Obasanjo vs NASS: Will Obasanjo’s letter lead to change or is this just another tirade?
Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote a rather unpleasant letter to the National Assembly (NASS), accusing the Nigerian legislature of corruption and failure to support the government, especially at a time when the country is faced with many economic challenges. In the letter, which was dated January 13, Obasanjo implored the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to adopt transparency as this will promote a new dawn for democracy in Nigeria.
While Saraki has said he will reply the former president soon, Dogara, on his own part, reportedly refuses to “join issues” with the former president. According to the Speaker, the 2016 budget is what they are committed to working on right now. This sort of response from the Senate President and Speaker could suggest that they are simply not interested. It is also an exchange which can quickly degenerate into a war of words.
Below are some excerpts from the former president’s letter to NASS:
Secrecy in NASS
“Not least, I have reflected and expressed, outspokenly at times, my views on the practice in the National Assembly which detracts from honourability because it is shrouded in opaqueness and absolute lack of transparency and could not be regarded as normal, good and decent practice in a democracy that is supposed to be exemplary. I am, of course, referring to the issue of budgets and finances of the National Assembly.”
“The purpose of election into the Legislative Assembly, particularly at the national level is to give service to the nation and not for the personal service and interest of members at the expense of the nation which seemed to have been the mentality, psychology, mindset and practice within the National Assembly since the beginning of this present democratic dispensation. Where is patriotism? Where is commitment? Where is service? It must not be seen and said that those who, as leaders, call for sacrifice from the citizenry are living in obscene opulence. It will not only be insensitive but callously so.”
Frivolous spending and corruption in NASS
“Mr. President of the Senate and Hon. Speaker of the House, you know that your emolument which the Commission had recommended for you takes care of all your legitimate requirements: basic salary, car, housing, staff, constituency allowance. Although the constituency allowance is paid to all members of the National Assembly, many of them have no constituency offices which the allowance is partly meant to cater for. And yet other allowances and payments have been added by the National Assembly for the National Assembly members’ emoluments. Surely, strictly speaking, it is unconstitutional. There is no valid argument for this except to see it for what it is – law-breaking and impunity by lawmakers.
The recent controversy over cars for the legislators falls into the same category. Whatever name it is disguised as, it is unnecessary and insensitive. A pool of a few cars for each Chamber will suffice for any Committee Chairman or members for any specific duty. The waste that has gone into cars, furniture, housing renovation in the past was mind-boggling and these were veritable sources of waste and corruption. That was why they were abolished. Bringing them back is inimical to the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
A member of the House of Assembly, Chike Okafor, has attributed Obasanjo’s letter to spite. Okafor is of the opinion that the former president has not forgiven the National Assembly for the non- approval of his third-term bid.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki has acknowledged the receipt of Obasanjo’s letter. According to news sources, Saraki said he still studying the letter and would formally reply the former president soon enough.
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