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Perspective On NASS 2% Budget Spending

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The theme of the symposium was “Saving A Nation From The Precipice: Between Re-Federation And Secessionalism”. The occasion was the 10th annual symposium of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, B-Zone. The event which took place last week held in the Ogun State Capital, Abeokuta.
Vice Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, Kwara State, Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji, was the guest lecturer. Top among the dignitaries that graced the talkshop was the Deputy Chairman of Nigeria’s National Assembly and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila by proxy.
Of course, the crux of the discussion was how best to pull back Nigeria that many believe is lingering precariously on the brink of national suicide. And this was where the second in command of the national legislature squared up with the erudite academic as the professor dared to point at the National Assembly as part of the areas that need adjustment in order to save the life of the nation.
In his presentation, Prof. Adedimeji chided the country for running the most expensive legislative arm in the world and expressed the view that a leaner and more concise National Assembly would reduce cost and conserve funds for other critical sectors of the economy that would be of more direct benefit to the generality of Nigerians.
He said, “With due respect to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nigeria spends the highest amount of money on legislators in the world and the National Assembly consumes more money than any other parliament in the world”.
According to the university don, it is superfluous to keep two legislative chambers, adding that it is as well bogus and extravagant to maintain the number of lawmakers when a single chamber and a much less number of persons could deliver the same service at a more tolerable cost.
“A unicameral legislature with two representatives from each state is sufficient. The National Assembly should have less than 100 members, including Abuja,” he emphasised.
This inclusion of the National Assembly among the areas to be pruned for better national productivity was what the Speaker of the House, who was also the chairman of the occasion, represented by Hon. Ibrahim Isiaka, House member representing Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency, could not let slide without an effort to put the records straight.
The speaker accused Nigerians of being seemly obsessed with the neglible portion of the national revenue spent on the federal lawmakers while closing their eyes to how the greater part is dispensed.
Gbajabiamila said, while only two per cent of the national budget is spent on the National Assembly, 98 per cent goes to service the rest of the country and wondered why the searchlight is scarcely turned on the greater part instead of beaming its rays always on the infinitesimal fraction.
“The money being spent on the National Assembly is less than two percent of the total budget of this country but nobody has ever looked at what is happening to the remaining 98 per cent”, he said, explaining that, “when you say National Assembly, you are not talking about legislators, who are the lawmakers only. You are also talking about the National Assembly Commission; you are talking about everything, all encompassing”.
While noting that Nigerians appear to lack adequate appreciation of the volume and value of the work of the lawmakers, he called for a change of perception that suggests that the country maintains the most expensive lawmaking arm in the world.
“No one, till today, has actually sat down to go into research and define the meaning of legislators,” he said.
The issue of the cost of maintenance of Nigeria’s legislature is always a touchy one, especially for the lawmakers. The total take home per month for federal lawmakers in the country is still largely a subject of speculation.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives are believed to be carting home double digit millions of Naira as monthly pay packets. While the lawmakers are usually edgy and dodgy whenever any discussion gets close to their emoluments, they also usually shy away from full disclosure.
However, the former Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji,troubled the waters when he revealed in 2018 that he and his colleagues received N13.5 million as “running cost” in addition to N700,000 consolidated salary and allowances on a monthly basis.
According to the outspoken former lawmaker, the average legislator in the upper chamber of the National Assembly pocketed N162 million yearly in allowances and N9 million in salaries.
Until 2015, statutory budget allocation to the National Assembly was N150 billion annually. The figure was adjusted to N125 billion subsequently, until 2021 when it was moved up to N134 billion.
Without a doubt, two per cent of N13.58 trillion is more than N200 billion. So, going by Gbajabiamila’s submission, money that is expected to go into the running of the National Assembly in 2021 is more than has been made public under the subhead in the appropriation document.
Instead of speaking in percentages, therefore, Nigerians would have loved the speaker to speak in terms of the quantum of money that is being spent on the maintenance of the 469 lawmakers and a service commission whose staff strength may not be more than a thousand persons.
This, actually, is the point of divergence between Prof. Adedimeji’s argument and the Honourable Speaker’s perspective. The import of the proof’s discourse is that the nation can do without spending this huge amount on an arm of government that does not generate money.
Indeed, not just a few Nigerians share the view that something needs to be done, and urgently too, to reduce the size of not only the legislative arm, but that of the executive as well. The belief is that such a measure will automatically cut the overall cost of governance and free up funds needed to finance the productive sector of the economy, provide jobs for the teeming unemployed able youths and douse the rising tension in the land.
The lawmakers should be worried that Nigerians think that the country is wasting money on them (legislators) and that the citizens are not getting value for money spent on their (legislators’) upkeep. They should be concerned that the people are getting more angry that while their (citizens’) lives and material circumstances have continued to depreciate, devalued and endangered by opportunistic social and economic devourers, the legislators live in obscene luxury at the expense of their (citizens’) welfare.
Nigerians would probably not bother much about how much of their collective resources go into servicing their representatives and leaders, if by the work they (representatives and leaders) do, their (citizens’) lives are made better, secure and are assured of a certain future.
However, as long as unemployment, poverty, insecurity, hunger and hopelessness continue to be the lot of the mass of the Nigerian people, they would never see any justification for any percentage of their resources being spent on their leaders. For now, the feeling is that the people are paying leaders who are overseeing their misery and underdevelopment instead of working for their (citizens’) socio-economic advancement.
The lawmakers and indeed the federal government should be deeply disturbed that for all their (government) efforts, the reality of the situation in the country is that more than one-third of the population is languishing in extreme poverty, children are out of school for no fault of theirs’ or their parents’, cost of food is rising above the reach of the common man, freedom to move around in search of livelihood is being curtailed, there is no guarantee for safety of lives and property, children can neither go nor safely sit in school to learn and everyone appears to be living on the edge.
Something needs to be done swiftly to change the growing perception that the federal government can no longer embark on any meaningful project, without borrowing money. Somebody needs to reassure Nigerians very quickly that the national assembly is actively engaged in some other beneficial assignments than merely approving loans whose impact they seem not to feel.
Inevitably, the controversy over federal lawmakers’ take home pay in particular, and what some have described as the unsustainable cost of governance in general in Nigeria, is not likely to abate until a corresponding significant improvement in the living condition of the people is achieved.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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LG Chairman-Elect Blames Insecurity On Parental Failure

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Chairman-elect of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Hon. Target Segibo has alleged that the prevalent security challenges in some communities of the local government area could be traceable to parental failure on one hand, and frivolous lifestyle of children and wards involved in crime and criminality in the area on the other hand.
Segibo, who was a pioneer member of the State House of Assembly between 1999-2003, stated this in Yenagoa, the state capital recently while fielding questions from newsmen shortly after receiving his Certificate of Return from the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC).
He indicated his continued desire to work for the peace and rapid socio-economic development of the local government, noting that having been actively involved in the politics of the area for decades now, he was more grounded in working on modalities towards ensuring enduring peace and unity in troubled communities of the area.
The Chairman-elect who also lauded the state governor, Senator Douye Diri, the state’s leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the electorate for finding him worthy to be elected Chairman of the local government, called on parents/guardiance not to renege on their primary responsibilities of watching over their children and wards, arguing that as the largest local government area in the state, Southern Ijaw should also be noted for peace and development.
“For over 20 years, I’ve been living peacefully with all my neighbours, both at home in Oporoma, headquarters of Southern Ijaw LGA and here, in Yenagoa.
“I’ve grown up children, but I don’t give them more than what they needed as students to go to school and stay okay as a father because I discovered that most of the security challenges we’re facing today in the Southern Ijaw LGA, and other parts of the state, is traceable to parental failure and children’s wanting to lead a frivolous lifestyle”, he said.
“As parents/guardians we should be able to know the kind of friends our children/wards keep. We must not pamper them. We must tell them that they have to do something legal to earn a living. We must question any source of sudden wealth and affluence on the part of our children and wards.
“But I want to assure our people of Southern Ijaw that as their incoming Chairman, when I’m sworn-in, having been actively participating in the politics and other activities of the area, collectively we’ll work to ensure enduring peace, unity and development of the LGA”, he added.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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Bayelsa Assembly Grills, Confirms Diri’s Commissioner- Nominees 

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The Bayelsa State House of Assembly has screened and confirmed the first batch of Commissioner-nominees for Governor Diri’s second term State Executive Council.
The Tide gathered that the State Chief Executive in a bid to form his cabinet for his second tenure had earlier submitted a list of 14 names to the state legislature for confirmation as commissioners.
However, The Tide reports that only 13 out of the 14 nominees attended the constitutional exercise of the lawmakers.
Though no official reasons have been given, the immediate past Commissioner for Sports, who is also a former member of the state Assembly, Hon. Daniel Igali, was conspicuously absent during the screening exercise.
Inline with the House’s rules and Standing Orders, two other former members of the state Assembly who were also part of the nominees, Dr Gentle Emelah, immediate past Commissioner for Education, and Mrs Ebiwou Koku-Obiyai, were simply asked to take a bow and leave.
Following the exhaustive grilling, however, the immediate past Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr Biriyai  Dambo, SAN, his Finance counterpart, Mr Maxwell Ebibai, were confirmed.
Also confirmed were the immediate past Works and Infrastructure Commissioner, Moses Teibowei, Mrs Koku Obiyai, Dr Gentle Emelah, Ayibakipreye Brodericks, George Ekpotuatein Flint and Komuko Akari Kharim.
Furthermore, Mr Perepuighe Biewari, Dr Jones Ebieri, Barr. Peter Afagha, Mrs Bidei Elizabeth and Michael Magbisa received the nod to be appointed commissioners by the state lawmakers.
In his advice to the nominees shortly after their screening, Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Michael Ogbere, enjoined the Commissioner hopefuls to work as a team with those they will meet on ground, admonishing that they remain loyal to the government at all times.
On his part,  Leader of the House, Hon. Monday-Bubou Obolo, said the people of the state expect a lot trom them and that the House will do its best to keep them on their toes through its oversight functions while giving them the needed legislative support where necessary.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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NEC Meeting: PDP’ll Wax Stronger – Farah Dagogo 

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A former lawmaker representing Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Farah Dagogo, has described the outcome of the 98th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as another demonstration of the resilience of the party to weather any storm that comes its way.
This is contained in a statement released bythe Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the estwhile federal legislator, Ibrahim Lawal, at the weekend.
In the build up to the NEC meeting,  suggestions and permutations had been rife of the likelihood of the PDP running into another round of crises as the party tries to navigate a path for the North Central Zone to produce a substantive National Chairman to complete the truncated tenure of former Chairman, Dr. Iyiorchia Ayu.
Speaking on the sidelines of the NEC meeting that saw Umar Damagum retain his position as the party’s Acting National Chairman until the next NEC meeting scheduled for August, Dr Dagogo said those who genuinely have the best interest of the party at heart made timely sacrifices to keep the party firm and afloat.
The former member of the National Assembly said but for the political maturity and sagacity employed by the party’s National Leader and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, alongside other leaders, before and during the NEC meeting, the party would have ‘played into the hands of some individuals, who wanted the party to implode in order to improve their political fortunes’.
He expressed optimism that by the adjourned date of August, Damagum would have seen that  “it is in the best interest of the party for him to vacate the position for a more purposeful and result oriented leadership’’.
“ For me, the outcome of the NEC meeting was a win-win situation. Against all odds, the party came out unscathed and will continue to wax stronger.
“Yes, the Acting Chairman retained his position, but it is obvious to him now and others that it would be in the best interest of the party for him to vacate that position for a more purposeful and result oriented leadership by August.
“The so called tension generated in the build up to the NEC Meeting was actually orchestrated by the inordinate desire of some few individuals who wanted to thwart the sterling call by party faithful for a review of its failing leadership and directionless.
“ The Party however did not play into the hands of those individuals, who wanted the party to implode in order to improve their political fortunes. Thanks in good measure to the political maturity and sagacity employed by the Party’s National Leader and Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, alongside other leaders, before and during the NEC Meeting. We are where we are now because of their sacrifices and dedication to the party, “ he added.

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