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Who will save Nigeria from her legislators?

Written by Dr Pius Oyeniran Abioje on 21 June 2011.

The legislature and the presidency are crippling Nigeria’s development, because the two institutions determine what they want from the treasury, negotiate and approve it for each- other. We hear of whopping sums of money  they apportion to each-other, and there seems to be no way by which their financial excesses can be checked.


For the 2011 budget, the minimum amount of money to be approved for the legislature is N120bn, if not N150bn, upon which the last occupants were insisting. That of the executive arm of government is either N1.755 trillion or N1.778 trillion. I know the legislators are only  469 (109 senators and 360 representatives), and then the legislature’s support personnel, but it is altogether much less than the population of  any federal university. Yet, who cares to pump such amount of money into a university?


When you see the breakdown of the presidential and legislative budgets, it will not be surprising why  a speaker decided to buy a body massage machine for over ninety million naira. In 2008,  Dimeji Bankole did not know how to account for the huge sum of money in the House’s coffers, and so he bought 380 Peugeot 407 for about N2.32bn, which was said to be about N6.1m each.


To worsen the situation, as the representatives were disengaging, they resolved to go away with the cars by paying a token of N850,000 each for the official cars bought for over six million naira each. They also went away  with their office equipment (computers, scanners, printers, etc.) also at a token. Ridiculously, they argued that their computers contained personal information, as if such could not be deleted. Is that what the Nigerian civil servants are expected to emulate?


What is worse, the out-gone representatives decided not to pay cash for the looted goods, insisting  the costs could only  be deducted from what they called their “severance package.” I urge the anti-graft agencies to purge all of them, corporately and individually. I read that in 2008, the House spent “over N9bn to furnish their offices.” Are we to believe that the presidency and the Senate fared better, or that the dramatis personae in those two sectors were more discreet, since they all got huge sums of money for their budgets, or what actually happened that the House, whether under Patricia Eteh or Dimeji Bankole, tended to mess-up in a worse manner? What really happened?


A follow-up question is: Will the last presidency and legislature go un-probed by the anti-graft agencies-- the EFCC and the ICPC? And how will the current situation be better than our last experience of Nigerian rulers, since  huge sums of money are still budgeted for them? With specific reference to constituency votes, I believe those allocations should be sustained, but must be given to the local governments for specific developmental projects to be supervised by the appropriate legislators, for checks and balances.


Why must every legislator be a committee member in Nigeria? Because a lot of money is allocated to the committees, and everybody has to benefit. Hence, Dimeji Bankole told us that Nigeria’s legislature has many more committees than America which is a much bigger country, but the chop-I-chop syndrome was upheld throughout his tenure. Thus, our rulers know the best practices in developed countries, but they keep politicising and exploiting our lives. They should all be probed, singly and collectively.


Dr Pius Oyeniran Abioje,  University of Ilorin.

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