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Unprogressive continuity

Published by The Nation on Mon, 16 Sep 2019


Self-restraint is in short supply among Nigerias Senators when it comes to spending public funds ostensibly for their work. That explains why the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT, Enough is Enough (EiE) and 6,721 concerned Nigerians filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, to restrain, prevent and stop the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) from paying or releasing N5.550 billion budgeted for purchase of luxury cars for principal members of the Ninth Senate, and to restrain and stop the Senate from collecting the money until the downward review of the amount proposed by the Senate.Describing the planned spending as unjust, unfair and unconstitutional, the plaintiffs argued that The money could be better allocated to more important sectors of the National Assembly expenditurelike constituency projects and National Assembly-endowed educational scholarships.This case is an interesting development. It remains to be seen whether the court will see things from the plaintiffs perspective. The case would have been unnecessary if the senators had shown a sense of restraint. The Senate wants to buy Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs for its 109 members at an estimated cost of about N50m each. Does it mean only this brand at such price is considered befitting'The leadership of the House of Representatives is yet to determine the type of vehicles to buy for its 360 members. A source was quoted as saying: The N34 million jeeps and the N14 million cars used by the 2015- 2019 Senators and Honourable members were sold off to them at betweenN1 million and N1.5million each.Obviously, it is important to question the National Assemblys questionable benefits. Do the federal legislators deserve what they enjoy simply because of their status' The federal legislature is not supposed to be a place where lawmakers just enjoy and enjoy.The benefits federal lawmakers enjoy make them look like political adventurers who are more interested in their own personal prosperity than patriotic performance that will enhance the countrys development.It is contracts and contractors season at the National Assembly. The management of the National Assembly is in the process of awarding contracts worth at least N10billion as part of the efforts to ease the work of the newly inaugurated 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, a report said.According to the report, there will be contracts to supply cars, television sets, refrigerators, water dispensers and office equipment, such as desktop computers, laptops, printers, scanners, and photocopying machines. The new items will replace the old ones used by members of the 8th National Assembly, which were sold to them at giveaway prices after their tenure.Last-minute sales of office items to outgoing federal lawmakers at ridiculously low prices reflected a culture of waste. The items includedcomputers, scanners, photocopying machines, plasma television sets, microwave ovens, standing fans, deep freezers, refrigerators, furniture and rugs. Those who bought them were expected to pay with money deducted from their severance package.A piece of information exposed some of the outgoing lawmakers as greedy for gain. According to a report, Although some of the lawmakers gave the acquired items to their aides and supporters, others chose to sell theirs to willing buyers within the National Assembly complex.Of course, those who sold the items they bought were business-minded and interested in profit. It was profitable for such lawmakers to buy and sell because the items were sold to them at giveaway prices. Eleven office items were said to cost a total of N367, 479.33.The report said: The breakdown showed that a Samsung double door refrigerator was given out for N25, 000; HP Envy Core 13, N49, 000; Apple Ipad Air computer, N41, 980; LED TV Samsung UA4600AR 50, N59, 500.Shredding machine, N19,800; Water dispenser with bottle, N8,990; Photocopying machine Sharp Copier AR 6021 N57,172.00; Scanner HP Scanjet Pro 3900 Fi N20,130.00; HP Laserjet Pro M201 N10,038.00; Desktop Computer Model Envy 233 Touch screen; and Suit hanger N1,900.00. Any member taking the entire 11 items would pay N349, 970, 50, with N17, 498.83 as VAT for items. This means the cost of the 11 items is less than N400, 000. However, the report said the current market value of the 11 items was over N3m. This is a list of some of the items and their market prices: LED television, N300, 000; HP Envy Core 13, N400, 000; HP Desktop Envy233 , N420,000; Samsung double door refrigerator, N315,000; Sharp Copier AR6023, N380,000; HP Laserjet M201 dw, N120,000; HP Scanjet Pro 3500F1, N195,000; and Cway water dispenser, N50,000.It is convenient for those involved in the transactions to argue that the items were used items. But can this justify the low, low prices' The point is that the items were still usable. Indeed, even though they were tagged used, the items were unlikely to go for such giveaway prices outside the National Assembly, observers argued.Now that the items have been sold to outgoing legislators, incoming legislators will need to be provided with new items. Thats how a culture of waste is perpetuated.Then there is the hot issue of running costs. A former senator, Shehu Sani, had told the world that every senator got N13.5m monthly to run things. This fantastic figure is in addition to their salaries, he revealed last year, while he was a member of the upper legislature. It doesnt make sense that senators get so much to cover so-called running costs. Each member of the House of Representatives gets between N8m and N12m for running costs monthly, a report revealed last year. What does it take to run the offices of federal legislators' How much is surplus to requirements' How do the legislators produce evidence that the money for running costs was spent for running costs'None of the legislators in the National Assembly may be ready for change, given what they enjoy because things are the way they are. Unprogressive continuity isnt the next level Nigerians expect under a progressive federal government, properly so called.
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