual in halting this avoidable systemic rot.
The Nigerian Republic that was created through the lofty dreams of our great nationalists is falling to the lucre of graft and public consumption. Those in positions of authority are running a spendthrift economy. Rather than cuddle moderation in governance, they have imbibed profligacy and the society at large is bearing the brunt through official denial of good infrastructure and perquisites of admirable wellbeing.
The foregoing clearly conjure the image and message that Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister in the ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s era and former vice-president of the World Bank in Africa was conveying when she said: “Since 2005, National Assembly members alone have been allocated N1trillion.” She made the remark during her keynote address at a recent one-day dialogue on the cost of governance in Nigeria that was jointly organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Federal Public Administration Reform Programme, United Kingdom (UK).
She reminded Nigerians of a highly deleterious habit of governance whereby 82 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary cost goes for recurrent expenditure and that 69 per cent of our citizens, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, are befuddled by poverty. She restated the contents of The Economist magazine of London’s recent publication which the lawmakers and others in government at the moment never thought could ever be read by the populace because of the unaffordable cost of the magazine to the hoi polloi that are in the majority in the country. The magazine reportedly stated that federal legislators in Nigeria are the highest paid lawmakers in the world with a basic salary of $189,500 per annum (N30.6m). Could somebody imagine what the odious allowances and other perquisites of the post would be?
The breakdown of the Statutory Transfers between 2005 and 2013 to the national assembly showing its spendthrift, which she claims she got from the Ministry of Finance are: 2005 (N54.79billion); 2006 (N54.79billion) 2007 (N66.4billion); 2008 (N114.39billion); 2009 (N158.92billion); 2010 (N 150billion); 2011 (N150billion); 2012 (N150billion); and 2013 (N150billion). Lest l forget; the national assembly has 109 senators and 360 representatives. Just 469 lawmakers, their retinue of aides and other staffers of the legislature are consuming these large sums which l prefer to term as senseless depletion of public till by most of these elected men and women that engage largely in grandstanding rather than legislative duties.
These legislative noisemakers could not make a reasonable response to the challenge by Ezekwesili but merely described it as a “simplistic and escapist way of addressing a problem”. The national assembly reportedly draws its N150billion annual budget from the first line charge since 2010. But these mostly legislative noisemakers could not in all conscience say that such huge budget, in view of the rampant poverty and poor infrastructure in the country, is not a waste or mismanagement.
It is true that those that live in glass houses should not throw stones. But in matters of state affairs, it is always in the best interest of the society that there should be conflict among the ruling class so that they expose the secrets with which they misgovern the nation. Yes, Ezekwesili truly needs to tell Nigerians how much it takes the country to maintain her and retinue of aides during her ministerial stewardship. The effrontery to do that shamefully eluded her during the vainglorious regime under which she served.
Doing that, in my view, will confirm the reality that the executive arm is equally guilty of what Ezekwesili has accused the national assembly of, and that such financial recklessness cuts across successive administrations in the country. However, this should not forbid the federal lawmakers from coming out with accurate figures of what the nation spends on them and how they fleece the country through outrageous allowances and rake-ins. Even at the state level, this financial recklessness by legislators is the order of the day.
The acerbic haul of the national assembly at Madam Ezekwesili, though evasively puerile, has now exposed the conspicuous public consumption of the executive arm of government under President Goodluck Jonathan. But for this, how would the public know that a minister appointed by this president had spent N2billion on air tickets? How could we have known that when the President recently visited China, she travelled as a member of the Presidential team to that country in a separate private jet at the cost of$300,000 to the nation? She reportedly repeated the same style in a private jet during Mr President’s trip to South Africa at the whopping cost of $300,000.
This super minister is reported to be using private jets any time she goes on assignments. Even her alleged Easter break trip to Dubai with members of her family was in a private jet at the cost of $300,000. A parastatal under her ministry reportedly maintains a private jet, Challenger 850 Visa Jet, at a monthly cost of $500,000. The presidency has remained mum since this newspaper broke the story early this week. And it is not unlikely that other ministers might be engaging in this insensitive act of gross financial mismanagement and vain-gloriousness. In better managed climes, heads would have rolled since the break of the heart-rending story.
Just like the federal legislature, the presidency does not have any meaningful thing to say on this issue because its hands are not clean. Can the presidency explain how the House Committee on Finance’ recovered N108b on remittances of the Federal Government share of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) are spent? Where are the IGR loots preceding this discovery?
The president cannot defend the misnomer of reportedly spending an estimated N9.08bn annually on the Presidential Air Fleet of 10 aircraft. Even the estimated value of all the aircraft is put at $390.5m (N60.53bn). This is absolute insanity in a country where unemployment has reached an astronomical level while social safety net is non-existent. This is a country where the aged are on their own while pensions of retirees routinely get siphoned by individuals that still freely move around in our midst when they should be rotting in jail. What a gross conspicuous public consumption!
This insensate spending cannot continue for long before the violent repercussions starts staring everybody in the face; and those that have something to lose are the people that have so massively looted the public till and are already used to opulent lifestyle and special treatment at the expense of taxpayers of this country. The day of reckoning beckons if this legislative and executive malady does not stop!
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