Dizzying N37b for glittering National Assembly

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Speaker Femi GBajabiamila (left) and Senate President Ahmed Lawan

By Yinka Olujimi

“The National Assembly needs a lot of work. I don’t think even that (that) amount of money (N37 billion) can take care of all those things because even the dome has been leaking and there is fear that if the repairs are not done, we might suffer greater problem in the future.”

Those were the words this week of the National Assembly’s Director of Information, Dr Rawlings Agada, while defending the recent approval by federal legislators for the use of N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex.

I agree with him. In fact, the entire revenue in the 2020 budget should be given to the federal legislators. Their comfort is of paramount importance; the needs of the people can be looked into some years down the line. For now, we need glittering offices and equipment, imported from the farthest parts of the world. We don’t even need to equip hospitals to treat presidential ear infections. All revenues should just go to provide comfort for our hardworking National Assembly members, I so move.

It does not matter that the majority of the people they are representing live in abject poverty; that unemployment level in the country is at a breaking point; that infrastructure has either collapsed or is largely non-existent. What matters is the comfort of the rulers.

Since the President also needs their support for a $30 million fresh loan, he must look the other way too on the budget of the legislators. You scratch my back and I scratch yours, kind of.

Of little consequence, also, is the approval by the legislators of N1 billion for a further amendment of the 1999 constitution.

My reaction: Such critics are bad people, who should not be taken serious. Many of these people will have to hug the transformer, some day. They have been elected to “come and chop”, so why should anyone deny them the opportunity?

What is N37 billion, anyway? Chicken feed! Who cares that the average Niger Deltan on whose ancestral land the crude oil that provides the money lives in abject poverty? The Nigerian state has appropriated their wealth, so be it.

The plan of the legislators, I am told, is to turn the National Assembly complex into a tourist attraction centre, so that people can travel to Abuja from far and wide to behold the spectacle, on empty stomachs if need be.

Yes, some people have wondered about how many primary healthcare centres can be built or equipped in all local government areas of the country with such sums; or the number of schools that can be renovated, and books purchased. Some others wondered about the number of libraries that the country can build with it.

Such people are mistaken, grossly. As the giant of Africa, we cannot afford to continue to operate in the dilapidated structure called the National Assembly complex. We may look into those suggested areas of health and education sometime in the future. But for now, we are irrevocably committed to giving ourselves a complex that reflects our image. Not the pigsty that was constructed by the former ruling party for a mere N7 billion.

Just watch out. By the time we finish with the renovation for N37 billion, legislators from all parts of the world will throng Nigeria to learn the art and science of lawmaking.

As the giant of Africa, Nigeria must dream big and not allow Lilliputians to infect us with their smallness.

A quick question: Has anyone read any contrary opinion from members of the main opposition PDP at the National Assembly to the N37 billion vote for the rehabilitation of the Assembly’s complex? Meaning: They are ALL IN IT TOGETHER.

Will the amendment of the constitution be procured from Mars?” a member of the tribe of naysayers asked to my hearing this week. I just looked away in amusement.

It is very certain that these critics do not understand the wisdom in the position of Senate President Ahmad Lawan that anything that comes to the legislative chamber from Baba is good for the country and will be approved, possibly without digesting the content.

If you like, call them a rubber-stamp Assembly, or stamp without robber. They are unperturbed. In this game of survival, the legislators are acutely aware of the side that has the potential to butter their bread between the government and the people.

 

As Attorney General takes over Sowore’s prosecution…

Ordinarily, the uninformed would jump for joy that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has asked the Directorate of State Services (DSS) to forward to his office the case file of that misguided activist, Omoyle Sowore, whose recent rearrest by the secret police in court caused a little discomfort to persons in government.

What with the uproar from the international community, and the shrill voices of some newspaper organistions that the country is sliding back into military rule, with one cheeky newspaper declaring that it would henceforth address our dear Baba as Major General, not president, and the government, as a regime!

And – wonder of all wonders – some traditional hailers openly joined the babel to condemn the DSS, and by extension the government!Yes, the Attorney General has the power of Nolle Prosecui (I will not prosecute) against anyone standing trial for an alleged criminal offence, provided for in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution. He can enter, takeover or discontinue any criminal matter.  Many, therefore, jumped for joy in the mistaken belief that the government had at last adopted a face-saving device to get Sowore out of detention.

I simply smiled. These people are apparently unaware that ours is a “no-shaking” .government. We do not care about the opinion of any foreign government, or local pressure group; not the traditional institution, or the clergy. We are the law. Let another court grant him bail, we will draw new charges and rearrest him. Like that enabler of the thieving former ruling party, Sambo Dasuki, and the other misguided religious leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky, Sowore may be the guest of the DSS until Baba serves out his term in 2023.

The trio should just pray for Baba not to grant the earnest prayers of the teeming masses for him to continue in office beyond 2023. If he does, those enemies of state – especially Sowore who will most definitely use his ragtag Saharareporters to wage an all-out war against tenure elongation – will remain with the DSS well beyond 2023.

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