December 6th, 2010
“Nigerians have no other country to call their own; we must stay here and salvage it together!”
- Muhammadu Buhari, former head of staate
The standoff between Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the
Central Bank and the National Assembly is nothing but
monkeyshines meant to draw attention away from the real
issue: who is really killing the Nigeria, between the
executive and the legislative arm? There is no doubt that
the nation is being bled to death and somebody is killing
her in installments and her citizens deserve to know who is
killing their only country.
This article begins a systematic attempt to answer this
thorny question by first examining how the National Assembly
and State Assemblies bleed the nation’s economy. Next week
will focus on the executive arm. The conclusion will bring
forth how the two arms conspire to loot the economy and
betray both the masses and the nation. The buck passing
going on is, as already said, nothing but shenanigans
calculated to pull the wool over the eyes of the discerning
The main four statutory functions of the legislature are:
(1) Representation, (2) Legislation, (3) Appropriation and
(4) Oversight. The value and performance of any legislative
assembly can easily be checked by subjecting its input,
output and outcome to these cardinal assignments.
Doing such assessment with our National Assembly is not
exactly the aim of this discourse save to quickly state that
the body falls well below par on each count. When compared
to a thriving legislative assembly even in the West Africa
sub-region, ours will no doubt pall into embarrassing
For a fact, not much reasoned deliberations go into
lawmaking in Nigeria. Citizens watch the sittings often in
utmost dismay as not a few lawmakers play to the gallery and
revel in irrelevancies while greater majority remain
habitually absent. Fisticuffs are rampant, a male senator
once slapped a female senator in this dispensation and the
Dino Maleya group members stripped naked in a House Reps
sitting and this happened in the full view TV cameras that
were beamed to the world, and so on.
Critical bills addressing the banes of the Nigerian society
are simply ignored. A few examples of this abound: Senator
Osita Izunasor, Chairman Senate Committee on Gas conceived
the Gunshot bill, to address the legacy of the Buhari
regime, which promulgated a decree requiring gunshot and
accident victims to first produce police report before
receiving treatment in the 21st century. This bill has
passed the first reading in the senate. For months, it has
been lying in the drawers of the Senate Committee Chairman
for Health, Iyabor Obasanjo-Bello. All entreaties by
well-meaning citizens and NGOs such as Transform Nigeria
Movement (TNM) for the Senate to act on this crucial bill
has thus far failed and there is no chance that this
important bill to halt the deaths of innocent victims of
violent crimes and accidents will receive Iyabor’s attention
before the current Senate lapses.
Other bills like this are the Freedom of Information Bill,
the Prison Bill and several others are just in abeyance. For
the Prison Bill particularly, it is said that over 70% of
Nigerian prison inmates are awaiting trial.
The Prison Bill would have addressed the gross injustice and
save the prisons from serving as an incubator of HIV,
Tuberculosis and other deadly diseases and more importantly,
training grounds of hardened criminals which innocent
citizens are turned when incarcerated without trial for
unnecessarily too long. Some people are said to be there for
over 20 years for minor offences for which full convictions
entail not more than a few months.
In the area of Appropriation, budgets have always been late.
Up till this moment, it is not clear whether the National
Assembly is through with 2010 budget even in December, let
alone commencing work on that of 2011.
The result is, since the days of Obasanjo, Nigerian nation
has been run without budgets in the real sense of the word,
and therefore run without any accountable process in public
spending. Government thus becomes one huge lie; where
anything goes and the executive arm has been allowed to
carry on as it pleases by the legislative arm, in clear
violation of the 1999 Constitution, which assigns to it the
responsibility of holding the arm accountable to the people.
So, in all this, what is dealing a crushing blow to the
nation’s hard-earned democracy is the legislature for
refusing to do its oversight work. The quintessence of the
principle of separation powers is ensuring that no arm is
allowed by the rest to become tyrannical. Since the
executive arm, by nature, is tyrannical, a check on its
excesses by the other arms especially the legislature, is
the only way to ensure democracy.
Democracy is simply majority rule and majority wish. Since
all citizens cannot be in government at the same time, the
only way round it is electing representatives to act on the
behalf of the whole. Government therefore exists at the
pleasure of the people and only the legislature can ensure
it is so when it is doing its constitutionally assigned
For the avoidance of doubt, the lawmakers are the ones to
ensure the executive arm sticks to the laws of the land and
that decisions as regards public expenditure are carried out
in strict conformity with the extract laws and in compliance
to the appropriation bill as passed and signed.
Oversight refers to the review, monitoring, and supervision
of federal agencies, programmes, activities, and policy
implementation by the lawmakers. National Assembly exercises
this power largely through its committee system. It occurs
in a wide variety of legislative activities and contexts.
These include authorization, appropriations, investigative,
and legislative hearings by standing committees; specialized
investigations by select committees; and reviews and studies
by National Assembly support agencies and staff.
The National Assembly’s oversight authority derives from its
implied powers in the Constitution, public laws, and House
and Senate rules. It is an integral part of a normal
presidential system of checks and balances and found
everywhere democracy is run.
But in our case, what obtains is the struggle by the
legislators to join the executive is dispensing state
resources through contract awards and execution. Since the
days of Obasanjo, the legislators fought hard and secured
for themselves what they call Constituency Projects. By
Constituency Projects they mean projects captured in the
nation’s budget that are sited in their various
constituencies as dividends of democracy.
Ordinarily, this looks good: the legislators are attracting
development to their constituencies. But in practice, what
obtains is a compromise process where the legislators do not
only identify the projects but also directly usurp the power
of executing them from the executive arm. It is generally
believed that the legislators execute the so-called
Constituency Projects by themselves and in a significant
number of instances, fail to execute the projects at all
after using their companies to win them and still receive
payments as though they did, and by so doing, lose the moral
power to oversight such government Agencies, which awarded
their companies the contracts.
The federal legislators in Nigeria have always denied this,
yet reject the call for them to submit to Constituency
Projects’ audit and investigations to ascertain who the
actual executers of the said projects are and those who
failed to carry them out.
The legislature, without oversight function is no
legislature at all. In fact, since most of the bills emanate
from the executive arm, through sound policies and honest
leadership, a responsive government can do without a
legislature that is not in a position to carry out oversight
functions. For what use is the salt if it has lost its
The question that has engaged us is: why is killing Nigeria.
Is it the legislature or the executive? Sanusi had said at
the Senate: “Total Federal Government Overhead is over N500
billion and the Overhead of the National Assembly is N136.2
billion. This is exactly 25.1 per cent of total government
overhead. I am quoting from the figure I got from the Budget
Office…’’ One expects the CBN governor to be armed with
irrefutable figures and not create the impression that he is
speculating. At that penultimate Wednesday meeting, the
Senate Committee on Appropriation had also said to Sanusi
without reply: “The entire National Assembly budget is N158
billion; that of the CBN is N303 billion”.
In all the hogwash of claims and counterclaims between the
executive and the legislature, one thing can be seen
clearly: nobody knows exactly how much drain each sector of
government constitutes to the polity. To start with, since
the days of the military, nobody is managing our nation’s
resources at any level for her development. What appears to
be happening with growing impunity is a systematic class
fraud and elite conspiracy, consciously aimed at sapping the
economy and immobilizing the nation. The precipitate
underdevelopment as a consequence of their nefarious actions
is well known to these enemies of the people and yet they
push on with stealing of government funds in larger lumps.
Looking critically at the legislature, newspaper reports
have it that in addition to the regular and legitimate
salaries and allowances of N17 million ($113,333) and N14.99
million ($99,933) which senators and Representatives were
collecting yearly and the irregular allowance of estacodes,
duty tours etc, they are also said to be collecting N192m
and N140m respectively in illegal quarterly allocation,
which is not provided for by Revenue Mobilization Allocation
and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC. In addition, Nigerian news
media reports that the Senate President alone takes N250
million quarterly or N83.33 million per month. Senate Deputy
President gets N150 million per quarter or N50 million a
month. This has not been disproved to date.
But, as said, where the National Assembly deals a death blow
on the economy is in the area of oversight for getting
involved in contracts execution and contract sleaze. Their
involvement has left the credibility of the arm seriously
damaged and compromised, and, having lost the needed moral
rectitude, can only look the other way as other government
officials loot the rest of the treasury.
The way out of this quagmire remains the panacea supplied by
the Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) by calling for an audit
of the so-called Constituency Projects and discontinuing the
policy forthwith. That way, the nation may have saved the
legislators from themselves as well as save the dying
The shame and bane of the nation’s democracy is just the
level of corruption and compromise perpetrated by government
officials at all levels. A situation where a lawmaker earns
about 8 times more than the president of the United States
in an economy that is near comatose is indeed shameful.
Yet, what happens in the legislative is only a child’s play
compared to what is happening in the executive arm. Figures
from the RMAFC show that the salary review of political
office holders till date revealed that a mere 17,474
officials earned N1.12 trillion yearly. Of this N1.12
trillion about N94, 959,545,401.20 billion is spent on
salaries and N1, 031,654,689,033.18 trillion goes to
allowances annually. The officers are: Federal Executive
(472); Federal Legislature (1,152); Local Government
Executive (3,096) and local government legislature (8,692).
What is more, these 17,500 officials constitute just 0.014
per cent of Nigeria’s 160 million population estimate.
Their argument that their constituents expect them to bring
home projects is irretrievably flawed since they can attract
projects to their constituencies without being directly
involved in their execution or in diversion of public funds
meant for such projects as is said to be the case today.
The commitment to development of the nation is not just
there. How many of the attend sittings? 39 senators attended
the plenary session in the hallowed house and 68 were absent
the day the senate voted on whether to invite Sanusi or not.
Somebody said: not only are these people illegally awarding
themselves embroidered incentives but they also abandon
A source computed a total take-home of a Nigerian senator as
N1.8 Billion. The Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal commission
has refused to give the official figure. One wonders why?
Yet, a senator cannot be allowed to walk home with nearly 2
billion naira every year, aside the huge contracts allocated
to them by the ministries and agencies they oversight, which
is another aspect of the corrupt practices in the polity
that have made the arm a drain on the economy.
So, who is really killing Nigeria? You can see some of them
for yourself. Our searchlight will beam on the executive
next week as coconspirators.
• Law Mefor, Author and Journalist, is national Coordinator
Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) and Director, Center for
Leadership, Social and Forensic44b gx Research, Abuja;