The National Assembly makes laws, controls the finances of the nation and plays a role in checking the actions of government and the ministries.
In spite of these functions, critics note that governance ought to be about the people and better life for the masses but the present situation in the National Assembly in that regard has fallen below the expectations of the electorate.
A social critic, Dr Obed Oduah, says that presidential form of government, especially in the conduct of the National Assembly matters that border on assets’ boarding and sales, is worrisome.
He observes that although the National Assembly is made up of elected representatives with defined responsibilities, the cost of running the two chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — calls for concern.
Many Nigerians believe that the economy is groaning under the heavy weight of excessive cost of governance and they have been asking what could be done to reduce the cost of government, especially by the National Assembly.
They cite a report that the authorities of the legislature allegedly sold official property such as cars and other public utilities at low prices in which Land Cruiser Jeep purchased on tax payers’ money for N26 million could be sold to a member of the National Assembly at N1 million.
The Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership and Strategy and Development, Dr Otive Igbuzor, says that the high cost of governance has impeded economic development in the country.
According to him, the problems are not unconnected with corruption and wastages in governance and, above all, the high cost of doing government business, especially in the National Assembly.
A concerned citizen, Mr Feyi Olubusayo, an economist, recalls that the 2019 budget makes provision for N5.5 billion for the purchase of “expensive’’ cars for members of the National Assembly to replace the cars bought four years ago.
He expresses concern that the members of the 8th Senate have gone away with the cars as “parting gifts’’, observing that the new cars may also go the same way if adequate measure is not put in place to check it.
He also observes that a vote of N139 billion for the National Assembly in the 2018 Appropriation Act is much.
But the Senate has described the public condemnation of its planned purchase of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) amounting to N5.5 billion for the senators as an insult.
The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, said that the status of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not undeserving of an SUV.
He said that each of the 109 senators in the upper chamber would get one SUV, which would be paid for at the end of their four-year legislative tenure.
He said the burden on the shoulders of the senator was not a mean task and that an SUV for their work was not too much.
“It is an insult to say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria. It is an insult.
“The N5.5 billion is from the National Assembly fund and it is budgeted for every year, which they will pay back at the end of the tenure.
Irrespective of this position in the Senate, Dr Abbey Ibude, a critic, insists that “a huge portion of the country’s resources is allocated to servicing a tiny fraction of the population who are public office holders, especially the National Assembly members.
“With little left for the provision of social infrastructure, the majority is entrenched in extreme poverty, which is why the acting Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Shettima Abba-Gana, canvasses a methodical reduction in the cost of governance.
“The guiltiest parties are the Executive and Legislative arms, although the judiciary is not blameless.
“Ministers, their aides, senators, representatives, state lawmakers, commissioners, local government chairmen and other public officials maintain expensive convoys and fly in expensive modes of transportation’’.
Also, Sen. Shehu Sani, former senator from Kaduna State, notes that a senator received N13.5 million as “running cost” every month.
“This is outside of the N750, 000 monthly salary, N200 million annually for constituency allowance and other undeclared allowances.
“Some of the senators were former governors, after serving out their eight-year tenure as governors, receive mega pensions for life.
“It is laughable because these governors served their states for just eight years or less. It is daylight robbery of public fund.
“These governors earned top rates while in office and used chartered/private jets, although their citizens live in penury’’, he said.
Similarly, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts recently, observed that the country had not been witnessing prudent use of government resources.
The chairman of the committee, Mr Kingsley Chinda, said that the lawmakers were currently examining the annual reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation submitted to the Legislature.
“Generally, what we have observed is that not much has changed from the reckless system that we have operated in Nigeria. Not much has changed. Public spending is still not very responsible and so, we need to begin to change.
“One of the problems we have is that our institutions are very weak; institutions are not strengthened; the government is not making deliberate efforts to strengthen institutions,’’ he said.
However, members of the National Assembly have vowed to fight corruption through aggressive oversight functions and probe of petitions against public officers.
They also pledged to ensure adequate check on the executive arm of government but would not do so through confrontation.
The federal parliamentarians are also unanimous in their decision to work as a team irrespective of political affiliations to collectively tackle the myriad of problems confronting Nigerians.
A member of the House of Representatives from Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in Benue, Francis Agbo, promised to support other members to make life extremely difficult for public office holders who might wish to loot Nigeria’s treasury, even in the National Assembly.
“We intend to minimise the negative perceptions that Nigerians have about the National Assembly.
“We will enthrone more transparency in our business. We want people to know that we are the parliamentarians for Nigerians, not parliamentarians for our pockets.
“We intend to strengthen internal democracy. Many of our people don’t know what they call internal democracy”.
Olaitan writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.
Wike, Expanding Infrastructure For The Future
When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced that the State Government would embark on the construction of a fourth flyover to be sited at GRA Junction, Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway in addition to the three ongoing flyovers at Rumuogba, Okoro-nu-Odo, Rebisi and also expand the Rumuola flyover, the wailers and naysayers went to town with their usual perennial criticisms.
Ranging from the now overflogged line that the Governor was using Rivers money to develop only Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas at the expense of other areas, to not creating jobs for the youths, some even made snide and sarcastic allusions to the N78.9 billion refund. No doubt, the critics have had a field day in the court of public opinion.
But the pragmatic Governor has taken all in his calm, unperturbed style and continued with stoic commitment and unwavering resolve, to deliver on his promise to Rivers people.
He had already fixed his compass on the future of Rivers State and with Port Harcourt and the capital territory as the epicenter of any planning.
The need to reconfigure infrastructural facilities to accommodate futuristic calculations, was both urgent and expedient, especially against the backdrop of making the State an Investors’ Haven.
Modern urbanization has made flyovers an inevitable infrastructural development component because they are built over man-made structures such as roads and intersections, to prevent congestion and provide a more convenient way to navigate through the traffic. They are also built to provide safe and convenient passage for the pedestrians, help to streamline the traffic control system by reducing traffic gridlock and minimise the risk of off-road crashes, amongst other advantages.
One of the key pledges Governor Wike made to Rivers people when he assumed office in 2015, was to embark on comprehensive urban renewal as well as actualize the age-long yearnings of the indigenes and residents of the local government areas to be able to connect and access the rest of the State by tarred roads and durable bridges.
Five years into his tenure, the urban renewal programme in the capital city and indeed the interconnectivity across the length and breadth of the State is progressing amazingly.
The capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor is undergoing massive construction as restoration works, including underground drains, sidewalks, green areas and street lights on most of the roads in the Old and new Government Reservation Areas are all at very advanced stages of completion. This is in addition to the three flyovers that are progressing simultaneously and expected to beat the deadline of February 2021.
The construction of the 4th flyover bridge across GRA junction and accompanying dualization of Ezimgbu road and the dualization of Tombia Extension, GRA to link Ikwerre will all be delivered on schedule.
And for those who accuse Governor Wike of only developing the capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, complimentary construction work including the dualization of Kira – Sapkenwa – Bori – Kono, straddling three Local Government Areas in Ogoni heartland, has almost been completed and the Construction of Oyigbo (Mbano camp) to Iriebe, linking Oyigbo and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of the State, has already been completed and would have been commissioned if not for the outbreak of COVID-19.
Also completed virtually, are Alesa- Agbonchia – Oyigbo road linking Eleme and Oyigbo Local Government Areas of the State; and the Rumuakunde and Isioudu communities’ roads in Emohua Local Government Areas of the State.
Similarly, the second phase of Isiokpo community internal roads in Ikwerre Local Government Areas has been completed and the construction works on the 16.85 kilometers Rumuji – Ibaa – Isiokpo road in Emohua and Ikwerre Local Government Areas have passed the 90 percent completion level, while the dualization of the 23 kilometers Omoku – Egbema road in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area has progressed beyond 50 per cent.
In Etche Local Government Area, the 21.3 kilometers Odufor/Akpoku/Umuoye road has since crossed 70 percent construction level, while the Aker-base road in Obio/Akpor Local Government, the Ula Ehuda-Odioku-Anwunugboko-Ubeta-Ihuechi-Odiereke road; the Odiokwu internal road network in Ahoada West Area as well as the Abonnema ring road in Akuku Toru Local Government Area, and the Umuma road in Omuma Local Government Area, and the Sime – Eteo – Nonwa road connecting Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas, are all virtually ready for commissioning once the Coronavirus threat is successfully mitigated to allow for such activities.
By a combination of unshakable commitment and a visionary drive to ensure the delivery of excellent and legacy infrastructural projects, the Governor Wike administration has vigourosly pursued the accomplishment of its promise to complete the long-abandoned roads to the coastal communities of Opobo and Andoni in Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas of the State and the Ogoni – Andoni – Opobo (Unity) road. In fact, citizens of Opobo Ancient Kingdom drove home for the first time in centuries only last year.
The infrastructural development of Rivers State is inclusively holistic and contrary to the notions and misleading opinions of critics, who have not traversed the state to actually see and confirm for themselves, the transformational and aesthetic metamorphosis which is not just taking place all over the state, but opening up and interconnecting the entire state into one cohesive entity.
Lagos State has often served as a reference index in developmental analysis, but many will agree that, despite the impressive strides it has achieved, there is still the excruciating hardship and suffering of endless and frustrating traffic gridlock, because of the absence of well structured roads and bridges network, thus leading to uncontrollable congestion on the few alternative outlets out of the city.
This is exactly what the Rivers State Government, already conscious of the traffic build-up that overwhelms critical points of the city even now, is taking concrete and proactive measures to address and resolve in future, with the construction of the flyovers.
In addition to easing the traffic tension, the projects are also mainstreaming youth empowerment and skill acquisition for indigenous engineers, apart from generating employment and empowering local contractors.
For instance, 20 indigenous engineers would be trained by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC during the contract period as part of government’s policy on youth empowerment and skill acquisition and that is just the initial projection. The prospects had been more expansive and comprehensively favourable, if not for the Coronavirus outbreak that has drastically impeded robust operations and activities.
There is definitely no doubt that Governor Wike is building for the future. The capital city and territory is expanding rapidly and population explosion with its attendant challenges in a burgeoning commercial hub, which almost every part of the State is gradually transforming into with the brilliant economic module of strategically concessioning major government-owned assets to willing and capable private investors, is a critical futuristic component that must be addressed today.
Governor Nyesom Wike is a promise keeper and he has kept his promises, worked hard and achieved so much more with far less resources, provided first-class socio-economic infrastructure and kept the State and businesses safe and secure, despite the unexpected outbreak of Covid-19 and the contrived attempts to frustrate and create diversionary situations, both by internal and external forces. Indeed, the administration has remained firm and focused on this progressive trajectory with a pledge to recommit to work harder and deliver greater development to Rivers people.
Like Governor Wike himself said in his first year, second term address to Rivers people on May 29, 2020: “We know it is not going to be easy given the very poor state of the national economy and the spinoff effects on ours. But, tough times like this call for unity of thought, unity of purpose and unity of actions; believing in ourselves and in our ability to overcome all the challenges that confront us as a State and as a people”.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
Governor Wike Is Expanding Infrastructure For The Future
The Wike That I Know
Several comments, interpretations, narratives and theories have greeted the recent letter written by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressing the sincere appreciation of the Rivers State Government and people to Mr. President, for approving the sum of N78.9 billion to the state, as refund of monies expended by the State on federal projects in the state.
Most of these responses have either been mischievous, absurd, totally misleading and some even trying to conjure and configure fabulist narratives, celebrating the mystique and magical influence of the power of money on the human psyche.
But the most remarkable of these is the one written by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, titled: WIKE VINDICATES BUHARISTS.
To be sure, Femi Adesina’s opinion on any topic immediately attracts considerable attention and commands tremendous weight, not just for the fact that he has been a seasoned journalist over the years, but indeed in recognition of his status as the Special Adviser to Mr. President Buhari on Media and Publicity; which makes him one of the recognized spokespersons of our President, whose views unequivocally represents the opinion of the Presidency in all matters.
It is therefore, in due cognizance of this latter responsibility and authority of his portfolio, that one must appreciate and commend Femi Adesina for his endorsement of Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to thank President Buhari for approving the refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State, and also the quite remarkable request for the President to oblige Rivers State with a State visit.
Of course, Femi Adesina’s admiration of Governor Nyesom Wike and his bold Thank You letter are embedded copiously in his article, though couched in the unerring profiling of the Rivers Governor in some lyrical passages and in some truculent, pro-Buhari obsessiveness in others.
The point needs to be made unambiguously, that the Rivers State Government, by way of emphasizing what Governor Wike rightly stated in the letter, appreciates the magnanimity of President Buhari,with profound gratitude and deep sincerity.
It was Aesop, the legendary Greek fabulist and writer of fables, who said that “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” There is certainly no doubt that one man who stands tall and proud, courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space, is definitely Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
For instance, what Femi Adesina describes as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than the ability to say and do things which other people are too frightened or lily livered to say or do; what we refer to in Nigeria as “dying in silence. ”
What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage. He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made.
If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognizes and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.
Like Mr. Femi Adesina rightly pointed out in his essay, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Buhari, approved the REFUND of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads, for which Rivers State got N78.9 billion. But that is not even half the story.
For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, it will be germane at this juncture to tell the true story of the refund and set the records straight, as presented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once and for all.
Giving a background to the reimbursement, Lai Mohammed had explained that the decision was sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.
He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?
“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing which also had ministers of education, transportation (and immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi), minister of finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.
“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation. So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.
“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.
“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”
From the above therefore, three important points stand out for particular interest and reference, viz:
1. The money is neither a generous loan gift or a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by Rivers State on Federal projects.
2. Rivers State was initially denied the refund until proper documentation was provided; a situation which many Rivers watchers will recall, prompted the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to visit Rivers State in March this year.
3. Rivers State got the approval for the amount of refund simply because Rivers State did the most comprehensive, qualitative and enduring projects.
For record purposes, let us state clearly that President Buhari has the authority to visit any state he wants to in Nigeria, whether he is Invited or not. He is the father of the nation and Rivers State enjoys a candid, honest and robust relationship with the present Federal Government, especially the presidency.
On August 19, 2017, Governor Wike was among the dignitaries that welcomed President Buhari after 103 days in London where he received medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.
While naysayers were busy misinterpreting the gesture, Governor Wike explained that no sane person would not be happy that his sick President was back home.
Recall alsonthat Governor Wike was the first PDP Governor to congratulate President Buhari after his second term election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in September last year. Indeed, the warm, cordial, respectful relationship between President Buhari and Governor Wike, captured in several widely circulated photographs, of the President’s visit to Rivers State to commission the international wing of the Port Harcourt international airport speaks volumes.
We need not also remind Mr. Adesina that as far back as February 2017, when Governor Wike was not even up to two years in Office, he had already been christened “Mr. Projects” by none other than the Vice President himself, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only affirmed that Rivers State was an important state to Nigeria and the Federal Government, but has since endeared himself to Rivers State and Governor Wike.
This brings us nicely to the part of the letter where Governor Wike unequivocally appeals to President Buhari to honour Rivers State with a Presidential state visit and we ask Mr. Femi Adesina: ‘what is wrong with the Rivers State Governor inviting the President for a state visit. Is he not the Father of the nation again. Is Governor Wike not one of his children?
Considering the fact that the approval for the refund was also made for monies expended by Rivers State for Federal Projects, isn’t it equally apt that Governor Nyesom Wike should invite Mr. President to come and at least see the work for which the refund was made? Indeed, it will also provide Mr. President the grand opportunity to see first hand, the amazing and fantastic infrastructural wonders which Governor Wike is delivering in Rivers State. This is absolutely the right thing to do by a grateful recepient.
Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.
Like Femi Adesina correctly noted in his article, the N78.9 billion cannot be the reason for Governor Wike’s thank you letter and invitation to Mr. President. According to him: “I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I don’t agree less with Adesina because Governor Wike does not speak from both sides of his mouth and does not play to the gallery. His moral upbringing makes him to speak the truth at all times not minding whose ox is gored.
Finally, it is important to commend Mr. Adesina for articulating and justifying the decision of Governor
Wike to thank Mr. President and invite him to Rivers State. There is absolutely no doubt, as he so succinctly pointed out, that millions of Buharists would have actually advised the President not to approve the refund to Rivers State, and while many of them are still wailing and bellyaching at the President’s magnanimity, the icing on the refund cake is the chagrin and consternation, which even Adesina admits, has greeted Governor Nyesom Wike’s letter in their camp.
While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.
Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.
What makes Adesina’s grandstanding more worrisome is that he will never comment or let the world know how much the South-West States received as refund for federal projects executed in that part of the country.
Governor Wike’s letter of appreciation and appeal for a presidential state visit is thus a clear indication that what the people thought was lost has now been recovered. All is well that ends well and Rivers people are happy.
For the avoidance of doubt, the letter to Mr. President was delivered to Aso Rock, three weeks before it was published.
Governor Wike is not like Adesina who knows how to speak from both sides of his mouth. In 2008, he said this about the Chief of Staff to the President: “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows.”
Now that Gambari is Chief of Staff to the President, people have been asking if Adesina still sees Gambari’s sins’ shadows or he(Adesina) has turned to a bootlicking groveller?
There is no doubt that he is currently savouring the office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity as a compensation, having used his positions as former Editor-In-Chief of The Sun Newspapers and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to feather his own nest.
Adesina should be told that no amount of political mischief will turn Governor Wike from a hero to a villain in this matter.
The Wike that I know cannot be swayed by pecuniary interests. He will always stand for the truth and defend the interests of Rivers people.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
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