Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
A democratic government is regulated by the principles of rule of law and constitutionalism which constitutes the substratum of governmental powers. These twin concepts exist to ensure there is a distinct system of accountability for every governmental power or action which must be exercised within the confines of the law. Accountability on its own presupposes transparent system of inclusive governance that extends to the rights of citizens to place demands on the government for every decision and action taken. This summarizes the essence of our democracy; a governance system that promotes trust and confidence within the citizenry in the government of the day, a governance system that appreciates the sanctity of leadership and promotes accountability in all spheres through the respect of the rule of law and the principles of constitutionalism. As simple as it sounds it has proven to be an insurmountable task for the government of the day to rise up to the occasion of ensuring the tenets of our supposed democracy is upheld with the constant attempt to gag the truth and voice of wisdom.
The Constitution in its wisdom vests sovereignty on the people through whom governmental powers are exercises. It breaks it down to the conduct of periodic election through which leaders are democratically elected to represent the interest of the people. In actuality, governmental powers or actions that go against the will of the people are sheer illegality against the constitutional sovereignty of the people. Recent cases of corruption that propelled the outcry of Nigerians have sadly gone with the wind as Nigerians are mocked by the disregard of the appropriate authority to take reasonable action that starts up the wheels of justice and ends with a justifiable sentence or acquittal.
Impunity in Government: Stella Oduah Saga
The recent corruption allegation against the Minister of Aviation for the illegal purchase of 2 armored BMW cars at the outrageous price of N255 million generated citizens’ uproar and received popular condemnation from different stakeholders in the polity. These condemnations are deemed to have occasioned the constitution of an investigative committee by President Good-luck Jonathan. Similarly, the House of Representatives responded by constituting its own committee to investigate the issue. The House Representative Committee has subsequently released a report indicting the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah. The report amongst others recognized that the transactions relating to the purchase was not captured and approved in the 2013 Appropriation Act. It also opined that the due process was not observed, complied with and respected in the purchase. The house also faulted the diversion of waivers meant for other purposes to import the bulletproof cars. The House in its report requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to properly investigate the matter.
Section 7 (1) of the EFCC Act empowers the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any offence under this act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes. Some of the Commissions functions in section 6 of the Act include but not limited to:
• The investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments etc.
• Taking charge of, supervising, controlling, coordinating all the responsibilities, functions and activities relating to the current investigation and prosecution of all offences connected with or relating to economic and financial crimes;
• The adoption of measures which includes coordinated preventive and regulatory actions, introduction and maintenance of investigation and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes;
While this report clearly indicts the Minister of Aviation it is rather worrisome to observe the absence of the political will to prosecute the culprit.
We therefore make the following demands;
1) That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) exercises its powers by conducting an investigation into the aforementioned issue;
2) That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) further arrest the indicted Minister for Aviation Mrs. Stella Oduah for prosecution in a court of competent jurisdiction.
3) Should the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission refrain from taking the appropriate and required action; the Say No Campaign will not hesitate to institute a legal action against the Commission within 14 days.
An Inherently Fraudulent Budget
The 2014 Budget which is paradoxically themed “Budget for Job Creation and Inclusive Growth” by its contents goes to show that we have a government that is yet to acknowledge its primary duty of providing for the welfare and security of the people of Nigeria. The budget simply confirms the fact that we have a government that is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. Say No Campaign is concerned with the growing cost of governance and government’s reluctance to cut down the cost of running government. This is evident in the 2014 Appropriation Bill where recurrent expenditure gulps 70% of the total budget while capital expenditure is miserly struggling with 30% of the budget. Say No Campaign is of the strong view that no nation develops economically with such style of budgeting.
From its theme, Inclusive growth implies that every sector of the economy and country is not left behind in the course of development. The issue of security cannot be disintegrated from development because where there is insecurity development is comatose. It is thus surprising that the 2014 budget caters more for the servicing of militants than for our security outfits. The major abuse of power and lack of motivation by military and paramilitary personnel is mostly fueled by the poor welfare and social security provided. It is therefore an injustice that a total sum of 59billion is allocated to cover the stipends and allowances to 30,000 Niger Delta Militants and reintegration of transformed ex-militants under the Amnesty Programme while the total capital budget allocated to the Nigerian Army, Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Amy, Navy, Air force and the total budget for all police formations and commands is at N45 billion. This injustice carries a message that encourages militancy rather than promotes selfless service to the Nation.
Job creation presupposes a viable measureable human capital which has over time depreciated with the constant irregularities in the education sector. While illiteracy remains prevalent, the trend of institutions of learning producing under qualified graduates is becoming alarming. Despite the N439 billion allocated to the education ministry in the budget, Say No Campaign posits that it doesn’t conform with the UNESCO 26% education budget benchmark.
We call on the National Assembly to ensure proper scrutiny of the budget before passage into law. Certain budget heads or proposed expenditures that are not targeted at improving the lives of average Nigerians should not be approved. We reject in totality, the proposed plan to secure another presidential jet under the 2014 budget.
We reiterate that corruption and accountability are antonyms with no relationship whatsoever in character and content. Our government must decide to either tow the path of accountability or the path of corruption with the knowledge that Nigerians are now alert and we boldly SAY NO to Corruption and Impunity. May the labors of our heroes past never be in vain.
Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani)