A Message to the National Assembly

by Sam Kargbo

The frosty relationship between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar has taken a dangerous turn. As at this moment the Presidency is not only divided but literally at war with itself. Whereas the constitution envisages the Presidency to comprise a President and a Vice President working harmoniously to accomplish the enormous executive powers and onerous functions of the Federation, the sad case is that the President and his Vice have abandoned governance and are literally engaged in a street fight. They have grounded governance. In our view the Presidency has been defiled and the National Assembly has no option but to rise up to the challenge of clearing the mess at the Presidency. The country more than ever before requires the able stewardship of the National Assembly to restore sanity to the Presidency. While Nigerians are understandably helplessly watching the nasty drama being played out by the first and second citizens, the National Assembly cannot claim to be that helpless and in truth cannot afford to sit idly and watch the President and his vice destroy this country. It is through the National Assembly that Nigerians can intervene in matters of this nature.

We are not saying that what is happening at Aso Rock is entirely bad for democracy. The war of attrition at the Presidency has in itself produced some good and positive challenges for our democracy. Facts have emerged that indicate that the President and the Vice President have misconducted themselves in the handling of public funds. Mind boggling sums are mentioned and the public is anxiously waiting to see the reaction of the National Assembly. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has investigated the Vice President and has presented a report that on the face of it indicts the Vice President. It is the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to look at the report and act appropriately. The report of the EFCC and the counter allegations from the camp of the Vice President are by themselves accusing the National Assembly of dereliction of its oversight functions and its overall powers to control public funds.

We stand firmly on the belief that the report and counter allegations challenge the National Assembly to act decisively in accordance with its constitutional duties and the hallowed philosophy of accountability. The report has in clear language condemned the Vice President and accuses him of betraying the nation and the constitution. Both the President and his Vice President swore to administer and uphold the constitution. They both symbolise governance and democracy. They personify the aspirations of Nigerians to join the rest of humanity and the global efforts to promote integrity and decent values in governance. That is why the President is clothed with the political sovereignty of this country. In addition to the constitutional and legal implications, the alleged deeds of the Vice President call to question our collective socio political and moral values. The world is watching and Nigeria is under trial. The National Assembly cannot sit idly and ignore the report of the EFCC.

Before the EFCC Report that categorically accused the Vice President of having abused his office and corruptly diverted and cornered the monies of the Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF), there was the case of the illegal accounts and unlawful withdrawals of funds from the Petroleum Profit Tax; the Excess Crude Fund and Federation Account. We verily believe that the case of the illegal accounts and unlawful withdrawals and the published reckless handling of the PTDF are a manifestation of virtual absence of institutional checks and balances within the governmental system.

The National Assembly, evidently incapacitated by lack of technical expertise and weak ethical and moral standards of most members, has been lax over the years, leaving the management of the nation’s funds and resources in the hands of excessively deprave and greedy individuals. These individuals have cashed in on the weakness of the National Assembly to wreck untold economic hardship on the nation. They have succeeded in enriching themselves and impoverished the rest of the nation.

Disappointed as Nigerians may be over institutional weakness that have robbed the nation of resourceful and purposeful governance, the National Assembly can still redeem its image by ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to bring the full scale of irregularities to light and that culprits are adequately dealt with in accordance with the law. We warn the National Assembly not to misjudge the tragedy of the situation at hand. The fact that a Government that professes zero tolerance for corruption and is endlessly threatening, investigating and prosecuting functionaries outside the Presidency could be engaged in scandals of this magnitude should be a cause for worry.

We also note that time is not on the side of the National Assembly and would therefore have to step up its machinery to attend to the line of equally important matters before it. There are pending Bills that we believe if passed into law will assist the National Assembly in its duties of controlling and overseeing the use of public funds and resources. We urge the National Assembly to expedite action on the following Bills: The Fiscal Responsibility and Public Procurement Bills to formalise and institutionalise the Due Process as well as the Freedom of Information Bill. When passed into law, the National Assembly would conveniently recruit an army of concerned and dedicated Nigerians to help it sanitise the public space and effect a functional check on the Executive in the use of Public funds and resources.

We are also concerned about the high level of insecurity in the land. With election around the corner, the state security agencies would be stretched beyond limit. We call on the urgent intervention of the National Assembly in the form of deterring legislations. Political violence and electioneering violence can be limited by specific legislations. The situation in the Niger Delta should not be allowed to escalate beyond its present position. In our view the Presidential response to the situation is unhelpful and maliciously provocative. The National Assembly should take a second look at the Niger Delta situation and find a better solution to it before the elections.

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1 comment

dagogojosiah October 10, 2006 - 9:13 pm

The struggle for a democratic Nigeria has just begun.Your piece is nicely done and the call to stabilize the Niger Delta constitutes the decisive challenge of the Obasanjo regime.So far the government has acted unwisely,and since 2003,they lost popular legitimacy


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