Sundays are usually considered holy by people of the Christian faith the world over. Where this particular day of the week may not necessarily be ascribed holiness by other religious adherents around the world, it is generally seen, among other things as having the attribute of peace and serenity to the extent that two warring nations usually declare a temporary cessation of hostility and ceasefire on this day.
Perhaps Hon. Akin Rotimi, a Christian, and member of the House of Representatives and the spokesman of the Green Chamber is of this school of thought when it comes to Sunday that he chose this day to release a press statement on Sunday, October 15, 2023 to the Nigerian people in which he made a compelling argument of the intention of the House to purchase Utility Vehicles for its members as one of their operational tools. Considering the alacrity with which the ‘shooting’ started, one could not but wonder if the people who took up arms against the spokesman and his House had taken enough time to read, let alone digest the content of the press release.
While the hullabaloo that the intended purchase of vehicles for House members for their oversight functions, which is backed by the constitution of our land is understandable, although misplaced, because of the hard times that Nigerians, regardless of their stations in life are going through, the underbelly of this angst, it seems, reeks of nothing but emotionalism as opposed to rational thinking.
Yes, we are, as a country going through unprecedented economic challenges, no thanks to Godwin Emefiele, the immediate past governor of our Apex Bank, and the gross incompetence of former President Muhammadu Buhari. But one of the fundamental questions we must ask ourselves is if; because of our present economic woes we must ground members of our legislative institution whose responsibility it is to put the necessary legislative mechanisms in place to quickly reflate our economy.
If we must see the press statement of the House spokesman Hon. Akin Rotimi dispassionately, it should not be difficult to see that the argument against the purchase is akin to putting the cart before the horse.
Hon. Rotimi said that “the vehicles to be allocated to the offices of honorable members are utility operational vehicles [that are] tied to their oversight functions in the discharge of their duties in the standing committees” and that “they are not personal vehicles gifted to honorable members.”
He went further to say that during the “duration of the 10th assembly (2023 – 2027), the vehicles shall remain the property of the National Assembly” and that “at the expiration of the tenure of the 10th Assembly in 2027, should the extant assets deboarding policy of government still be in place, honorable members
may have the option of making payment for the outstanding value of the vehicles to government coffers before they can become theirs, otherwise it remains the property of the National Assembly.”
If the above statements are not enough compelling reasons for a rational man to take a “wait and see” attitude to see if Hon. Akin Rotimi and his House would redeem this strong arrangement to the Nigerian people at the expiration of their tenure, which in actuality is around the corner, one wonders what other explanations and arrangement would be considered tenable. Democracy is deepened when our leaders are held to account down the line for what they said they would do but failed to do on the day of judgment (re-election) rather than beating up the baby every time he asks for a big candy, so to speak.
It also should be emphasized that most of our lawmakers are people of relative means before they decide to represent the people from their constituencies. It therefore goes without saying that if they do not have similar vehicles to what’s being proposed to do their jobs more effectively, they have comparable ones.
A good and favorable working condition and general atmosphere of conviviality are sine qua non for greater performance and efficiency which will also enhance accountability because to whom much is given, much is expected as the saying goes. With our lawmakers having the best, it would be inexcusable should they be found wanting in performance.
It is necessary to re-emphasize the fact that oversight committee functions are a core mandate of our legislators, without which their duties and responsibilities to the Nigerian people and the constitution would be severely small, if not chronically inadequate. Oversight is an integral part of their day-to-day activities.
If corruption is that 900-pound gorilla we seem intimidated to slay in one fell swoop, we can at least start needling on its underbelly. One sure way to this needling is to stop exposing our public officials to corruption. Members of the civil service would be all too glad to provide official vehicles, which they have aplenty, to our lawmakers for their oversight functions thereby compromising the integrity of their works and their persons. They must maintain a respectable distance from the executive and the judiciary.
In conclusion, the country must move forward from the shackles of hatred and petty politics which are probably fueling this important but needless controversy at this time. Yes, we must deepen our democracy by engaging our lawmakers and constantly advocating a reduction in the cost of governance. One of the ways of doing this is by reducing the cost of contracts through variations and a strong maintenance culture of our public infrastructures and supervision of all agencies of government. The reasons advanced for the purchase of these vehicles by the House spokesman are convincing enough and therefore in order. Only through stakeholders’ collaboration can we have a greater Nigeria of our dreams.
Ogaba is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chef of Ultimate Times Newspaper