Barking at Buhari
The Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, on November 5, barked at the presidency when it counseled the State House Permanent Secretary, Tijani Umar, to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari from embarking on foreign trips for medical treatment.
The Senate bared its fangs when Umar appeared before its committee to defend a budget of N1.3bn proposed for the State House Clinic.
The Committee Chairman, Danjuma La’ah, while cautioning that Buhari and other top officials of the government should back-off medical tourism said:
“Our President is not a man to be taken out anytime or anything that happens to him on sickness matter. He must attend our clinic here and we must make sure that we equip our hospital to the best of our ability so that any emergency will be first taken care of here before flying out if the need arises.”
With some N10bn budgeted for the State House Clinic over the last 5 years, the visible dissatisfaction expressed by the senior lawmakers may well be placed in proper context.
A deep search would probably reveal that the main motivation for President Buhari’s routine medical trips abroad lies in the distrust he and other top officials in his government have for the country’s healthcare system.
The other plausible reason is that despite the huge sums of money pumped into the clinic annually, the presiding officers may have frittered same for some purpose other than managing the presidency healthcare challenges.
As reports indicate, the clinic remains ill-equipped. It would be foolhardy, therefore, to expect that Buhari and his top officials would have a change in behaviour. From the look of things, the raised voices of Senators would amount to nothing as long as there is no law to back up what they are pushing for.
The situation is made worse by the fact that the romance between the National Assembly and the presidency has become too promiscuous to expect a public fight.
The challenge before Nigerian lawmakers is to show that they can not only bark but bite.
NASS MEMORY LANE
“We budget ₦462 billion for education and ₦1.3 trillion for security. We have 65 million youths and children and we are spending ₦462 billion to educate them. We have less than 100,000 terrorists and we are spending over ₦500 billion to fight them. Do you now see the problem?”
Answer: See end of post
Two other stories
On November 5, the Senate Committee on Finance expressed its displeasure over the failure of some revenue-generating Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) to remit funds into Federal Government’s account.
Members of the Committee, led by Solomon Adeola, bared their minds when the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, appeared before them to defend his 2021 budget proposals.
They had claimed, among others, that only 60 out of the 300 revenue-generating MDAs were being monitored.
Idris had said: “There is no mechanism through which we monitor revenues of MDAs. We are trying to come up with something to that effect.
“These revenue-generating agencies are not remitting monies as at when due.”
The shoddy or non-remittance of funds to the purse of the Federal Government speaks to monumental corruption within the country’s public finance system.
Indeed, the revelation by the Accountant-General challenges the integrity of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy long instituted to check abuses by hugely corrupt government officials.
Worse still, it also stretches the argument of whether the secondment of external auditors to the MDAs has been of significant help.
In all, the presidency must admit that it has failed woefully to rein in corrupt officials who reports have shown are milking the country dry.
Without a clear example being made of these thieving officials, it would be argued that the Buhari-led administration is tacitly ignoring the massive looting of the nation’s treasury.
Fashola vs lawmakers
The National Assembly, on November 1, debunked claims made by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that they were to be blamed for the sorry state of federal roads in Benue State.
Fashola had, on October 26, made the allegation while playing host to Retired Generals and other leaders from Benue South Senatorial District, led by Air-Vice Marshal Morgan (RTD), in Abuja, following their complaints about the state of the roads in the district.
Reacting, the Senate Spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, in a statement, argued that the National Assembly should not be held responsible for the deplorable state of roads in Benue State or any part of the country.
“On the minister’s allusion and or allegation to prioritising constituency projects over other projects, the Senate affirms that the minister was merely calling a pity party and being sentimental,” the statement reads in part.
Bickering is an essential part of democracy, and it does pay off when the contending forces speak to issues rather than sentiments.
Whether Nigerians are impressed by the public spat will be dependent on how the ruling party impacts their lives. And, that doesn’t seem to be impressive at the moment.
The challenge before Fashola and members of the National Assembly, therefore, is for each side to defend its position with facts instead of whipping up emotions that do little to deepen transparency and accountability within the system.
The expectation is that the federal lawmakers and the Minister will resolve their issues and not further distract Nigerians who daily yearn for purposeful leadership.
Answer: Senator Ben Murray-Bruce
Murray-Bruce made the statement in a series of tweets, @benmurraybruce, on April 10, 2019, in lamentation of the poor funding of the education sector. He served as the senator representing Bayelsa East between 2015 to 2019
By John Chukwu…
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