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  Jubrin, Dogara et al And Our Change.

Source: pointblanknews.com
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As the Speaker of the University of Lagos Students Union Government

between 1993 and 1994, at a time student unionism had not been castrated

and rendered an impotent buffoon it has become today, I know a bit of

budget presentation and its ratification process by parliament and

subsequent signing into law by the President.  Yes, you might say student

union politics is different from national politics and you might be right

to the extent that student union politics, in its very best, as we had at

that time, is far more refined and sophisticated than the rumble in the

jungle we have in Nigeria as politics. In student union politics, as we

had in ULSU in those days, you have members of parliament drawn from all

departments and faculties, an admixture of the brightest and best drawn

from various shades and races.
When the campaign for change was trending, there was a firm promise that

the old sordid way must give place for Nigeria to recover its battered

soul and move on in the comity of progressive nations. This was the

central message of Change and the philosophical gird of the Muhammadu

Buhari regime that berthed in May last year. Yes, things must change from

the very insidious ways that have seen Nigeria almost crumbled to its

knees in five decades of uncensored larceny. The old, stale order that has

fired the shooting pins of unimaginable corruption, which has hobbled the

prospects of an oil rich nation for decades must be overthrown for a newer

and saner order that will lead Nigeria’s recovery and kick start its

meaningful quest for greatness.
In the budget cycle, the executive proposes its yearly financial estimates

and lays it before the parliament. The parliament on its part and in line

with its constitutional duties, goes through the budget proposal,

scrutinises the provisions, crosses the t’s and dots the i’s to ensure

that the resources are rightly allocated to the budget heads without

inflating allocations. In ULSU in those days, budget periods are the  most

active periods when parliamentarians, drawn from the various departments,

faculties and interests, come to the parliament with their calculators and

other mathematical gadgets to scrutinise the budget to ensure that cheeky

members of the executive do not inject their own interests into the budget

through inflating the costs of items in the budget heads for their own

selfish benefits. As parliamentarians, it was not our duty to insert newer

budget heads (or line items) to the proposal because it is not the duty of

the parliament to propose projects but to scrutinise and ensure that funds

were appropriately allocated.
It is not the duty of legislators to allocate funds. That is exclusively

an executive function.  It is not within the power of legislators to

insert new projects into the budget. It is not the duty of legislators to

assume the duty of executives but to checkmate their antics by ensuring

that budgets are not inflated for selfish reasons or funds are

realistically allocated. No law anywhere in the world, gives the

legislature, invested with powers to scrutinise and approve, the added

power to insert new budget heads or line items in a budget. It is absurd

seeing legislators today shamelessly parroting the nonsense in the media

that legislators have powers to include line items or budget heads in a

budget. This is pure fallacy and no law in any part of the world grants

legislators power to assume executive duties. Most importantly, it is the

function of the parliament to monitor budget execution to ensure the

executive does not deviate from rightly implementing what were approved in

the budget.
For decades, the Nigerian legislature has brought to bear on the culture

of budgets, a deep corruptive influence by taking over the duties of the

executive by initiating fresh budget heads outside the proposals of the

executive. It is not like a military take over but rather a rip off from

the compromise it struck with equally dubious executives that had the

single mindset of defrauding the masses and growing fat on the lifeblood

of the Nigerian masses. At the end of each budget year, monies in the

budget had been shared between the executive and the legislature while the

masses hold on to empty shells of multi trillion Naira annual budgets that

end up not holding even a flimsy candle for them. A culture of inserting

personal projects into the budget in the guise of constituency projects

has ensured that parliamentarians not only infringe the constitutional

culture of budgets but corrupt it for their personal interest by

initiating dubious, self serving interests and going further to directly

and indirectly execute such projects and making most illicit capital of

it. This is the anomaly of constituency projects that has endured for a

very long time and had drained the country by appeasing the corrupt

tendencies of legislators, now fondly called legislooters, in deference to

their insatiable crave for illicit emoluments.  This has ensured that

Nigerian budgets, before the coming of Buhari, has largely been shared

between corrupt and hawkish parliamentarians and an equally corrupt,

acquiescing and wheeling-dealing executive. In the sequel, Nigerians, for

whose interests budgets are supposedly made, had been left high and dry.

This was one of the cultures the change agenda targets and which was why

we saw the drama that attended this year’s budget as the old rugged

culture clashed with the determination of the Buhari regime to change this

culture for the betterment of the Nigerian masses.
In the present Abdulmuminu Jubrin versus Yakubu Dogara et al dirty

slugfest over the padding of the 2016 budget, let us know that we are not

dealing with a new culture but an old culture that has long endured but is

being threatened by change. Poor Dogara, Jubrin and their fellow

legislators, they read badly of the change for which Nigerians endured

massive onslaughts to bring in last year. They are rugged students of the

old order that came to a head on collision with President Buhari’s

unsmiling commitment to cap the wellhead of corruption and free hitherto

stolen funds to attend to the country’s many challenges. We are having the

open sesame happening presently because we voted for change otherwise, the

rotten order of the executive and the legislature colluding  to share the

yearly budgets would have passed quietly as it has been before Buhari

came. So budget padding either by soiled civil servants planting and

inflating budget heads for their selfish interests, corrupt ministers and

politicians, appropriating all for their selfish benefits or by

supercilious parliamentarians, inserting various dubious interests into

the budget in the guise of constituency projects, is not new. In fact, it

has been an old corrupt culture. What is new is that  change is

unravelling it and opening its behind for Nigerians to know why they have

been so short changed.
In the present squabble, let us recall that the President presented his

executive’s budget estimates to the legislature and let us recall that

when the legislature returned the approved budget to the executive, the

Buhari government refused to sign, raising serious charges that most of

the proposals it sent to the legislature, were deleted and replaced with

various doubtful insertions that never emanated from the executives as it

should be. Let us recall that Dogara et al and Jubrin were in the same

boat, frantically denying such charge and alleging the executives rather

did not present the budget well and that they did a damn good job

cleansing what Jubrin said was a badly presented budget. They were

together in defending the legislature even when it was obvious that

critical projects proposed by the executive, such as the Calabar-Lagos

rail line were expunged from the budget and replaced with so-called

constituency projects that were not proposed by the executive. It was

based on such inconsistencies that the President refused to sign the

budget and had to take it back to the parliament. Let us recall that

Jubrin in particular was so vociferous defending the legislature and

accusing the executive of multifarious offences and going further and

threatening fire and brimstone should the President refuse to sign the

budget.
So when did the cookie crumble in the relationship between Jubrin and

Dogara and co such that they  are washing very dirty and messy linens in

the public? When did Jubrin now realise that Dogara inserted many projects

in the budget to support an offence he had so frantically denied in the

recent past? When did it occur to Dogara that Jubrin took over the budget

process to steal in his fancy projects into the budget?  When did it occur

to both Jubrin and Dogara that indeed the House of Representatives

mutilated  the budget to the extent of inserting billions of Naira worth

illegal projects in the budget? These are just a few critical questions

that dog the present admission from the horses’ mouth that indeed the

House of Representatives leadership altered the budget and some members

inserted dubious items in the budget to defraud the country. We must thank

God for this change when we review what is happening in the House of

Representatives at moment. We must see reason to thank God that one of the

old corrupt orders that have so robbed the country is on the verge of

tumbling down today because the rays of change beamed on it and Nigerian

officialdom will not be the same again.
So let Jubrin and Dogara et al fight on. Let all the dirty details of the

same shenanigans with which past governments and politicians have robbed

the country continue to flip open for Nigerians to know where indeed the

rain started beating them. Let the fight get messier because this will

reveal messier details of why we are where we are today and most

especially ensure that we don’t continue threading the same paths that

have so destroyed the country for the last five years.

Peter Claver Oparah
Ikeja, Lagos.
E-mail: [email protected]
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