by ‘Jola Sotubo
An official confirmation has been issued on the lifestyle of the members of the Nigerian National Assembly.
Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday issued a statement asserting that Nigeria had spent over N1trn on the National Assembly members in the last eight years.
Ezekwesili, in a keynote address she delivered during one-day dialogue session on the ‘Cost of governance in Nigeria, “added that banks earned N699bn as interests last year on loans secured by the government.
“Since 2005, the National Assembly members alone have been allocated N1tr,’’she said while also lamenting that “82 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary cost goes for recurrent expenditure.”
To buttress her claim that much was being spent servicing those in government, she said that “ a research conducted in the United Kingdom identified Nigerian legislators as being the highest paid in the world.”
Although she was applauded by participants at the session organised in Abuja by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre with support from Federal Public Administration Reform Programme in the UK, she drew flak from the National Assembly members, who said her claim amounted to blackmail.
But Ezekwesili, who was also a former minister of Solid Mineral and World Bank Vice-President for Africa Region, challenged civil society groups to demand a mini-national dialogue that centres on good governance and the the release of the Steve Oronsaye report on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies.
“There should be effective demand by civil society groups of the report of the Oronsaye report. You should also demand a mini-national transparent dialogue because it touches on the heart of good governance”, she stated.
She also pointed out that one of the greatest mistakes of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration under which she served twice as a minister was that Nigeria delved into democracy without necessarily doing away with a military mindset.
According to her, the social dilemma which the country currently finds itself would be overcome if stakeholders, especially lawmakers, consider part-time legislation as a means of bringing down the cost of governance.
She said part-time lawmaking would ensure that the right people got into governance.
“Things will improve through part-time legislation. It will also reduce the number of people who will go into the National Assembly. You must have means of livelihood so that you won’t have to depend on public funds, ”she said.
The former minister argued that Nigeria’s problem was not the system of governance but more of the kind of people managing it.
Ezekwesili said while other countries were moving forward technologically, Nigeria was trapped by oil, a natural resource which it loses a revenue of about $1.6bn annually.
She reportedly said, “When I was in government, I was totally debating public policies. We must debate public policies as a nation because if we don’t do so, we will make silly mistakes because we don’t involve the stakeholders. So policy debates must be encouraged.”
“I feel sorry for any person who is fairly okay in this nation and doesn’t care about the poor because there will be an implosion. Whatever treatment that is given to the poor and vulnerable in the society must matter to everybody because except we have social inclusion in the society, we stand the danger of implosion. This has happened in other countries which ignored the vulnerable people.”