By Jereaghogho Efeturi Ukusare
In a country with approximately 200 million people who lack good roads, quality education, electricity, security and with very poor health care and a very high level of unemployment and poverty and a host of other problems, the government should as a matter of urgency, with the country’s available resources, fix the issues that bedevils its citizens and take steps that are globally acknowledged as steps to alleviate the sufferings of its people and make good the society. It is the exact duty of the representatives of the people of the country to ensure that these issues plaguing the citizenry, be put to a final end. However, in a country called the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is a sad story.
The country’s Leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, a repentant leader of the country’s one time military junta, presented the country’s Budget to its National Assembly in November 2017. Ideally, the implementation of the National budget of Nigeria should begin on the first of day of the new year. In this case, the idea was to start the implementation of the budget on the first day of January, 2018. Sadly, the National Assembly of Nigeria, the arm of government that represents the interest of the people, thought it right to delay the budget for seven months. The idea behind the delay was to fix in projects that would impact positively on the lives of their constituents. Sweet as this may sound, this has always been the case over the years and yet, there are no visible developmental projects implemented by the National Assembly members in their constituencies. The roads to some of their villages or hometowns are death traps, that some of them go on okada (public motorbike) just to get to their houses in their hometown or village, while billions of Naira have been allocated for such constituency projects by them nationally. One may want to ask, where is this money that was earmarked for these projects? Perhaps, monkeys, snakes and the likes have runaway with them. This is Nigeria.
Constitutionally, it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace order and good governance of the nation as enshrined in section 4 subsection 2 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. Interestingly, these set of lawmakers have turned against their own people to make laws not in favor of the people but themselves. How else do you explain a budget of 125 billion naira for the National Assembly raised from such a mind boggling amount to a humongous amount of 139.5 billion naira for just 469 people who make up the National Assembly in a country where many of the approximately 200 Million people live in abject poverty. The constitution further states in section 16 subsection 1 paragraph (b) that the state – which the National Assembly is a part of – shall: “control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.” With the appropriation bill that was recently passed by Nigeria’s National Assembly and reluctantly signed – as a result of the manipulations in the document – by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 20, 2018, it is clear from the statement of the President that the interest of the people was set aside. Such acts of setting aside the interest of the people by their representatives in government is unconstitutional.
The President in his speech made it clear that the allocation for the Maritime University which is to be sited in Delta State which was put at 5 billion naira by the Federal Executive Council was reduced to 3.4 billion naira by the National Assembly. Pensions was reduced by 5 billion naira by the assembly. The President also revealed that “provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja, especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project were cut by a total of 7.5 billion naira. In fact, the reductions in critical areas of the budget affecting the lives of Nigerians, including those who have served the country and are now old needing pensions are enormous. An assembly whose duties are expressly stated in section 16 subsection 2 paragraph (b) of the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended: “that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good” is now the assembly and arm of government going against the common good of the entire citizenry of the nation. If not, why then do we have all these reductions that reduces the ability of the government to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians while increasing the amount of money for the assembly.
Mr. President has worked in the interest of the country, whether contractors deliver or not is another issue. At this level of appropriation, the intent of President Muhammadu Buhari is to as much as possible, alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians. This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a country that belongs to all Nigerians and not a few. The representatives of the people who have sworn to uphold the constitution of Nigeria have gone against the provisions of the constitution – that they swore to uphold – to satisfy their selfish desires. Good enough, the constitution of our dear country provides for the citizens’ welfare in sections 16, 17 and 18 among others, of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
However, it is pertinent to note that not all the members of Nigeria’s National Assembly have these tendencies, some of them are indeed honorable men and women. The responsibility is now on President Muhammadu Buhari who has the mandate of the people and thus empowered by the constitution to take steps in line with section 15 subsection 5 of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure that these Kleptomaniacs are dealt with according to the laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) which adequately takes care of matters of this nature.