Saturday, 12 April 2014
Of David Mark, His Legislature And The Challenge Of Arithmetics By Chinedu Ekeke
Nnukwu Ife emee Naijiria!
When the history of Nigeria will be written, the Jonathan presidency will take more space than, say, Ibrahim Babangida’s – the first billionaire ex-Head of State whose only multi-billion naira personal business was the vault of Nigeria’s Central Bank. Historians will find it difficult not to thoroughly highlight the peculiarity of the Jonathan government in so many fronts, chief of which are the flawed logic that led to his ascension, and the tendency of his regime to steadily surpass itself in corruption and profligacy.
But that’s not all. History will also beam its light on the characters of individuals that presided over key institutions of state under President Jonathan, and the roles they played in either strengthening the health of the state or undermining its potentials. Here, the complicity of David Mark and the National Assembly he heads in the collective rape of Nigeria will become the focus.
Having successfully ensured they pay themselves the highest remunerations in the world – against the dictates of common sense and reality – one would have thought that the avaricious legislators would pity this same nation they daily bleed by protecting the little that is left of its funds for, even if infinitesimal, efforts at infrastructural development.
But that expectation was just out of place. The assembly of conspirators in Abuja are way too irresponsible to protect the nation which continuous existence they, ordinarily, should owe their access to power, privileges and sudden wealth to. This explains why, two weeks ago, this National Assembly hurriedly passed a curious supplementary budget of N161b for the payment of fuel subsidy for just three weeks remaining in 2012.
As usual, Mr David Mark claimed they passed the budget “to save Nigerians from suffering the effect of fuel scarcity during this festive season”. That was a blackmail expected. The president inserted that line of blackmail in the letter he wrote to the mischievous Senate and the bark-and-no-bite House of Representatives requesting the extra money.
I took on Senator Bukola Saraki on Twitter, shortly after they passed the budget, on why they toed that path. He could not defend it. I wasn’t expecting him to. That action by the Senate was indefensible. It was a clear demonstration of mischief by those elected to represent Nigerians.
Now, we must be clear on this. First, before Mr Jonathan happened, no government in this country had spent as much as N300b in the payment of fuel subsidy. Secondly, before Jonathan happened, no government in Nigeria approved up to 30 fuel importation licenses. President Goodluck Jonathan converted fuel importation licenses to ‘thank you’ recharge cards dished out to his friends and cronies. Even in the opacity that characterizes his administration of the oil sector, some accounts say Mr Jonathan jerked up the import licenses to 66. It could be more. It wasn’t because Nigerian population suddenly took a leap, neither was it because Nigerians started bathing with fuel instead of water, it was because our president believes access to public office is a means of enriching, or ‘creating wealth’ for, his friends.
The foregoing therefore was the genesis of the bazaar we call subsidy regime under Jonathan which saw us over-spend our budget for subsidy payment in 2011 by well over 300% even before we got to September, the nineth month of a twelve-month calendar year for which the budget was prepared. The original budget for subsidy payments for that year, based on what obtained the years before, was N240 billion only.
To accommodate for Jonathan’s bazaar to those he wants to ‘create wealth’ for, this same legislature passed for 2012 a budget of N888.1b – a bit below four times that for last year – for subsidy payments.
Then, while defending his budget for 2013 before this same legislature, Mr Reginald Stanley, the Executive Secretary of Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) testified that the government had already spent N679b in subsidy payments from January to October this year. Being a ten month period, it means that the government spent an average of N67.9b every month, leaving us with excess of N209.1b for the month of November and December. And at N67.9b per month, we needed just N135.8b to cover for the two months. If we subtract N135.8b from N209.1b, we will be having excess of N73.3b which the President and his subsidy team should refund to Nigerians.
But instead of performing these minor computations, and asking for our refund from the president, the Senate (which is known for being the first of the two legislative chambers to always protect the ignoble) quickly approved the request for an extra N161b which was not needed in the first place. Which raises the question: are the senators suggesting that they lack a basic knowledge of arithmetics or did they simply choose to be mischievous as they are wont to?
It is unbelievable that 109 people will lack the ability for critical thinking at the same time. Worse still, even those from opposition parties didn’t put up any fight.
While responding to my questions on Twitter, Bukola Saraki claimed they didn’t know how many litres Nigerians consume in a day, a sad tale to the centre of laziness that the Nigerian Senate, nay the entire legislature, is. It is exactly one year since Nigerians almost brought down this government – an effort that David Mark’s senate effectively thwarted – because of the monumental corruption in the oil sector, yet their clear lack of respect for Nigerians has ensured they’ve never made any efforts to verify the exact quantity of fuel we consume.
And then in his regular moment of sermonizing, David Mark charged “the nation” (whoever he is referring to) to take a decision on fuel subsidy. He said, “If they cannot eliminate or stop the corruption in the industry, then, the other alternative will be to stop the whole exercise of subsidy and we will take the one that is easier…”
In the league of falsehood where David Mark plays, it is always convenient to say “they”. By deceitfully refusing to name those who should be named for promoting criminality in the land, David Mark is smartly etching a space for himself in Jonathan’s good books to be considered for a higher political office, which is, by our culture, a near proximity to the CBN vault. The ‘they’ David Mark wants to stop corruption in the oil sector must be my father in the grave, the struggling mother preparing her garri in Ijebu Ode or the Fulani herdsman grazing the plateau for his cattle. Mr Mark doesn’t know who should stop the corruption, that’s why he wants ‘they’ to do so.
But if ‘they cannot’ eliminate the corruption in the industry, Mr Mark will want to opt for the one that is easier. That has been the Nigerian case: we tend to do the one that is easier.
For instance, it is easier for one man in government to go home with N600m in one year as salary, and then hand over our development to God who will pour money from heaven for the building of roads.
It is easier to jet out to Germany for medical treatment than to build good hospitals in Nigeria. It is easier to fly in Naval choppers than to bother ourselves with fixing of roads. It is easier to have 40 SAs, SSAs, PAs and other whatever A-s who’ll hail you, ‘His Excellency’ three times a day, than to make conscious efforts to create jobs for millions of Nigerians.
In a similar manner, it is much easier to yank off subsidy than to sack Diezani Madueke, prosecute her, get her accomplices arrested and prosecuted. It is also easier for David Mark to croon “they” when he should call the corruption-breeding president Jonathan to order, and possibly deploy the powers of the legislature to cause him to seat up. A responsible Senate president would have used the opportunity the supplementary bill presented to cause the president to sack and prosecute the key culprits in the subsidy fraud who still work with the president. David Mark can’t do that, he can only rally his senate to give express approval for money the president never needed.
Meanwhile, those David Mark referred to “they” are the same people he clicks glasses with every now and then and toast to Nigeria’s doom. He knows their names. He knows their positions.
And while they claim they didn’t “want Nigerians to suffer fuel shortages”, maybe I should remind them that the queues are still here, and that nobody buys fuel for N97, the official price. “They” should wait on “they” to monitor the filling stations and force them to comply.
Nnukwu Ife emee Naijiria! In Igbo land, nnukwu ife emee, means that a great calamity has struck. Nigeria, as a nation, has been struck by a great calamity. And nothing demonstrates that more than the combination of Goodluck Jonathan, David Mark and his legislature as leaders, men and women who define life only in terms of naira, pounds and dollar.
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