Anti-Graft War Fails To Launch •Executive Stays Inactive •NASS Seeks Solution

By on May 17, 2017


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It is safe to say that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is doing very little, if nothing at all, to stem the menace Nigerians have come to believe is so much entrenched in the country’s psyche – Corruption.

One should not lose sight of the fact that the ‘Anti-Corruption’ slogan was one of  the party’s key promises during the run up to the 2015 General Elections.

Two years down the line, it is beginning to be visible that the party’s office holders are not free of the malaise.

And should there be any visible attempt to wage any war against this social disorder, such is targeted largely at political opponents with the aim of cowering them.

The Senate on Tuesday queried the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and 32 other parastatals and agencies of government for failing to submit their 2017 budget proposal eight months after they were due to have been submitted.

Following a point of Order raised by the Leader of the Senate Bala Ibn Na’Allah, the Senate said the action of the parastatals were against the anti-corruption fight of the current administration.

The Senate therefore threatened to stifle the agencies of funds such that they would only be able to pay salaries, if they failed to submit their budget.

Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who drew the attention of his colleagues to the illegality, said that the agencies were so far spending money that had not been appropriated by the legislature.

Na’Allah said that he decided to bring the issue on the floor of the National Assembly so that the senators can understand the implication of the agencies spending without approval.

He noted that such agencies had been spending money since January without submitting their budget for approval.

“I deliberately decided that I will bring it on the floor, so that Senators will understand the implications.

“In our commitment to assist this government to fight corruption, we must stand on our feet that every spirit of our law must be obeyed by those holding public offices.

“I think that if you permit me I will like to come tomorrow by way of motion, so it can be debated on the Floor of the Senate.

“The only approach this Senate can take to assist this government in fighting corruption, is to insist that gross abuse of power and misuse of power must be stopped by every government agency.

“The only way we can build our institutions is to radically address the issue of abuse of power and misuse of power,” he said.

Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that all Revenue Generating Agencies shall not spend revenues they generate except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.

Also, Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 stipulates: (1)The Government corporations and agencies and government owned companies listed in the Schedule to this Act (in this Act referred to as “the Corporations”) shall, not later than 6 months from the commencement of this Act and for every three financial years thereafter and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Minister their Schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years. (2) Each of the bodies referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall submit to the Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year: (a) an annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section; and (b) projected operating surplus which shall be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices. (3) The Minister shall cause the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section to be attached as part of the draft Appropriation Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while ruling on the point of order, expressed displeasure over the failure by most government agencies to submit their 2017 budget proposals to the National Assembly for consideration and approval.

The Senate President condemned the practice where agencies of government spend money without statutory approval by the National Assembly and ruled that the issue be debated and resolution taken by the Senate on Wednesday.

“We are already in May.  How can Parastatals be operating without any budget, especially in this time of the fight against corruption and ensuring that there is transparency in governance?

“We need to take this matter seriously because clearly these agencies are just flouting the guidelines and breaking the law.

“This is a very serious issue because as we all know, in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, these budgets are meant to have been submitted to the National Assembly since August 2016.

“They are  supposed to have come with the Appropriation document. We have now passed the 2017 budget without the budgets of the parastatals.

“I think this matter really needs to come up as a motion because this is a very serious matter. We need to debate it.” 

He said that any committee that has received budget proposals from the parastatal it oversights should also be on ground to clear such agencies of government.

“But if as at middle of May, we are saying we have not received any budget from them, then which money are they spending and with what authority?

“We need to look into that and take a decision that may be they can only pay salaries until they bring their budgets here and approvals given.

“I think once and for all, we need to address this issue and put an end to this disregard for laws and areas of corrupt practices,” Saraki said.

It is interesting how it seems that the lawmakers have taking the front seat in the party’s attempt at fighting corruption, while the executive has preferred the back seat.

The executive is yet to take any visible stance on high profile cases such as those of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu; suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer David Babachir Lawal and Ambassador Ayo Oke, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA)

Incidentally, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki noted that the reason why Nigeria has not been able to win the fight against corruption is because the grounds for the fight has been sensationalism.

He said this on Monday at the book launch of Senator Dino Melaye’s book, ‘Antidotes for Corruption: The Nigerian Story’.

Saraki advised that the fight should be driven at prevention rather than penalties.

“I am convinced that why our fight against corruption has not yielded much success is that we have favoured punishment over deterrence?

“We must review our approaches by building our institutions to make it difficult for people to carry out corrupt practices.

“It is my view that the key area of prevention, we must work on, is to make it difficult for stolen money to find a home.”

He added, “We must fight corruption with sincerity, and not fight symptoms… unlike the five-minute sensationalism, we have now. It must not be based on individuals but on institutions.

“Let us fight corruption with sincerity. If we fight corruption in a corrupt way, we will not make any headway.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who was also at the event, spoke in the same vein.

Dogara said unless and until strong institutions are built and strengthened, Nigeria may end up punishing corruption but not fighting corruption.

He said for the war against corruption to succeed, there must be institutional reforms that will help put in place measures which will make it near impossible for people to engage in corrupt acts.

To him, corruption as a disease must be treated from its roots and not just the symptoms, and he argued that it is the moral responsibility of all men and women of good will to fight corruption because every individual pays the price of corruption in the society.

“As a country, we ran into a situation where corruption was becoming the norm, there was this moral cult that we had created that celebrated corruption,” the speaker stated. According to him,

“The motivation was always there for corruption, but now what is important is not just fighting the old corrupt system. Really, if we must make progress, our focus should be to replace the old order that was corrupt with a new order that makes corruption near impossible to take place.”

But the National Assembly may have its own issues as regard the topic.

A non-governmental organization (NGO), the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo requesting him to use his good offices and leadership position “to put pressure on the leadership of the National Assembly to cut the proposed apparently wasteful and unnecessary spending on the number of expensive official vehicles, legislative aides, travels and transportation, souvenirs, and photocopiers.”

The organisation urged Osinbajo to “Assent to the budget only if it truly reflects national development priorities, and not serve as a tool to satisfy the lifestyle of our lawmakers. To allow public funds to be spent as proposed by the National Assembly would disproportionately affect the socially and economically vulnerable and push them deeper into poverty and deprivation.”

In the letter dated 15 May 2017 and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation, said: “In a country where many of our general hospitals cannot provide emergency treatment, and at a time public funds are needed to improve these facilities, it is retrogressive to spend these funds to provide exotic cars for our lawmakers or fund needless travels. Such funds ought to be meaningfully spent to provide clean water, build classrooms, provide materials, train teachers and pay outstanding workers’ salaries.”

SERAP in the letter copied to Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights said that, “the more public funds that are spent to buy expensive vehicles for our lawmakers rather than servicing the new vehicles bought last year the less resources that will be available to make sure that Nigerians enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living and the rights to health, housing, food and education.”

Source cattnews

Posted 17/05/2017 12:31:12 AM




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