Dogara, El-Rufai and the #OpenNass Campaign By Ishola Adebayo –Shine Your Eye

April 14, 2017

One of the reasons why Abdulmumin Jibrin was suspended is not far from the fact that he “whistleblowed” the excessiveness of House of Representatives where he was an active member. For a long time, the masses have been raising alarm over the way corruption is being practiced as a norm in the legislative arm of government. Padding of National budget, siphoning of public funds, irregularities and inconsistencies has thoroughly become the culture they practice over there. Some of the legislators have expressed concern that the National Assembly might not only be weakened by the harsh portrayal in the press, it might also be exposed to public incitement.

While millions of workers are pining away on meager wages and millions more are either unemployed or are being owed salaries for months, legislators are having a good time. They compete with celebrities to flaunt the latest toys in their garage and even find time to make mocking videos. That is why the #OpenNASS campaign has been agitating transparency at the National Assembly.

As expected, there was a show of drama this week between a Chief Executive and as usual, a legislative leader. In particular, between Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Yakubu Dogara meant it as a joke when he dared El-Rufai, to remove the log in his own eye by publishing the state’s security vote and how local government funds were disbursed.

Let us be explicit here: the environment of Nigerian politics is littered with presidents and governors who pocketed billions of naira of state funds in a brazen fraud called “security vote.” When security vote is the issue, no names are mentioned and one talks about the details in public. Some people have actually argued that it is a major source of public embezzlement where these politicians get the means of stealing public funds because nothing is usually done at the long run.

When Dogara challenged El-Rufai on Friday the 5th of April, he knew the usual routine, what he didn’t know was that the other guy is one die-hard who won’t give in easily. Even though El-Rufai might be disliked for many reasons, when it comes to clear, forward thinking and getting the job done, you’ll be flawed for underestimating him. After publishing the breakdown of his State spending security matter amongst others, El-Rufai immediately challenged the principal officers of the National Assembly to follow suit.

As if he was expecting it, Dogara released his pay slips for six months showing the breakdown of the speaker’s salary for October, November, December 2016 and January, February, March 2017 to which he earned around 300, 000 naira monthly. Nice one but however, Dogara played a half-game by not releasing the details of the House’s budget and the allowances they enjoy overtime.

In the words of El-Rufai, “The call to #OpenNASS is not a personal one. It is one which the leadership of the national assembly owes to all Nigerians. It is therefore disingenuous for the speaker to use state government budgets as the excuse for the opacity of the NASS budget. There is no state government in Nigeria with a budget nearly as opaque as that of NASS. In March 2016, this National Assembly, led by its chairman, promised to provide a detailed breakdown of the national assembly budget. Nigerians are waiting.”

To be sincere, the issue of #OpenNASS is not the basic pay of the Speaker. Infact, the 6 months’ pay slips that were made public had stamps that read 11th of April, 2017, who is fooling who?

Quoting the spokesman of the Speaker, “Salaries and allowances of about 3, 000 legislative aides and salaries, allowances". So let us calculate, 3000 aides amount to an average of 6 aides per NASS member. Are 6 aides not too much for just one person? Logically, if a member of the House needs an aide, he should do that from his purse, not public funds! That way, the fund for 2,062 could be saved. Making education affordable, embarking on useful skill acquisition programmes and training people to be gainfully employed are means why which they can create good governance for the people that elected them, not accumulating aides like a football bet!

On the other hand, the way the “security vote” is being spent should be properly looked into. How for instance can a governor budget and spend N1.5 Billion Naira on CCTV alone? ...in a country where no suicide bomber or herdsman has ever been identified using CCCTV? Nigeria is becoming a joke!

Conclusively, we enjoy the fact that these leaders are keeping themselves on toes; we however demand that the National Assembly open its books or wallow in its filth as their excess is becoming unbearable. We should all remember that power belongs to the people!!!