By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
Fear is the most powerful enemy of reason. Both fear and reason are essential to human survival, but the relationship between them is unbalanced. Reason may sometimes dissipate fear, but fear frequently shuts down reason-AL-Gore, Former Vice President of the United States
There is no better way to appreciate the validity of the above expression than reflecting on the latest push by the members of the National Assembly to pass a bill sponsored by Honourable Odebumi Olusegun, of Ogo-Oluwa/Surulere federal constituency (APC, Oyo), – a bill that recently passed second reading.
Going by reports, the bill, known as “Bill for an Act to Alter Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended), which provides that: “no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors during their period of office.” And have same provision extended to accommodate/cover Presiding Officers of Legislative officers during their period of office.”
Indeed, there is no question that high-office such as the National Assembly needs no distraction when discharging their responsibilities. There is equally no gainsaying that politics is an act of promoting and protecting one’s interest and not largely a question of the masses, party or faction, after all, man is a political creature seeking to secure his/her own position.
However, why this is both scary and dangerous is that physical and economic survival has not only become paramount to the members but presently connected to a ‘conjured fear’- a state of affairs that prevents the Honorable to pay attention to what has changed, what can change, what new opportunities that are presenting them that can help the poor masses.
This tragedy is even compounded by the irony that the present 9th Assembly, going by the profile of members, is arguably filled with the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of NASS in Nigeria. But asymmetrical personal interest has not allowed them to do the job of lawmaking that will enhance the life chances of Nigerians.
Accordingly, there are many questions that I am tempted to ask the proponents of this bil; apart from the established truth that sequencing and timing are the two most important considerations when developing strategy, will the bill if passed continue to allow the lawmakers live as a people under the rule of law as embodied in our constitution? Or are we by this bill trying to fail the future generations by leaving for them a constitution far diminished from what we met?
Why is the house coming up with such a beleaguered bill at a time debilitating hands of corruption is painting the nation’s image black at the global stage? Why was it conceived at a period grinding poverty afflict Nigerians and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder? Looking at the fact that this bill was first introduced before the outgone 8th Assembly but was step down due to intensified public outcry, one may again ask; if it’s re-introduction was necessitated by fear of legal consequences for corruption or reason?
Distinctively, while Nigerians awaits the Honourables to analyze each of these questions, draw a conclusion and justify their reasoning, there are accompanying explanations why this development should be characterize as a reality for all to worry about; first is that NASS, is already protected by the virtue of parliamentary immunity which among other things provides cover for all lawmakers for whatever they say at the hallowed chambers. Going extra mile to seek laws that will protect lawmakers from legal consequences for corruption, will in my views, exacerbate the impunity that prevails in Nigeria’s political circles and worsen the country’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Another concern is that the House of Representatives is becoming ‘famously’ reputed for being in the news for the wrong reason. First was Speaker Femi Gbajabamila led house decision to revisit the Non Governmental Organization’s bill presented to, and stepped down by the 8th Assembly as a result of its obnoxious provisions-which was majorly signposted in its quest for a regulatory commission established that will facilitate, coordinate and regulate the work of all national and international civil society organisations and will assist in checking any likelihood of any civil society organisation being illegally sponsored against the interest of Nigeria.That was late last year.
The above action which Nigerians with critical interest viewed as misguided was closely followed by the house member’s rejection of opportunity to promote local content. The refusal to patronize the locally assembled vehicles by Innoson Group, said to have been recommended for them.; and in its place, opt for the 2020 edition of Toyota Camry which will not only double the price of the initially recommended but, will cost a whooping N5Billion to purchase 400 of the Toyota Camry model needed by the house.
The pains of the planned immunity becomes even more severe on the consciousness of Nigerians when one remembers that the list of actions not yet taken by NASS to confront corruption which has made Nigerians face actual and potential difficulties remain lenthy and worrying. Chief among these is their failure to objectively make corruption fight a personal priority.
To take one more example, it could be recalled that in a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chinedu Emeka Martins titled: “Call for Abolishment of Acceptance fee into Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria” during the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, the house described acceptance fee as exploitative and called on Federal Government, to immediately abolish the payment of such fees in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
Today, the practice still goes unabated in virtually all the public higher institution of learning in the country. And instead of the NASS ensuring that the order is complied with, they got themselves preoccupied with search for new but personal fields to increase their wealth and well being, leaving the masses (students and parents) that initially depended on them confused.
However, like an unchained torrent of water that submerges the whole countryside and devastate crops, the present happenings in the National Assembly are the predictable negative consequence of policy choices that flow directly from the people’s electoral outing in 2019.
On the positive side, the ingrain lesson(s) of NASS action (if Nigerians could learn), will definitely act as incentives reminding Nigerians that ‘a man who creates power makes an indispensible contribution to the nation’s greatness. But the man who questions power makes a contribution just as indispensable, especially when the questioning is disinterested; for it is in this that we determine whether we use power or if power is using us’.
I hold an opinion that this period is auspicious for Nigerians to ask questions-and possibly hold their lawmakers and other public office holders accountable because a government of, and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people.
Jerome-Mario Utomi, a Lagos-based media consultant, writes via; [email protected]
TRENDING: Pastor’s Wife Who Mistakenly Sends Her N*de Video To Church Whatsapp Group Attempts Suicide
Pastor’s Wife who mistakenly sent her Nude Video to members of her church using the WhatsApp texting service on mobile phones has reportedly attempted suicide out of embarrassment.
According to information gathered by mandynews.com, the woman in her mid-30s who is nursing a 6-month-old baby intended to send the pictures to her husband who was on a trip outside the country only for it to be mistakenly land on the church group.
Members of the church group who received the photos, videos and message were shocked and outraged. They tried to call up the pastor’s wife, who wouldn’t answer. The then started quitting the group one after the other.
In two separate videos, 58 and 31 seconds respectively, she is seen facing the camera, kneeling, wiggling her waist and fondling herself concurrently.
That was after she was earlier captured in a bath showcasing her thighs among others while capturing what she was doing.
Interestingly, a child believed to be hers is heard crying in the background but the lady who appeared to be enjoying herself turned deaf ears to the child.
Embarrassment As Twitter Deletes Minister Keyamo’s Leaked Chat With Eedris Abdulkareem
Embarrassment As Twitter Deletes Minister Keyamo’s Leaked Chat With Eedris Abdulkareem—-The Genius Media Nigeria reports that Twitter on Sunday deleted tweets by the minister of state for labour and employment Festus Keyamo where he leaked private conversation between him and singer Eedris Abdulkareem.
This reliable platform gathered that Part of the tweets made on Saturday night contained Eedris’ phone number.
In deleting the tweets, Twitter said the minister “violated the rules” of the platform.
Mr Keyamo had held nothing back in attacking Eedris, claiming the singer made a poor attempt at blackmailing him in his new song ‘Jaja Jaga Reloaded’.
The minister claimed Eedris once begged to be part of the Buhari Campaign Organisation which he directed in 2018.
“In 2018, when I was named the Director of Strategic Communications for Buhari Campaign Organisation, Eedris waxed a song in support of Buhari and wanted to join us, albeit for a fee. He then made desperate efforts to see me through text messages from his phone no,” the now-deleted tweet read.
Shortly after Twitter took down the leaked chat, Keyamo tweeted: “Job done.”
— Festus Keyamo, SAN (@fkeyamo) April 25, 2021
EXPOSED!!! How Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello Allegedly Misused N4.5Billion COVID-19 Funds
Accordďing to reports SERAP GROUP, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is being called upon to proble Kogi Governor who is alleged to have misused N4.5bn COVID-19 funds.
The Genius Media Nigeria gathered that Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, the public advocacy group has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate alleged misuse of the N4.5 billion donations, loans and support the Kogi State government obtained from the Federal Government, including N90,720,000 reportedly spent on software to track COVID-19 cases in the state.”
SERAP stated that “if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, anyone suspected to be involved should face prosecution, as appropriate.”
In the letter dated 27 March 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Directing the Attorney General of the Federation and appropriate anti-corruption agencies as recommended is constitutional, and would be entirely consistent with your promise in your inaugural speech to ‘ensure responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country.’”
SERAP quoted Buhari as promising in his inaugural speech on 29th May, 2015 that: ‘The Federal Government would not fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. It will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.’”
SERAP stated: “As you have correctly stated, the obligations of your government to combat corruption in Nigeria extend to all the three tiers of government, namely, the federal, state and local governments.”
The letter, read in part: “Although primarily a matter of concern for Kogi State, the allegations of misuse of COVID-19 funds drawn from the Federal Government have assumed such a proportion as to become a matter of concern to the federation as a whole, and therefore, to your government.”
“SERAP is concerned about growing allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds in several of the 36 states of the Federation, and the apparent lack of prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigations into these allegations, allowing suspected perpetrators to frequently escape justice.”
“Taking prompt action to probe the allegations would promote transparency and accountability, serve the common good, peace, order and good government of the federation (which includes Kogi State through the Kogi governor). It would help to enhance your government’s fight against corruption and contribute hugely to improving the public confidence and trust in your commitment to combat grand corruption.”
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request.”
“SERAP also believes that given the history of corruption in Nigeria, especially several unresolved allegations of grand corruption involving many of the 36 state governments, your government cannot and should not look the other way regarding the allegations of misuse of COVID-19 funds involving the Kogi State government. Such allegations in any state of Nigeria are of concern to every Nigerian, and should therefore be of concern to your government.”
“Taking the recommended measures would also show that your government is concerned with the overall well-being of the federation and willing and able to enforce important constitutional principles.”
“According to our information, the Kogi governor in 2020 allegedly spent N90,720,000 on ‘COVID-19 software.’ The software was reportedly approved by Governor Yahaya Bello, for tracking COVID-19 cases and prevent the spread of the disease in the state. However, the company that developed the software has reportedly stated that it costs only N300,000.”
“The software has reportedly stopped functioning just one year after it was installed. The N90,720,000 spent on COVID-19 software is part of the N4.5 billion donations, loans and support, which Kogi State reportedly obtained from the Federal Government.”
“Ensuring the investigation and prosecution of the allegations would also be entirely consistent with the provisions of section 15 subsection (5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], which requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, regardless of the state where such practices are taking place.”
“Section 15 specifically defines “government” to include the government of the federation, or of any state, or of a local government council or any person who exercises power or authority on its behalf.”
“Similarly, the Attorney-General of the Federation has power, conferred on him by section 174(1)(a) of the Nigerian Constitution, and anti-corruption agencies have the powers to act on the allegations of misuse of the N4.5 billion donations, loans and support by the Kogi State government obtained, including N90,720,000 spent on software to track COVID-19 cases in the state.”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution; the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, as well as your expressed commitment in your inaugural speech on 29th May, 2015 ‘to check gross corruption at the local level.’”
The letter is copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
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