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Budget cut, Senate must not fail Nigerians

Akorede Shakir

As Nigeria navigates through the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led dispensation, a lot of dissatisfaction has been expressed by the masses towards the exorbitant budget and spending of the National Assembly. Many civil society groups, and citizens-at-large have begun making strides to ensure that the upper and lower legislative houses adopt considerate budgets by embarking on reducing their salary and allowances in order to allow such funding to permeate other crucial sectors of our economy.

It is important to point out that Nigeria is in a crossroad, as it now has the famed-anti-corruption crusader, Muhammadu Buhari, at the helm of its affairs. This is important because if the country, as exhibited in recent times, is serious about fixing its economy, by plugging many of the loopholes in its revenue streams, as well as making its budgetary system more transparent and accountable, it should also be serious about cutting down on the sort of unnecessary spending that has characterised its national legislature in the past.

Many Nigerians believe that the eighth Senate, under the leadership of Bukola Saraki, has demonstrated a public commitment to actualising the requests of Nigerians to cut down the cost of running the legislature. Dr. Saraki, who had previously served as a banker, and has over the years, demonstrated a sound understanding of economic policies, at his inauguration, promised that the Senate would work to effect positive change in vital areas. 

Saraki, who many believe to be a reform-minded politician, further acknowledged this need for a ‘narrower’ National Assembly budget by saying: “the eighth Senate under our watch recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running office, most especially with the economic challenges facing our nation. Based on this, a 10-man committee, led by veteran Senator, James Manager, was instituted to look at the best strategy to align with the current administration’s efforts to ensure reduction in the cost of governance.’’

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IDPs: Why FG needs to adopt AU’s Kampala policy

By Sumisola Ajala

The plight of internally displaced persons has became worrisome to the extent that the African Union (AU) in 2009 held a convention in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, where it adopted a policy framework  that will assist millions of displaced people in the continent. The policy agreed on where to consider the plight of IDPs in all member states and share a common vision, so as to provide lasting solutions and establish an appropriate legal framework to protect and assist them financially. The union took into cognizance, the gravity of the crisis which is generating instability and tension in Africa.

They agreed to adopt measures aimed at preventing and putting an end to the IDP phenomenon by eradicating the root causes, especially persistent and recurrent conflicts, as well as addressing displacement caused by natural disasters including climate change, which to an extent has a devastating impact on human lives, peace, stability, security.

Considering the historical commitment of the AU member states to the protection and assistance of refugees and displaced persons, there was need to have a separate legal instrument on the IDPs and the union was ready to collaborate with relevant partners and stakeholders to ensure that they were provided with an appropriate legal framework to ensure their protection and assistance. They said most of the IDPs were forced to flee their homes to avoid the effects of armed conflict, violence, violation of human rights or natural or human-made disasters.

Read more: IDPs: Why FG needs to adopt AU’s Kampala policy

Buhari and his August visitors

By Femi Odere

As we know, there are known ‘knowns’; there are things we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown ‘unknowns’—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” - Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defence during a news briefing on February 12, 2002, about the lack of evidence linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with the supply of WMD to terrorist groups.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, August 8, was promptly reported by the media and various social media platforms. But Nigerians did not know that the immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had also visited his successor on Thursday, a day before Obasanjo’s visit. Jonathan’s visit to Aso Rock, reportedly made at night, was alleged to have been facilitated by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who is the chairman of the 2015 Elections Peace Committee.

Reports also had it that Jonathan’s attempt to see his successor was not particularly smooth-sailing, as Abubakar had to rally other arrowheads to intervene before the Aso Rock gate was opened. If true, it shows the ultimate futility of power. As if the visits of the godfather and his godson (now estranged) may not have yielded the results they expected, the following Tuesday, members of the 2015 Elections Peace Committee ‘invaded’ the villa to meet with President Buhari.

In what can now be referred to as a stampede, in less than five working days, Buhari had received three former heads of state either individually or within a group, in addition to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who is also the spiritual leader of the nation’s Islamic faith and other high profile individuals in the committee. Although it may not have been expressly and officially stated, Nigerians do not need to be told that the rush to the villa was on account of Buhari’s vow to kill corruption before it ‘kills’ Nigeria.

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IDPs and 2015 World Humanitarian Day

By Jide Ojo

Last Wednesday, August 19, was the United Nations’ World Humanitarian Day. This year’s theme was, “Inspiring the World’s Humanity.” According to the UN, the World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognise those who face danger and adversity. The day was designated by the UN General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.

In Nigeria, the day was observed with seminars, conferences and roundtables. At one of such events organised by the National Emergency Management Agency in Abuja, the UN Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Daouda Toure, raised a red flag about the worrying situation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) the country currently harbours. He was quoted as saying that Nigeria at present has the highest number of IDPs in the world. 

“We need to remind everyone that 1.5 million displaced people are part of the biggest figures as we speak today in the world. So the highest number of displaced people today in the world is in Nigeria. It is not in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or in any other part of the world. It is here in Nigeria and we need to do something about it.”

Our dear country has the gold medal in refugee status in the world. What an unenviable position. Toure did not just tell us the magnitude of the IDP challenge this country faces, he charged us to do something about it. The UN resident representative enjoined all and sundry to help out IDPs in any way possible. He noted that “Many of them have lost their sources of livelihood and it will be difficult for them to find their feet. This is one reason why we should mobilise ourselves and resources to assist those directly affected by the activities of insurgents and is one of the key reasons for the World Humanitarian Day.”

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NASS: Giving the master-servant relationship its true meaning

By Umar Hassan

After the Senator James Manager-led ad-hoc committee on finance setup to reduce the salaries and allowances of senators submitted its report, a lot of people started counting down to the day its recommendations would be debated on the floor of the Senate. No matter how rancorous it gets, we just hoped we would be able to hear what was being suggested as their new pay and to also identify the chief ‘enemy of progress’ who would kick-start any opposition to the recommendation that they make their financial books open.

It is sad what nature has thrust on us. Everyone is annoyingly helpless when it comes to the large sums our lawmakers command as remuneration. They cannot be compelled to do what is right by anyone including the president. As a matter of fact, many think that the helplessness birthed the calls by some to scrap the Senate in the heat of the #OccupyNASS campaign.

So it was a most welcome development that they seemed serious about conforming to the ‘Mood of the Nation’, to borrow the words of the Senate president. A reduction in the budget of the National Assembly from N150 to N120 billion isn’t enough to make us bring out the drums, only a clear drastic pay cut would. For all we care, it maybe ‘mathematical gymnastics’; which will though save us some money, but ultimately end up having a minimal effect on extravagance and that would amount to a ‘beautiful nonsense’. It could end up meaning just a N2 million deduction from their salaries and less trips. The term ‘budget’ encompasses a lot.

It was most disappointing that the Senate opted for a closed door session on Wednesday, August 12; the day slated for the debate and emerged with a decision to stand it down for further legislative input, effectively making a lot of people lose hope in the process. 

Read more: NASS: Giving the master-servant relationship its true meaning