BY DAN ONWUKWE
WATCHING the spokespersons for the Senate and House of Representatives, Enyinnaya Abaribe and Victor Afam Ogene,fanatically defending the “zero allocation”to the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC)in this year’s budget,even a half brain with one eye can reason and see beyond the veil,that the Oteh-mania in the two chambers is beyond policy.It is purely, dangerous politics,targeted at one individual-Arunma Oteh.How do we know that?Both chambers have said that Oteh must be kicked,whatever it takes.
After all,the House recently admitted that allocation was discreetly made for the commission in the 2013 fiscal estimate but would not be released as long as Oteh remains at the helm of SEC.Before passing the budget,the House had ruled that “all revenues to SEC,including all fees received,fines,grants,budgetry provisions and all internally and externally generated revenues shall not be spent by SEC for recurrent or capital purposes, or for any other matter,nor liabilities therein incurred,except with the prior appropriation and approval of the National Assembly”.
That was a sledgehammer on Oteh.It will go down, arguably,as the worst piece of legislative order against an individual and the institution she supervises in the present democratic dispensation.Lawmaking requires great care and discipline in crafting an order.
When such sacred duty is turned into a maniac vendetta,society becomes the biggest casualty,not necessarily the individual it was targeted at.One would have thought that a thoughtful, and indeed,a better bedside manner would have informed the legislators that institutions are built,not individuals.And therefore, the resort to demonizing individuals incapacitates the essence of key government institutions. SEC is one of them.
Therefore,the unrelenting hectoring of the two chambers of NASS that UNLESS President Jonathan removes Oteh from office the legislators would have nothing to do with SEC,is not just a gang up,but an affront on the power of the President to appoint persons of his choice into positions he deems necessary in accordance with the constitution and relevant sections of the Act establishing SEC.If the legislators succeed in their current pressure on President Jonathan to remove Oteh,she won’t be the ultimate loser.
A day might come when the legislators might wake up and pass a resolution asking the President to sack his cabinet or be impeached.That’s why the President should exercise utmost caution(as he seems to be doing at the moment).
But it flies in the face of a House where many of its members are living pretentious life with a grotesque passion for greed. As a matter of fact, last year’s sordid and surreal drama in the House in which two of its members,Farouk Lawan and Herman Hembe,were accused of financial extortion easily illuminates the long-held suspicion that the House has a proven track record of sleaze, deceits and peddling of half-truths.Which was why former President,Olusegun Obasanjo,last year,after a hard look at the States’ and National Assembly,described majority of them as “rogues and armed robbers”.
That,of course,may be too harsh a brush to paint the image of our legislators.However,it bears repeating that despite Obasanjo’s denigration of their status,the fact remains that our democracy has suffered a great damage just because questionable characters seem to have taken over our political space.
This is not an indictment of any of the two arms of the NASS.Nonetheless,it is the height of double standard for our federal legislators to refuse to make budgetary allocation to a statutory government institution simply because the boss insists on her own principles.The truth is this: You cannot insist on your own authority, pretending to be as tough as nail when you live in a glass house and have in your fold,something close to “rotten apples”.
As harsh as these words might sound,the fact remains that there is a sincerity gap, a huge deficit of trust in our parliament,in particular,the present House of Representatives.. Good leaders are followed and respected if they can be trusted by the electorate.Can that be said of most of the legislators of the Seventh session of the National Assembly?.It’s not unkind to say that many of them don’t understand their job outside private,pecuniary interests.Some of them wield power they seldomly understand.
As political historian Andrew Hamilton observes,”power may be compared to a great river,while kept within its bounds,it’s both beautiful and useful.But when it overflows its banks, it becomes too impetuous to be stemmed;it bears down all before it and brings destruction and desolation wherever it comes”.All in all,if this House must NOT fall, the message for its occupants is simple:use power wisely. Know your job,and don’t fight needless battles.
I insist that the present House of Representatives failed in its judgement on the competence of Oteh. We need to remind ourselves that Oteh was suspended by the former board of the commission on June 12,but was recalled by government in a circular dated July 17,2012.It was signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF),Anyim Pius Anyim.This was after PwchC audit report had finished examining the books of SEC and exonerated her from “all accusation of fraud and criminal breaches”.
Also, at stake is the capital market which All- Share Index recorded a growth of more than 30 percent last year.The newly-inaugurated board of SEC headed by Mr Suleiman Ndanusa should be allowed to resolve this matter and decide the fate of Oteh. [Concluded]