The Sun News

Between budgeting and oversight

My fellow countrymen and women, I bring you good tidings. I understand that things are tough and life is sometimes cruel. You may have lost your job, mortgage or a dear one. Maybe life has dealt a big blow that you just feel like throwing in the towel.

Nigeria is tough. I know. Rest assured that you’re not alone. The troubles you face will go away someday. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy shall come in the morning, so says the Bible. Don’t give up yet. Help is on the way.
Away from the motivational speech, let’s face our business – Nigeria. Today, I want to take a break and give President

Muhammadu Buhari a breath of fresh air. He has got a lot on his plate to contend with.
Marauding herdsmen are still ubiquitous. Our ‘erudite’ Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, is making Nigeria proud. His motivational speeches and transformation of the Force are uncommon. It will take some donkey years to undo the great job Idris is marshalling out at the Force Headquarters.

This week, I want to make a passionate appeal to our hard working senators. First, I congratulate you, senators, for passing a historic budget. Let’s not dwell on the fact that President Buhari submitted the budget to a joint session of the National Assembly in November 2017. Six months after, you guys have passed the budget.
Nigerians may condemn you for performing your role rather belatedly. I will not play up that card because I know better. I also appreciate, how for once, you didn’t have any face off with Buhari’s ministers and heads of other government agencies, despite several provocations.

Now that the historic N9.1 trillion budget has been passed, what next? Like the biblical injunction, we must not go to bed and allow the devil to ‘devour’ the good work done. To whom much is given, more is definitely expected.
We are gradually getting into an election era. This is the last serious budget we will have before May 29, 2019. Distractions will abound. Senators will likely be more concerned with their reelection wahala.
The tendency is that the 2018 budget may not be fully implemented or funds earmarked for critical sectors of the economy, may be diverted to cater for other personal needs.

The function of the National Assembly is categorised into three parts, namely, law making, representation and oversight.
In Nigeria, our constitution is clear. It gives express recognition to the operation of the principle of separation of powers among the three arms of government. Specifically, Section 4 of the constitution vests legislative powers of the Federation and states on the National Assembly and the various state Houses of Assembly.
For me, oversight is the most important function of the legislature and in this instance, the Nigerian Senate. The Senate can pass fantastic resolutions and make big laws. If it does not carry out a proper oversight, everything will come to naught.
The Senate is like a bank manager, who has been employed to manage the affairs of a financial institution. In this case, Nigerians are the employers. A bank manager can’t give a loan to a customer and go to bed afterward.
When he gives a loan, he follows through to ensure that the client doesn’t squander what has been entrusted into his care. It is the duty of the bank manager to ensure that the customer utilises the funds well and pays back as at when due. When the manager fails to monitor the client and he defaults in repaying the loan, he will get fired. Onlookers may blame the wicked client, but the bulk of the blame will be heaped on the bank manager.

The client in this case is the executive arm. Senators represent the bank manager. Nigerians hired them to keep a close watch on the president, ministers and heads of government agencies. Senators appropriate funds and must monitor how they are utilised by the executive arm.

When the president, his ministers or other appointees who enjoy appropriations from the Senate siphon our commonwealth, we hold our lawmakers responsible. It is their duty to carry out effective oversight and scrutinise how funds budgeted are expended.

I’m careful not to dwell on things I can’t defend.
But the message is clear. If senators carry out their oversight duties adequately, anti-corruption agencies may be out of business.

If they constantly ask tough questions and expose underhand dealings in various government agencies, we will bother less about anti-corruption agencies.

Senators are often in a hurry to blame their inability to carry out effective oversight duties on inadequate funding. I totally disagree. The National Assembly has the exclusive right over the management of our commonwealth and how funds should be appropriated. If funding is the problem, why not accommodate it in the annual budgets?
As a concerned Nigerian, this is an appeal. I am not ignorant of the fact that senators under Buhari’s Nigeria can only bark, but lack the teeth to bite. I totally understand.

I am not also oblivious of one fact that some recalcitrant ministers and heads of agencies may not open their books. I expect these challenges to pop up.

Notwithstanding, you must and should perform the duties for which you were elected.
At the risk of sounding contradictory, let me remind everyone that Nigeria belongs to all of us. Some agents of darkness may be in power for now, but rest assured that their time is transient. We can’t and must not hand over our free will to them. As long as we have life and can breath, we must continue to challenge the forces of darkness ruining our country.

I so submit!

One more thing

Marafa’s alarm about Buhari’s reelection

Senator Kabiru Marafa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), is in the news again. He is in the news for the right reasons.

Marafa is one of the aggrieved members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), vehemently against the modus operandi adopted by leaders of the party in the conduct of the ongoing congresses.
Marafa hails from Zamfara State and represents the Central Senatorial District of the state. For him, the chaotic congresses are part of a plot to sabotage the reelection bid of President Buhari.

When Marafa speaks, you should listen. I am not a fan of Buhari and even my enemies know this sacred fact. But I urge those who have ears to listen to Marafa.
Hear him: “To me, there is a massive conspiracy against the party and against the leader of the party. That is the president of the country.

“To me, this is my own opinion. There are people out there who had long concluded that they cannot beat the president in normal elections.

“What they are looking for is a technical knockout. They want to plan something that could be challenged in court. That will nullify any election, God forbid.

“Unless the party does what is right, unless the leaders at the top look at these things eyeball to eyeball, there is going to be a problem.”

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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