Serap, The Missing Billions In The National Assembly And The Quest For Transparency And Integrity Among Nigerian Leaders

By Momoh, Emmanuel Omeiza
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An elaborate study, review and examination of the entity christened Nigeria in the meantime proves beyond any iota of doubt that the country is currently passing through a period of turbulence and turmoil in all aspects - social, political, economic and religious.

Apart from the common challenges of covid-19 which has drained the nation's purse massively, the quest to promote transparency and integrity among the citizens seems to be a difficult riddle or conundrum. The nation's leaders who are meant to be pacesetters and role models seem to be lackadaisical in their attitudes not minding the fact that leadership should be by example and not mere verbal assertions.

Politics as modeled by its inventors jn the early societies was an avenue to serve a community by engaging in reasonable and meaningful activities towards ensuring that the society was developed and not retarded. Nigeria's nationalists in a bid to fulfill this established different avenues by which individuals could serve their communities by being appointed using the electoral platform.

This necessitated the establishment of the national assembly which was bicameral in nature. Apart being Nigeria's central legislative body, the national assembly is also a medium to give all groups of people a voice and equal representation.

Decades down the line, it is as though the purpose for which the assembly was established has been defeated as the reality of events have proved that it is an assembly of corrupt officials and personalities with unruly behaviour and questionable characters.

This has drained the nation's purse massively as the various allowances which accrue to individuals who occupy the seats in the assembly are much more than is necessary in a sane democratic society. Rather than being a model, it has been a portrait of corrupt practises among other things.

Apart from this is the fact that the assembly has been seen as a retirement home for many. This may without much ado be the reason both the young and old would want to spend their political careers in the assembly as it is an avenue for wealth.

Media organisations recently reported that over 4 billion naira which were budgeted for the upkeep of the national assembly was missing and couldn't be traced. This may have informed the decision of a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to petition the authorities of the assembly to conduct an investigative study on the purportedly missing funds.

As laudable as SERAP's decision may be, it may not see the light of the day considering the current leadership of the national assembly which had been adjudged as ignorant in matters relating to political adminstration. In clear terms is the fact that the current crop of individuals who are regarded as honourables and senators are people whose way of life isn't worth emulating.

In a country where transparency and integrity seems to be the scarcest commodity even among those who occupy the lowest strata of political leadership, what does one expect from those at the top?

Almost all the while are reports of how mere councillors in local government adminstration embezzle funds for personal uses. Before you know it, these same categories of people are voted as State Governors then elected into the federal cabinet as ministers and special advisers.

Thus, the greater the magnitude of power and position available to them, the greater the opportunity to steal. And when they are eventually caught, the truth is turned upside down and they are discharged and acquitted.

What about leaders who falsified results and were still given the opportunity of being voted into power? These unwholesome reports has a lot to say about the extent to which Nigerian leaders place premium value on dishonesty, lack of integrity.

Habe we forgotten Elisha Abbo, a Senator representing Adamawa State who assaulted a lady at a shop? What came out of it? What about Governor Umar Ganduje who was caught on camera collecting bribes? Did anything fruitful come out of the case.

Leadership which is meant to be an avenue to serve the nation is seen as an avenue to hide and perform actions against the law. Not only has this caused economic stagnation for donkey years, it has also painted the nation as one that operates a faulty system in the international community. The recent report by Transparency International of how corruption has eaten deep into Nigeria's fabric and specifically among leaders will not be said to be false if the current brouhaha over the missing billions in the national assembly is examined carefully.

The current controversy over missing funds in the national assembly will not be the first recorded as several other government organisations have recorded instances of missing funds. Have we forgotten the 36 million which was the revenue generated from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) were said to be swallowed by a mysterious snake? What was the aftermath of the report? As usual, it was swept under the carpet.

How disheartening is the fact that all these unwholesome practices could be happening even with the presence of the instrumentality of law and organisations that were established solely to fight corrupt practices.

If the current leaders who are the most respected could be void of integrity and transparency to the extent of being banned from visiting other countries? What then does the future hold for the coming generation whose minds are still tender?

It is high time Nigerian leaders understand the fact that being a leader isn't enough. Rather, being a leader whose actions and words are void of questions is what counts. Nigerian leaders should learn to live by example.

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