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WASTEFULNESS OF OUR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

By NBF News
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There is no better way to drive home the crass indiscretion of our public officers and public institutions in the way they waste our public funds on inanities and frivolities other than the above example. The way priorities are ordered in public office leaves one wondering whether our public officers are in the same country that we live in. It leaves us wondering whether they drive through the same roads on which we drive and see craters on those roads; whether they enter the same public hospitals as we do and see the lack of equipment and drugs in those hospitals; whether they bother to visit public schools as we do and see the leaking roofs, the lack of chairs, the poorly paid teachers the empty laboratories, and the degenerate environment; whether they see the hunger, despair, desperation on the faces of ordinary Nigerians, as we do when we drive through the streets; whether they actually see or feel our collapsing small and medium scale industries because of lack of power supply and lack of capital. If they see these things as we do and yet have persisted in spending public funds as they do, then we are either faced with a psychiatric problem, a problem of greed or avarice, or a situation of extreme lack of patriotism.

The N10 billion earmarked to celebrate Nigeria's Golden Jubilee is one of such cases of indiscretion in the way we spend public money. Such spending is not likely to create wealth or provide jobs for many Nigerians except a few government contractors . It is certainly money going down the drain. By budgeting that kind of amount for a frivolity like 'celebrations', the Federal Government has abandoned critical issues that afflict the nation and that can be solved with less than N10billion . It is like the case of the sick child that I earlier mentioned.

We have also read reports recently that the National Assembly members are demanding for a total sum of about N500m each per annum for some sundry and funny issues. In fact, it is worrisome that the take home pay per annum of the President of America is far less than that of a member of the House of Representatives or Senator in Nigeria. And yet, it is obvious that we are the ones who need to conserve more public funds to address our myriads of problems. In the case of profligacy by the leadership of the House of Representatives, I have finally been vindicated by the recent outbursts by members of the House.

When I raised these issues some time ago and petitioned all law-enforcement agencies to look into the issue, it was some of these same members that called me names even when the facts were as clear as crystal. Let me restate the salient points of that case here, which is now generally known as the N2.3 billion Naira car scam :

1. The contract signed by both Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Ltd and the National Assembly indicated that what was bided for was the 407 ST Sports Automatic, which was about N6.2 million naira by their own price list.

2. When the cars were eventually supplied, it was the 'Comfort Automatic' that was supplied (worth N5,100,000 per unit) which is over N1.1 million less than what was bided for.

3. Newswatch magazine then wrote the story in its September 22, 2008 edition exposing the quality of cars supplied.

4. I then picked it from there, and wrote to the House demanding an open explanation regarding the discrepancies.

5. At that time, the Committees of the House had been dissolved, but in view of the allegations, the Speaker (who was accused) quickly constituted the Standing Committee on Ethics and Privileges. Its first assignment was to look into the allegations against the Speaker who just constituted it. (Is it right?)

6. In the case of Patricia Etteh, the Integrity Group argued that such a Committee would be biased and so the whole House selected an adhoc committee to look into the allegations.

7. When the matter gained momentum in the media and after I made good my threat to take the matter further to the E.F.C.C and I.C.P.C, the Ethics Committee quickly invited all parties to appear before it on Wednesday, October 29, 2008.

8. Before then the Speaker had granted interviews in the media, describing me as a 'noise maker' (thereby pre-empting the Committee's work).

9. I then wrote to the Committee expressing my fears about its neutrality

10.However, even without being invited by the E.F.C.C, P.A.N hurriedly wrote to the anti-corruption body, obviously goaded by the Speaker, explaining its position and attaching its current price lists.

11. In its letter, PAN agreed it supplied the 407 'Comfort ' (it did not bid for that). Even its 2008 price list still showed 'Comfort Automatic' to be worth N5,100,000.

QUESTION: Is the 'Comfort Automatic' supplied different from the one on its price list? So why the difference in the prices that appeared on its list and what the House paid?

12. There is no evidence that the House even NEGOTIATED for a discount. This is lack of financial prudence because they will not spend their personal monies that way for 380 cars! However, PAN said because of the 'urgency' it did not give a discount. But contract papers did not indicate any urgency.

13. Please, note that about 20 out of the 380 cars supplied were given to Principal Officers. These had special features like leather seats, rear parking aids etc. So what is the name for those 20? Truth is those 20 were the actual 407 ST Sports Automatic.

QUESTION: So, if PAN supplied two different brands, what is the name of one and what is the name of the other? Did PAN submit quotation for two brands?

14. I then appeared before the Committee when it guaranteed the condition for media coverage.

15. At the hearing, members were more interested in knowing my source of information and the right I possess to question their accounts than the veracity of the allegations. I referred them to chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution. They told me that Chapter 2 is non-justiciable . I told them it is observable. They flared up. Then members of the committee descended into the arena and hurled abuses at me. This is how Daily Trust of Thursday, October 30, 2008 reported what happened when I appeared before the House

Committee on Ethics and Privileges:
'REPS HURL ABUSES AT KEYAMO
Threats, curses and abuses heralded yesterday's sitting of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges investigating the alleged purchase of 380 units of Peugeot 407 cars worth N2.3billion by the House of Representatives from the cars' local manufacturer, Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria (PAN) Plc of Kaduna.

'You are stupid', 'You are a fool' and 'Who are you?' were some of the phrases freely hurled by committee members at the lawyer Mr. Festus Keyamo, who wrote a letter to the House and its leadership demanding a probe. Keyamo shouted in response, 'I did not abuse them oh' and later changed his tone, repeatedly saying 'You must account! 'You must account!'

The committee is investigating the purchase of cars after a Newswatch magazine published a story alleging impropriety in the transaction. Lagos based lawyer Keyamo then followed up with a petition to Speaker Dimeji Bankole, demanding explanation on the transaction. He also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission…'

Since then, I have demanded a full investigation by Law Enforcement Agents and to bring to book all those involved and for the leadership of the House to submit itself to investigation.

I hope law enforcement agencies can tell Nigerians what happened to their investigation now.