Obasanjo Letter condemn Saraki and Dogara over plans to by more Official cars

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has written a letter to the
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of
Representatives Yakubu Dogara criticizing them over the reported plans
to buy more cars for each Senator to carry out their legislative duties.
In the letter dated January 13th, Obasanjo stated that it was
insensitive of the legislators to think of buying more cars considering
the critical state of the Nigerian economy. Full text of the letter after the cut…
Distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki
 President of the Senate Federal Republic of Nigeria
 Senate Chambers Abuja. 
Honourable Yakubu Dogara Speaker, 
House of Representatives, 
National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
 It
is appropriate to begin this letter, which I am sending to all members
of the Senate and the House of Representatives through both of you at
this auspicious and critical time, with wishes of Happy New Year to you
all. On a few occasions in the past, both in and out of office as the
President of Nigeria I have agonised on certain issues within the arms
of government at the national level and among the tiers of government as
well. Not least, I have reflected and expressed, outspokenly at times,
my views on the practice in the National Assembly which detracts from
distinguishness and honourability because it is shrouded in opaqueness
and absolute lack of transparency and could not be regarded as normal,
good and decent practice in a democracy that is supposed to be
exemplary.
 I
am, of course, referring to the issue of budgets and finances of the
National Assembly. The present economic situation that the country has
found itself in is the climax of the steady erosion of good financial
and economic management which grew from bad to worse in the last six
years or so. The executive and the legislative arms of government must
accept and share responsibility in this regard. And if there will be a
redress of the situation as early as possible, the two arms must also
bear the responsibility proportionally . The two arms ran the affairs of
the country unmindful of the rainy day. 
The
rainy day is now here. It would not work that the two arms should stand
side by side with one arm pulling and without the support of the other
one for good and efficient management of the economy. The purpose of
election into the Legislative Assembly particularly at the national
level is to give service to the nation and not for the personal service
and interest of members at the expense of the nation which seemed to
have been the mentality, psychology, mindset and practice within the
National Assembly since the beginning of this present democratic
dispensation. Where is patriotism? Where is commitment? Where is
service? The beginning of good governance which is the responsibility of
all arms and all the tiers of government is openness and transparency.
It does not matter what else we try to do as long as one arm of
government shrouds its financial administration and management in
opaqueness and practices rife with corruption, only very little, if
anything at all, can be achieved in pulling Nigeria on the path of
sustainable and enduring democratic system, development and progress.
Governance without transparency will be a mockery of democracy.
 Let
us be more direct and specific so that action can be taken where it is
urgently necessary. A situation where our national budget was predicated
on $38 per barrel of oil with estimated 2 million barrels per day and
before the budget was presented, the price of oil had gone down to $34
per barrel and now hovering around $30 and we have no assurance of
producing 2 million barrels and if we can, we have no assurance of
finding market for it, definitely calls for caution. If production and
price projected on the budget stand, we would have to borrow almost one
third of the 6 trillion naira budget. Now beginning with the reality of
the budget, there is need for sober reflection and sacrifice with
innovation at the level of executive and legislative arms of government.
The soberness, the sacrifice and seriousness must be patient and
apparent. It must not be seen and said that those who, as leaders, call
for sacrifice from the citizenry are living in obscene opulence. It will
not only be insensitive but callously so.
 It
would seem that it is becoming a culture that election into the
legislative arm of government at the national level in particular is a
licence for financial misconduct and that should not be. The National
Assembly now has a unique opportunity of presenting a new image of
itself. It will help to strengthen, deepen, widen and sustain our
democracy. 
By
our Constitution, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal
Commission is charged with the responsibility of fixing emoluments of
the three arms of government: executive, legislature and judiciary. The
Commission did its job but by different disingenuous ways and devices,
the legislature had overturned the recommendation of the Commission and
hiked up for themselves that which they are unwilling to spelt out in
detail, though they would want to defend it by force of arm if
necessary. What is that? Mr. President of the Senate and Hon. Speaker of
the House, you know that your emolument which the Commission had
recommended for you takes care of all your legitimate requirements:
basic salary, car, housing, staff, constituency allowance. Although the
constituency allowance is paid to all members of the National Assembly,
many of them have no constituency offices which the allowance is partly
meant to cater for. And yet other allowances and payments have been
added by the National Assembly for the National Assembly members’
emoluments. Surely, strictly speaking, it is unconstitutional. There is
no valid argument for this except to see it for what it is: law-breaking
and impunity by lawmakers. 
The
lawmakers can return to the  path  of honour, distinguishness,
sensitivity and responsibility. The National Assembly should have the
courage to publish its recurrent budgets for the years 2000, 2005, 20 10
and 2015. That is what transparency demands. With the number of
legislators not changing, comparison can be made. Comparisons in
emoluments can also be made with countries like Ghana, Kenya, Senegal
and even Malaysia and Indonesia who are richer and more developed than
we are. The budget is a proposal and only an estimate of income and
expenditure.  Where income is inadequate, expenditure will not be made.
While in government, I was threatened with impeachment by the members  
of  the National Assembly  for  not releasing  some money  they  had
appropriated for themselves which were odious and for which there were
no incomes to support . 
The
recent issue of cars for legislators would fall into the same category.
Whatever name it is disguised as, it is unnecessary and insensitive. A
pool of a few cars for each Chamber will suffice for any Committee
Chairman or members for any specific duty. The waste that has gone into
cars, furniture, housing renovation in the past was mind-boggling and
these were veritable sources of waste and corruption. That was why they
were abolished. Bringing them back is inimical to the interest of
Nigeria and Nigerians. The way of proposing budget should be for the
executive to discuss every detail of the budget, in preparation, with
different Committees and sub-Committees of the National Assembly and the
National Assembly to discuss its budget with the Ministry of Finance.
Then, the budget should be brought together as consolidated budget and
formally presented to the National Assembly, to be deliberated and
debated upon and passed into law. It would then be implemented as
revenues are available. 
Where
budget proposals are extremely ambitious like the current budget and
revenue sources are so uncertain, more borrowing may have to be embarked
upon, almost up to 50% of the budget or the budget may be grossly
unimplementable and unimplemented. Neither is a choice as both are bad.
Management of the economy is one of the key responsibilities of the
President as prescribed in the Constitution. He cannot do so if he does
not have his hands on the budget. Management of the economy is shared
responsibility where the Presidency has the lion share of the
responsibility. But if the National Assembly becomes a clog in the
wheel, the executive efforts will not yield much reward or progress. The
two have to work synchronisingly together to provide the impetus and
the conducive environment for the private sector to play its active
vanguard  role. 
Management
of the budget is the first step to manage the economy. It will be
interesting if the National Assembly will be honourable enough and begin
the process of transparency, responsibility and realism by publishing
its recurrent budgets for 2016 as it should normally be done. Hopefully,
the National Assembly will take a step back and do what is right not
only in making its own budget transparent but in all matters of
financial administration and management including audit of its accounts
by external outside auditor from 1999 to date.
 This,
if it is done, will bring a new dawn to democracy In Nigeria and a new
and better image for the National Assembly and it will surely avoid the
Presidency and the National Assembly going into face-off all the time on
budgets and financial matters.
 
While
I thank you for your patience and understanding, please accept, Dear
Senate President and Honourable Speaker of the House, the assurances of
my highest consideration. 

Yours sincerely, Olusegun Obasanjo
 
Source: TheCable

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