CISLAC CALLS ON NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (NASS) TO COME CLEAN ON REPEATED SCANDALS AND MOVE TO REDEEM HER DAMAGED REPUTATION AMONG NIGERIANS
The Civil Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, calls on the National Assembly to come clean on the various scandals continues to bedevil and distract her and continues to dent her image in the estimation of citizens.
CISLAC views the recent revelations by the erstwhile Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives as further exposure of the institutional fraud that has characterized the NASS over the years. We note that such practices have been going on for a long time as the NASS has been known, in the past, to in addition to padding the budget at the point of defence, made dubious inclusions of Constituency Projectsas well as have demanded and received inducement for sectorial allocation, the Fabian Osuji calls to mind. They are also known to have, at some time, alledgedly received or demand for gratifications in exchange for ministerial confirmation and extorted money from MDAs under the guise of oversight functions.
We find this allegations coming at a time when issues of Senate Rules forgeries are still on-going as one scandal too many trailing the legislative arm and endangering integrity, confidence and honour that is crucial for the legislature to perform and deepen our democracy. The reference to occupants as Honourable and Distinguished is gradually becoming a mere appellation that is stripped of the attendant respect.
CISLAC expresses her disappointment at the belated revelations and allegations coming from the ousted Chairman as it has become an afterthought and renditions from a disgruntled and outplayed lawmaker who was at the forefront of defending the House when the allegations of budget padding were first made. This calls to question his credibility, patriotism and loyalty to the Nigerian people who remained silent when he had the opportunity to blow the whistle and now only speak because he has lost out from benefiting from the process.
We find the practice of Constituency Projects unnecessary, in conflict with the principle of Separation of Powers and a channel for legislative corruption and distraction which can be avoided by simply strengthening relevant institutions and systems for project implementation and service delivery.
CISLAC recalls that, in spite of repeated promises and express commitments from the President of the Senate and Chairman of the NASS to disclose the details of the budget of the Legislature, Nigerians are yet to have access to this information. We find it ironic that elected representatives are unwilling to make information on how funds appropriated from tax payers’ money are allocated and spent, are made available to the citizens who elected them into office.
We note that these events are a product of failed recruitment process and flawed party processes that have resulted in the emergence of leaders who are unprepared to undertake the challenging art of governance in a diverse environment.
CISLAC laments such fraudulent occurrences in the budget processes have been made possible because the nation has abandoned the practice of developing viable Rolling Plans to underpin the budget process and the zero-budget approach and Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF) process envisaged under the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 have become either ineffective or completely collapsed, creating the loophole for corrupt practices.
CISLAC calls on the ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and other related statutory bodies to undertake further inquest in the allegations with a view to carrying out in-depth and vigorous investigations within the framework of their enabling laws to get to the root of this matter and bring culprits to book where possible to serve as a deterrent for the future. This is because it is doubtful if the NASS could summon the required courage to investigate herself and sanction erring members and bring such people to book.
We call on the National Assembly to take advantage of this latest revelation to undertake self-introspection and urgently rise up to cleanse itself and make efforts to redeem its image and reputation which is presently in its lowest ebb. We also call on them to revisit the issue of having members adhere to the Code of Conduct for members as a means of self-regulation of behaviour within their ranks. CISLAC reminds them that the NASS is a major symbol of democracy and as representatives of the people, they should lead by example.
CISLAC calls for an independent audit of all previous Constituency Project allocations and expenditure to determine impact and value for money as a means of accountability to the Nigerian people.
We call on the NASS to disclose the details of her budget as promised, intensify capacity building for her members on the budget process and quickly pass the NABRO bill into law to provide professional support for the NASS on budget issues. They should introduce a framework for Constituency Accountability for public participation as well as, working with the executive arm to establish a participatory budgetary process based on actual needs assessment and citizens’ input
We call on Political Parties to reorganize and commence a process for leadership recruitment and internal party democracy that will facilitate the emergence of persons with integrity, patriotism and a mind-set of service, who will be adequately prepared to occupy leadership positions and lead Nigeria to meet the aspirations of her people and occupy her place among the Committee of Nations
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director (CISLAC)