Citizens groan in darkness as politicians spat By Emmanuel Onwubiko

PROJECTS

Few days after ailing President Muhammadu Buhari was airlifted to an unspecified medical facility in Great Britain, his Vice who immediately swung into action in line with constitutional provisions as acting President made two shocking visits.
Professor Yemi Osinbanjo who officially released his declared assets said to be in the region of a superbly wealthy lawyer climbed down from the high horse of a rich and successful lawyer and the number two citizen of Nigeria to visit the Garki two model market and the next day he was photographed in the street of Calabar in Cross River state strolling and exchanging banters with enthusiastic crowd of the poorest of the poor.
The only exception been that his eagle-eyed dark googled security operatives stopped many enthusiastic fans of the Acting President from reaching out to touch him.
Deep and philosophical observations of the photos from those two visitations by the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo, showed an honest man truly willing to serve the people. 
But the two visits came against the backdrop of the failure of the political class in the current dispensation to timeously endorse the year 2017 national budget and to begin the implementation in ernest. 
These dramatic visits by the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo happened around late May or thereabout. 
The substantive President Muhammadu Buhari had only just left for London on his second medical vacation after the first which spanned over 50 days. 
After he returned from the first medical vacation the President had openly told some visiting state governors that he had never been this sick. 
He (Muhammadu Buhari) has now spent  nearly 60 days into his second medical vacation. 
The essence of these narratives is to show that although the poverty rate has ballooned out of control, and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo has tried to put up the impression that he is standing in for his boss, there are glaring signs that all is not well especially with the frequent medical sojourns abroad by the President. 
The budget took time to be signed because of some kind of political bickering between some few appointed and non-appointed kitchen cabinet members of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo who by law ought to be playing the roles of the President.
 The first sign that all wasn’t well with the Presidency was an alteration noticed in the letter written purportedly  to the National Assembly on the vacation of Mr. President whereby someone inside the corridors of power mutilated the contents of the letter by inserting the unconstitutional term of ‘coordinator’ of government to the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo. 
That political gimmick is at variance with the constitutional provision as enshrined in section 145 (1) implying that the Acting President is clothed with the powers of a full President who acts on behalf of his boss who has only temporarily eased himself out to be returned to office as soon as he transmits a second letter intimating the National Assembly that he has returned back to his duty post.
Apart from the initial hiccups that characterised the delayed signing of the budget, there is also the unclear reason why the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo hasn’t sworn in two ministers appointed by the President before he jetted off to the United kingdom and for which the National Assembly has confirmed their nominations. 
Businesses aren’t doing well. 
Many are closing shops due to instability and when the Presidency looks broken then the economy will suffer. Investors don’t like uncertainty in political leadership. 
Amidst these confusions and conflicts of interests within the Presidency, there’s a real fear that the common people are in pains due to widening chasm between the few privileged class and the millions of deprived and impoverished citizens.  
The situation of poor national infrastructures is pathetic and indeed the near total blackout that millions of families go through for prolonged periods of time shows that public social services for which government is set up have collapsed spectacularly. 
Few days back due to poor federal roads network and improper enforcement of road safety laws, two trailers belonging to two main cement manufacturing firms traced to Aliko Dangote and another firm, ran into each other in the one lane federal road near Benin city killing over one dozen passengers travelling in commercial buses. Abuja and most other cities are in darkness. The villages are also in total lockdown. 
Incidentally, political scientists and philosophers are unanimous that without efficient supplies of these essential and public services it therefore follows that there’s an absence of of good governance and any democracy devoid of good governance automatically loses the right to be so identified as a democracy. 
Some of our finest homegrown legal writers have taken their time to document their far-reaching findings on the legal workability of the concept of good governance. 
They wrote thus: “Whether viewed from the classical sovereignty theory or from the more contemporary social contract theory, a fundamental duty is latently imposed on the sovereign, or government to maintain order, the wellbeing and prosperity of the property of his society in return for his subjects submitting to his rule. Embedded in this latent duty imposed on the sovereign in his relationship with his subjects are certain basic expectations of the subjects from their government or sovereign.”
“These expectations include but are not limited to the following: High living standards; access to justice and equity efficiently dispensed; access to basic amenities of life-food, clothing, and shelter; guarantee of security of life and property; adequate and equal opportunities for all; good, qualitative and uninterrupted education system; gainful employment; good and functional social welfare programme; listening heart; freedom of speech and guarantee of other fundamental human rights.”
Others are; “provision of infrastructure and clement environment for economic growth and development-good and properly maintained road-network, affordable and efficient transport system, uninterrupted power supply and so on; atmosphere devoid of corrupt practices; and good health delivery system”,(see the book; ‘Globalization, national development and the law’ edited by Professors D.A GUOBADIA & EPIPHANY AZINGE).
I have clearly established the near total absence of good governance in the current political set up in Nigeria and i had alluded to some man-made constraints imposed by some inordinately ambitious persons in power.
 I have also shown how so well disposed to providing good governance the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo has demonstrated and the emerging conflicts of interests  within the political power configuration in the current dispensation made disastrous by the severe health challenges confronting the substantive President who had already spent over 100 days in a foreign medical facility. 
Another incipient and much deadly political infighting has ensued soon after the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo endorsed the 2017 budget.  
The fight is now between Babatunde Fashola and the National Assembly over the approved budgets. 
Fashola handles three key ministries which directly affects all Nigerians. Fashola is the minister in charge of electricity power; Housing and Works.
 If these three key ministries are working optimally then the living condition of Nigerians will improve but if it’s the opposite then the living condition will nosedive.  
These ministries have virtually gone comatose since two years that the minister was assigned these roles. 
Fashola has failed. 
Sadly, this minister and the legislators who constitutionally should provide oversight functions are engaged in a dog fight and the plights of Nigerians have nosedived. 
Electricity power supply is at all time low. The federal roads network have collapsed. 
Most Nigerians have no decent houses and are internally displaced.  
But these politicians are quarreling meaninglessly over ego.
From the National Assembly came the news that the House of Representatives has slammed Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babantunde Raji Fashola for claiming that the National Assembly included many projects that were not presented in the budget defense before the committees.
Fashola had claimed that the budget for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N31 billion to N10 billion; that of 2nd Niger Bridge briddge was reduced from N15b to N10b(actually N12b to N7b); and that about N3 billion was also removed from Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road. He also said the Budget for Mambila Power Project was also cut.
Politicians constituting members of the Federal house said the claim was inaccurate and misleading.
This is coming barely three days after the Upper Chamber of the House had cautioned the Minister against spreading wrong information and half-truth about the 2017 budget.
The House tagged as false Fashola’s claim that some of the roads introduced into the budget had no designs and that item like primary healthcare and boreholes were introduced into the budget of the Ministry which are State matters.
Hear the law makers: “We make the following clarifications in answer to the obvious attempt to blackmail the National Assembly, paint it as an irresponsible institution not concerned with the welfare of the people, and set the Executive and Legislature on an unnecessary collision course on matters of power rather than issues that benefit the Nigerian people”.
”On the issue of power of appropriation, the House noted that apart from the constitutional provisions in Section, 4, 59, 80 and 81, we wish to bring to public notice, the most recent judicial pronouncement on this issue in the case of FEMI FALANA V the President FRN & 3 Others, Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on 9th March, 2016. In this suit, the Federal High Court was asked by Chief Falana, who was described as a meddlesome interloper in the judgment to make a declaration:
“Whether by virtue of S. 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the 3rd Defendant (National Assembly) is competent to increase or review upward any aspect of the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next financial year prepared and laid before it by the 1st Defendant”.
The statement further debunked the minister’s claim that N5 billion was taken from the budget for 2nd Niger Bridge, stressing that, “the truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the 2nd Niger Bridge and not a kobo was spent by the Ministry. Not a kobo. The money was returned. 
“The Ministry could not provide the Committees of the National Assembly with evidence of an agreement on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or a contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge. The National Assembly, in its wisdom decided to fund other projects from the South East leaving N7 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge that may yet be UNSPENT. The projects include – N2.5 billion extra for Enugu/Onitsha Road, N1 billion more for 9th Mile/Nsukka/Makurdi Road; additional N500m for Oturkpa- Makurdi to take care of evacuation of agricultural produce up to Maiduguri; N1 billion more for Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Owerri Road. These are strategic Roads in the South-East and North Central parts of Nigeria that had inadequate allocations”.
“The National Assembly had to intervene to fund some other critical roads that were totally neglected in the Executive Budget proposal. “Example is the Abuja- Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road that had Zero allocation from the President’s proposal and no contract even in spite of due process certification. N5 billion was provided in the 2016 Budget. It was not utilized. In 2017 Budget, the National Assembly again provided N3 billion for this very critical road that connects many states and where incidents of kidnapping are rife because of bad roads, as we believe that all parts of Nigeria deserve attention or would the Minister also claim that this road has no design?”
Addressing the much vexed issue of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the legislators in the lower chanber stressed that leadership meetings of both the Executive and Legislature were held where it was clarified that alternative funding exists for the Road through PPP arrangement and the concessionaires had enough money to fund the project. 
It would be recalled that the Minister of Power Works and Housing Babutunde Fashola had criticized the decision of the National Assembly to reduce the costs of several projects in the 2017 budget.
The minister queried why the National Assembly made some cuts to his budget without informing his ministry.
Fashola also accused the National Assembly of padding the budget with new projects.
Some of the projects which he says were cut are the funding for, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger bridge, Manbila power project and the Bodo bridge.
Fashola said, “We were asked to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31 billion to N10 billion.
“We are owing the contractors about N15 billion and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.
“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15 billion to N10 billion and about N3 billion or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget,’’ he said.
“Everybody is complaining about power supply but they also cut the budget for Manbila power project and the Bodo bridge that connects the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Station was also cut.”
“If after we had defended the budget and we had gone and the legislature unilaterally changed the budget, what is the purpose of deliberation?’’ he added.
“What I have in my budget now is primary healthcare centres, boreholes,”.
Well as far as the commoners are concerned, these overgrown adults engaging in meaningless altercations over the budget are selfish and unpatriotic.  
First, is it just when the minister raised alarm that there were variations in the appropriation bill the executive sent to the National Assembly that the legislators suddenly remembered that Fashola hates Igbo to an extent that he returned the money appropriated for the second Niger Bridge in the 2016 budget?
 Why was this not deliberated before the end of last year’s budget circle? 
On the part of the minister the critical question to ask is why such a strategic component as the second Niger Bridge was appropriated and he is now claiming that it was just done on paper as there was no financial backing?
 If he (Fashola) was so passionate about serving all Nigerians as one he could have gone public last year to let Nigerians know that the only stategic public sector project approved for South East which is the second Niger Bridge wasn’t funded? 
Fashola knew very well that 90 percent of Igbo people see him as someone who hates Igbo going by his expulsion of some Igbo petty traders during his eight years stint as Lagos state governor.
 If he isn’t to be taken as a hater of Igbo he could have ensured that this singular project that would save the only bridge across the River Niger from collapsing is implemented last year. 
I think both the minister and the legislators are simply playing on the intelligence and/or gullibility  of the ordinary people to score cheap popularity. 
The truth however is that the people of Nigeria expect these politicians to forget their egotistical fight and concentrate their focus towards providing good governance to save the millions of absolutely poor Nigerians from going extinct.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS Writers Association of Nigeria  (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwa@blogspot.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *