Lemu Report- National Assembly is bleeding the country

2013-10-08
THISDAY Newspaper

The federal government’s Investigation Panel on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances, headed by Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, has called for the restructuring of the National Assembly by making members of the two legislative houses to sit only on a part-time basis.

This and many more recommendations on how to stop the National Assembly from milking the country dry are contained in the full report submitted to the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, since October 2011 by the panel, a copy of which THISDAY obtained exclusively.

The panel, which was inaugurated by the president on May 11, 2011, was set up to investigate the violence that followed the declaration of Jonathan as the winner of the 2011 presidential election.

It had 22 members and was given the following terms of reference:
• To investigate the immediate and remote causes of the tide of unrest in some states of the federation following the presidential election, as well as the pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State and made appropriate recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence;
• To ascertain the number of persons who lost their lives or sustained injuries during the violence;
• To identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood and assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations;
• To investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of illegal flow of such weapons into the country; and
• To examine any other matter incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government as appropriate.
In all, the panel visited 15 states during its investigation.

It pointed out that the cost of running government was too high and noted the flamboyant lifestyle of politicians, particularly the senate president and deputy, chief whip, majority and minority leaders.
“So it is with the executive,” it added.

The panel criticised the National Assembly for taking a large chunk of the nation's earning and said the amount being spent on the lawmakers would send Nigeria into bankruptcy.

It said: “What these legislators take from the public coffers under the guise of allowances, whether in terms of their oversight function or travelling or any other allowance, cannot be justified by the relevant provisions of the constitution in this regard.”

It stated that the lawmakers were in breach of Section 70 of the constitution, which provides that their salaries and allowances will be determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

It stated: “The lawmakers cannot in breach of the constitution they swore to protect, be allowed to continue to use devious devices to give themselves allowances either for their oversight duties, or as travelling expenses or for the so-called constituency projects.

“They have continued to behave to Nigerians as if they are unwilling to exercise the needed discipline to stop bleeding the country of its scarce resources.”

In this regard, the panel recommended a drastic review of the committees of the National Assembly by half.
It also proposed that membership of the legislative houses should not be on a full time basis.

It noted that there were 54 committees of the 109-member Senate and 84 committees of the 360-member House of Representatives.
“By way of comparison, in the United States of America, the 100 member Senate and 435 Member House of Representatives operate 21 committees each plus 4 joint committees,” it added.

It said there was an urgent need to regulate the salaries, emoluments and allowances which members of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly pay themselves. It suggested that this should be done by RMAFC.

It described the monies being paid to the lawmakers as official pilfering, which should not be allowed to continue.
The report stated: “Obviously the legislators are serving themselves and not the country. It is an affront to our collective civility, which has now been tried and stretched to breaking point.

“Government must address the situation frontally now and not be silent as if in complicity with what is going on.”
The panel noted that due to constant threat of impeachment, the president was unable to call the National Assembly to order and stop the lawmakers from grounding the country through their reckless spending.

It said: “The hands of the president and of state governors must be strengthened so that the impeachment process must be seen to be deservedly undertaken in any appropriate case and upon an impeachable imperative.

“Sections 143 and 188 of the constitution should be amended so as to make the allegation of gross misconduct contemplated index sub-sections (2)(b) and (11) of section 143, subject to judicial interpretation to determine whether it amounts to an impeachable offence upon the facts disclosed and relied on to support the allegation.”

The panel noted that the law on impeachment at present could be exploited by the legislators to threaten a president or governor who wants to fight corruption or who refuses to do the bidding of the lawmakers.

In its report, the panel said there was too much hardship and poverty among the vast majority of Nigerians.
The panel observed that although it did not think a revolution was necessarily the right solution but warned: “We must take necessary steps to avoid a revolution.”

It said: "There is too much hardship and poverty among the vast majority of Nigerians.
“The country is not on the right track in many aspects of our lives. Our leaders should not take Nigerians for granted perpetually.

“The angst of the people is rising and we have reached a point at which we must do the right things.
“We do not think a revolution is necessarily the right solution or at all because a revolution is like a hurricane which causes destruction indiscriminately along its path.

“But we think we should take every necessary step to avoid a revolution. The mood of the country is very tense against the establishment.
“With a well charted transformation on stream, we should be able to reinvent Nigeria, free of violence and instilled with peace, prosperity and stability.”

The panel further noted that Nigeria has a sad history of politicians who had taken the country for a ride with their excesses.
It stated: “The public perception is that wives of presidents and governors allegedly create pet programmes which are used to amass stupendous illegal wealth.”

According to the panel, offices not recognised under the constitution or supported by law were set up by successive administrations.
It listed such activities to include the misuse of government officials, facilities and funds, which constitute a drainpipe that should not be accommodated in a politically nascent Nigeria.

The panel called on politicians, legislators and the executives to moderate their ambition and activities.

“We must recognise that in the face of a rising population of restive and unemployed youths, some of whom graduated many years ago, and the threatening menace of pervasive poverty in the land, legislators and other public officers cannot be tolerated to amass wealth improprietly,” the panel said.

rom collapse, the panel said government must find ways to save the nation's resources by adopting a low profile office, among other things.
“We must turn a new leaf, adopt the need to be prudent and honest through re-armament. Otherwise our democracy shall be put in grave jeopardy; or at best, it will be in a perpetually bizarre state in which election violence is continuously reborn, and peace and progress permanently retarded,” it added.

 

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