Friday 21st July, 2017
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The stinking chambers of the National Assembly

The stinking chambers of the National Assembly

In 2012, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the National Assembly chambers were filled with armed robbers, rogues and drug barons. The accusations didn’t go well with the lawmak­ers. They demanded an apol­ogy from Obasanjo who simply ignored them. Today, with the scandals oozing out of the Sen­ate and House of Representa­tives, the former president is being vindicated.
The false asset declaration case against Senate President is still on, so is the one on the falsification of Senate standing rules. The budget padding scan­dal just started in the House of Representatives when for­mer appropriation committee Chairman Abdulmumini Jibrin blew the lid on a padding plot in which the speaker Yakubu Dogara wanted to fleece the na­tion of a whopping 40bn. Jibrin, himself was part of the scheme, who started singing after he was booted out as the appropriation committee chairman . A litany of corruption scandals in the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999, rampant corruption cases had plagued the two chambers of the National assembly in a manner that made Nigerians view it as hallowed chambers of shame.
Of the three arms of govern­ment, the National Assembly is the most hated and vilified. In fact, majority of Nigerians would prefer to do without the national assembly if they can have their way. We had the case of Abdulrasheed Maina who stole N195 bn pensioners’ money. The House of Repre­sentatives set up a committee headed by Aloysius Etuk to in­vestigate the matter. Hon Etuk later allegedly collected a bribe of $100,000 for himself and ad­ditional three billion naira for other members of the house. The scandal blew open but was hurriedly buried by the leader­ship of the house. The public believed that the national as­sembly only waded in to collect it’s shares.
Maina was also alleged to have given elements in the Presidency and Judiciary their own shares. He was never suc­cessfully prosecuted. Most Ni­gerians have forgotten the case. In police pension fraud, the ac­cused Mr Esai Dangabar was al­leged to have shared the N32.8 bn he had allegedly stolen with the investigating senate com­mittee members. The matter was never pursued again.
There was also the case of Stella Odua when she accused the senators of collecting bribes from her when she came under investigation for her involve­ment in the purchase of N225m armoured BMW cars. The in­vestigation was abandoned. Stella was not prosecuted. There was also the scandal in­volving Hon. Faruk Lawan who was caught on tape collecting $620,000 from Femi Otedola. Despite the overwhelming evi­dence against him, Faruk La­wan was never prosecuted. The case was killed as the national assembly lost interest in the case.
In the Senate, Senators Ibra­him Mantu and Jonathan Zwin­gina reportedly demanded N54m bribes from Mallam Na­sir El-Rufai. The case was bur­ied. Iyabo Obasanjo was in 2008 arrested for collecting N10m bribe from ministry of health out of the N300m unspent budgetary allocation. Sena­tor Iyabo was not prosecuted in what was a case of interfer­ence from President Yar’adua. Ms Aruma Oteh accused Hon Herman Hembe of bribe col­lection from SEC. The House of Representatives dropped the investigation. Professor Fabian Osuji was sacked as Minister of Education for offering na­tional assembly N50m bribe. The matter was buried. Former speaker Etteh was embroiled in N628m house renovation scan­dal that sent her away. She was not prosecuted.
Evans Enwerem was re­moved for corruption as well former senate president Chuba okadigbo. Right now the lead­ership of the two chambers of National Assembly has never had peace because various scandals rocking them. There is forgery scandal, false asset dec­laration and budget padding. The list is endless. What man­ner of legislators are these that make laws for Nigeria, and how did Nigerians descend to the level of electing such people?
It is unfortunate that the re­quirements to become a legisla­tor do not pay attention to edu­cation, character and quality. Meanwhile 99% of legislators seek the office with the sole de­sire to make money. Law-mak­ing was never the motivational factor. No wonder once they got there the burning issues are official cars, juicy committee leadership, constituency pro­jects, with each legislator float­ing a construction company with the aim of misappropriat­ing the money . After all that, they are not done yet. The legis­lators are all over ministries ex­torting money. The stealing has continued because impunity pays in Nigeria. The nation is a haven for all manners of thieves and criminals. The legislators continue their stealing spree because they know the law has so many loopholes that would allow them to escape justice. The judiciary itself is as deep in corruption as the legislature. Almost everyone caught in the cookies jar escaped justice with his loot intact. The Nigerian state will lose interest in the case in a matter of months and life continues.
People escape justice be­cause of the failure of the judi­ciary to rise to the occasion to teach them some lessons. What is the problem with Nigerian judiciary? First, there is delay in adjudication of cases because of the refusal by courts to adopt electronic means of recording proceedings. Almost all Ni­gerian courts are manual. In Nigeria, judges still waste time recording proceedings in long hand. There is also the reluc­tance to reform the trial pro­cedure to allow for the timing of proceedings as is the case in election cases. Lawyers, despite in the introduction of the Ad­ministration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 still employ ridiculous tactics to delay pro­ceedings.
Then, the judicial corruption
Every Nigerian knows there is rampant and unchecked cor­ruption in the judiciary. Like the legislature, no judge was ever jailed to serve as a deter­rent. It is believed among Ni­gerians that money still dictates where the pendulum of justice swings. Although there have been identified cases of abuses, and for which culprits have been penalised, the argument is that it is not enough for ju­dicial officers found wanting to simply be compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Coun­cil (NJC). Judges fired should also face criminal prosecution. There also improper coordina­tion of prosecution by the anti-corruption agencies who are themselves poorly funded.
Today, most of the corrup­tion cases in court are handled by a few lawyers, which to an extent, contributes to the delay being experienced in the han­dling of most of this cases. Ju­dicial observers are of opinion that a situation where a sin­gle lawyer is saddled with the prosecution of over five cases in various courts at the same time does not portray the government as being ready to ensure swift and proper pros­ecution. The truth is, that to fight corruption Nigeria needs urgent judicial reform.
Aisha Buhari and the moral sheriffs
Some people on social me­dia, mostly from the North, claim that Mrs Aisha Buhari’s dress on arrival at US was in­decent and un-Islamic. To me, there is nothing indecent about her dressing. As a mat­ter of fact, the woman has dress sense and swag. As a beautician by profession, her style tells on her personality, fashion and taste. And l asked those religious fanatics, did Aisha travel as wife of Nigeria’s president or wife of Sultan of Nigeria? Anyone used to long haul trips will learn to dress simple.
Those people should look at themselves and address their inadequacies. The sad real­ity is they will never complain about the deplorable econom­ic situation in the country and whether the trip will add any value to Nigerians. Their main concern is for the wife of Ni­geria’s leader to look moral, Is­lamic and cultural. Meanwhile the same people are some of the worst transgressors in the land. There is nothing they don’t do, yet they want to im­pose their hypocrisy on others.

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