At inception in 1999, the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was no different from the old OAU. Notice that before the old OAU knocked off the O and transmuted into the AU, that body was almost moribund and was notoriously referred to as a toothless bulldog. And this was mostly because nearly all those famous heads of state and government that usually gathered at those fanciful plenary sessions in Addis Abba usually made flowery speeches that lacked the political will that could have checkmated the incidences of wars, poverty, diseases and regular occurrences of famine that rocked Sub-Saharan, East and Central Africa.
The configuration of our National Assembly is no different. When they mounted the stage in 1999, they constantly insulted our sensibilities with one scandal or the other. If they were not fighting over certificate scams, it was that they wanted allowances for shoes, houses and cars. It is granted that even though this could be seen as a perfect Nigerian example of a ‘learning process’, what seems to have been evident at the end of the day was that all they wanted to do was recoup the huge funds that they expended in the escapade of securing the various sinecures that most of their positions have become. At a point, they held the nation hostage with all sorts of tales concerning GMG bags flying around the assembly to such an extent that these honourable sinators and representathieves resorted to fisticuffs in the protection of their personal interests.
As time went on, it began to dawn on the psyche of a baffled nation that perhaps it was a mistake to have stayed on those long queues to votes these people in. Our people have discovered that since inception, nearly every leadership of the National Assembly had gotten itself mired in one controversy or the other, not so much in the interest of the people who voted them in, but more in the protection of the centrifugal interests of their godfathers. If Nigerians have begun to realize that the National Assembly is becoming moribund like the old OAU, it began with the realization that nearly all the laws that they claim to have passed in the last decade have not put food on our tables, have not engendered steady power supply, have not stopped many government officials from visiting hospitals abroad when they fall ill, and have not been able to pass the relevant laws that makes oil exploration be a catalyst for sustainable development. How has the existence of the National Assembly impacted on the life of cocoa farmers, of the artisan by the street corner in Idi-Iroko, and the beans farmer in Bama, Borno State?
We must be able to say it straightaway that these people resemble carpetbaggers than anything else. And rather than think this is an irresponsible or cheap shot at the honourables, we must be able to expatiate. Think back at the several times when the National Assembly has insisted that it must be ‘carried along’, in the execution of certain brilliant ideas and innovations that do not emanate from the hallowed chambers of the legislative bodies. Take the case of Nuhu Ribadu, take the case of El-Rufai, and now take the case of Lamido Sanusi, and most important now, take the case of Adamu Aliero, FCT Minister. Now, there is nothing constitutionally wrong in insisting on being ‘carried along’. However, something churns in our guts when being carried along carries the caveat that if they are not ‘settled’, then that bright idea no matter how bright it is would not see the light of day. Take for instance the sanisification of our rotten financial institutions. Instead of the National Assembly to stand solidly behind the efforts to sanitise the industry, the house committee that invited Lamido Sanusi to defend printing money to save the banks that Charles Soludo said were healthy did not only display incredible instances of ignorance at that amount of money, but gist had it that it wanted to be ‘settled’. A lot of people are wondering why Soludo, the man who presided over the rot in the banking system has not been invited for questioning in the roles he played in crippling the system. Rather than do that, most of them are busy chasing shadows and are already falling over each other to be in the good books of the man who is touted to be the next governor of Anambra state.
It is the same story with the Federal Capital Territory. For anybody visiting that town today for the very first time, it will be clear that this is one town that could compare favourably with any modern city either in Europe or in the Americas. But that prospect is currently in the throes of being scuttled and endangered by a group of sinators, representathieves and another clique who are in that town with just one purpose – to grab and to grab choice portions of land. Nothing again, is wrong with that but most of these choice spots of land are areas in choice spots of the city earmarked for parks, recreational centres, petrol stations, schools and homes for the blind. What these people do is that they get these choice spots mostly by hook and crook, and cheaply too, and sell and re-sell for billions of naira. Again and again, nothing seems to be wrong with that, but none of those accruable monies for the sales of these lands go into the pockets Adamu Aliero, the FCT minister, who desperately needs as much as $USD12billion annually to maintain the modern status of the FCT. Perhaps left with no choice on how to maintain the status of the FCT without a recourse to an ever dwindling allocation from the Federal purse, Adamu Aliero was reported to have recommended to the Federal government to allow him adopt a 900 percent increase in land charges in the FCT.
That is the crux of the matter again. And again, just like the way the House Committee that took Sanusi to task did not do their homework properly before inviting him over to explain his intention in printing the monies that bailed out those banks, Attai Ali Aidoko, House Committee chairman on the FCT, is also already fuming over the new levies. According to him, ‘we view this as a serious legal breach and urge the FCT administration to withdraw immediately the implementation of the new rates, until due consideration is made by the National Assembly as the constitutional and democratic representatives of the people’, he said. But that is all lies. One, the people mostly affected by the new levies are the legislators, not the common people. Two, even though the Land Use Act is deemed to be subordinate to the National Assembly, that does not undermine the minister’s right to introduce these new charges. Lawyers, who know better, have maintained that since there is no existing tax law for the FCT, the only recourse left is the powers granted the minister under the Land Use Act.
The National Assembly of this country should desist from insisting on being ‘carried along’ when bright ideas that would be of benefit to Nigerians are mooted by other arms of government. This is not so as to rubbish their integrity, but it just saves everyone the embarrassment and an indictment that they are not thinking but that other people are thinking first what they should have long thought and acted on.