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Editorial

10th National Assembly and the case of N110bn for bulletproof vehicles, other luxuries

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There is great contention and eyebrows raised concerning the whopping sum of N110 billion carved out by Mr. President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to members of the 10th National Assembly to purchase bulletproof vehicles, palliatives among other logistics needs.

Few days ago, Human Rights Activist and Lawyer, Femi Falana in a statement branded the N110 billion palliative allocation to the National Assembly as unconstitutional and insulting. He demanded that the controversial measures be reversed immediately, citing a clear violation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

N70 billion was distributed to newly elected members of the National Assembly, in addition to N40 billion made aside for the purchase of SUVs and bulletproof cars for senior officials and lawmakers.

The activist lawyer condemned the allocation, accusing the National Assembly of being cruel and insensitive in the midst of Nigeria’s economic problems. Falana emphasised that the distribution violated Section 70 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution of 1999, which specifies the appropriate salaries and allowances for members of the National Assembly.

He argued that palliative of N110 billion for National Assembly members is illegal and contemptuous.

“Out of sheer insensitivity coupled with impunity, members of the National Assembly, regardless of political affiliation, conspired to breach the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by padding the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023 to provide the so-called palliative of N70 billion for 306 newly elected members,” according to the statement.

“While the masses of Nigeria groan under the excruciating economic pains inflicted by the ruling class, the National Assembly has awarded N228.7 million to each newly elected legislator. As if that wasn’t enough, National Assembly members have set aside N40 billion to purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members.”

However, legislators granted N500 billion in help for 12 million needy people in a country where the National Bureau of Statistics reports that “62.9 per cent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.”

The forefront lawyer described the funds as callous and insensitive acts of National Assembly members constitute a gross violation of Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, which states: “A Senate or House of Representatives member shall receive such salary and other allowances as the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.”

Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked the Senate President and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbass, respectively, to halt the planned spending of N110 billion on bulletproof cars and palliative for members.

The group stressed that N110 billion can be used to address the problem of out-of-school children. SERAP described the alleged act as a breach of public trust, repeal the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act to reduce the budget for the National Assembly by N110bn, reflect the current economic realities in the country and address the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on the over 137 million poor Nigerians.

Authoritatively, with the persistent hardship on Nigerians occasioned by government negligence, one can categorically thump down on the leadership of the 10th National Assembly because there is an urgent need to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

Both the Executive and Legislative should focused on bringing succour to the masses with increase of inflation to 22.79 per cent in June as disclosed by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and hike in the fuel pump price to N617.

Understandably, the lawmakers as it is traditionally done in the past need new vehicles but the situation doesn’t warrant these expensive bulletproof vehicles as such bogus amount can be injected into salary increment for workers and empowerment for market women.

Ultimately, the Tinubu-led government should prioritise the infrastructural needs of the public as the ongoing economic downturn can ignite crime rate in the society.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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