The shame of a nation – By Louis Odion, FNGE

Yakubu Dogara

report that a member of parliament (MP) had defrauded British taxpayers of a
“modest” £20,000 some years ago, hell was literally let loose in the
United Kingdom. It was not until David Chaytor had been sentenced to 18 months
in prison in 2011 after a speedy trial that the media and watchdog groups
finally relented.

who represented Bury North, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court where he
pleaded guilty to three charges on false accounting of over £20,000 (less than
N9m today). He could have earned a maximum 7 years had he not taken the wise
option of owning up and pleading guilty.

He had
pilfered the money by claiming rent for his own flat in London and rent for a
house in Bury owned by his mother. He falsely produced a tenancy agreement
which said he was paying £1,175 as monthly rent.

Louis Odion

Now, the
Nigerian media has been awash in the past few days with reports of an alleged
monumental scam involving the leadership of the House of Reps and hundreds of
billions of taxpayers’ money and business seems to be continuing as usual at
the lower legislative chamber with the rest of the country watching with
amusement, rather than outrage.

week, a falling out between principal officers of the House led to the
“resignation” of Abdulmumin Jibrin as the chairman of the
Appropriation Committee. An embittered Jibrin chose not to exit without opening
the Pandora Box. He pointedly accused the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, of offering a
rogue leadership alongside three other principal officers namely Deputy Speaker
Yusuf Lasun, Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leo Ogor.

he accused the Speaker of greedily cornering to himself and three principal
officers a whopping N40b out of the N100b earmarked for Constituency projects
in the 2016 budget.

original 2016 appropriation bill brought by the presidency had allocated N60b
for constituency projects. Jibrin claims to have documentary evidence where the
Speaker directed a topping up of N40b and re-ordering the allocation formula in
the same manner a typical butcher would, by the swish of the knife, divide the
meat on the slaughter slab.

Jibrin Abdulmumin

He did
not stop there. He also accused the Speaker of a slew of other financial
malfeasance and corporate extortions too lurid to be restated here.

the accused have counter-punched, accusing Jibrin of not only being the culprit
of the last padding scandal that delayed the passage of the 2016 budget months
back but also complicit in past illegal injection of extraneous provisions into
the appropriation bills submitted by the executive arm of government.

At this
writing, the orgy of accusations and counter-accusations had degenerated to a
point where Jibrin alleged threat to his life while the Speaker on the other
hand demanded that the “libelous” statement against him be retracted.

Leo Ogor

serious issues have inadvertently been raised by the throwing of mud at the
House in the past week. The litany of claims and counter-claims put a big
question mark on the moral integrity of the House leadership as presently
constituted under Dogara. It speaks directly to the culture of greed,
shamelessness, cant and profanity now mistaken for legislature in Nigeria.

than issue ultimatum for Jibrin to withdraw his statement, the least one
therefore expects of Dogara and others accused is to step aside, even if temporarily,
to allow an independent investigation of the matter. The allegations are far
too weighty for the Speaker to continue to sit pretty and pretend all is well.
What is involved is people’s money running into hundreds of billion.

the latest incident will afford us the opportunity to interrogate the essence
and sustainability of the so-called “constituency projects”. Often
than not, it is a euphemism for the head where the pecuniary interests of
members are satiated. Those who conceived the idea in a democracy may have
meant well. But the operation in our own environment is quite problematic.

Yusuf Lasun

lawmakers would rather they be allowed to personally draw down the vote to
“execute” a project of their own choosing or be allowed to nominate
the contractors. So, the question is: how wholesome is such arrangement?
Ideally, the business of legislature is to make laws, not executing contracts.
At best, legislators can perform oversight during the execution of such. To
think otherwise is to create room for corrupt practices.

When such
“projects” are executed at all, the standard practice among the
legislators is to privatize same. Usually, a giant bill-board bearing the
life-size image of the respective lawmaker will be hoisted there giving the
false impression that it is a personal donation from the representative to the

Time has
come to sanitize the idea.


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