As if the insane compensation package of the Nigerian legislators was not enough, news broke recently that the Nigeria Senate Assembly is operating with 65 standing committees. The list of the committees as announced by the Senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, is beyond ridiculous.
The committees not only shadow the 26 federal ministries in the Executive structure, they include 39 other absurd oversight functions some of which crudely overlap. There are among others, committees on: Aviation, Land Transport, Marine Transport, Public Procurement, Privatization, Appropriation, National Identity and Poverty Alleviation.
Mr Buhari’s initial plan to constitute 37 special courts across the 36 component states and the Abuja capital territory to help facilitate his much needed war on corruption pretty much looks abandoned for now. It appeared only one judge, Danladi Umar, could pass the integrity test. Umar is now the sitting judge in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the only special court yet hearing corruption cases.
At roughly twice the size of California, Nigeria is 10 percent of the United States (US) by area and about 50 percent by population. The US runs on 100 senators and 435 members of representatives, while Nigeria runs on 109 senators and 360 members of representatives.
The US Senate divides its tasks among 20 standing committees, 68 subcommittees and 4 Joint committees. What the heck is puny Nigeria doing with 65 standing committees with 65 of 109 senators as chairpersons? The number of subcommittees that will be formed would probably allow every senator to become a chairperson, twice over.
This is exactly how each of the mostly unviable 36 states copies the Executive ministry structure and Nigeria ends up replicating the same ministries 36 stupid times. So there are 36 Tourism, Mining, Women Affairs, Health, Education, Transport, etc, ministries including the following ludicrous ministries in Ekiti State: Budget, Economic Planning & Service Delivery; Rural Development & Community Empowerment; Finance & Economic Development; and Housing, Physical Planning & Urban Development.
You wonder what tourism services Adamawa or Bornu State can offer any death-wish tourist to the Boko Haram enclave at this time.
Government becomes the number one job industry without goals, save to simply issue driver’s license, building plan permits, certificates of occupancy and collect taxes. So Nigeria ends up owing back salaries to its teachers and civil servants in over 75 percent of its territory, up to 12 months in some areas! One governor boasted recently that his not owing more than 4 month salaries was an evidence of good governance in his state.
We are getting it all wrong thinking that bringing government closer to the people implies creating more political power structures on top of having 36 primitive states and their governors, 774 local government areas, their chairmen and houses of councilors, 109 senators and their staff, 360 representatives and their staff, 500 legislative committees, the president and his 37 federal cabinet ministers, a thousand state commissioners and thousands of assistants and special assistants to the president and governors, ad infinitum.
This is too much government for a small country. It is a kalo-kalo (slot machine) structure that annually gulps over 70 percent of Nigeria’s GDP as recurrent capital expenditure to feed its insatiable thoughtless democracy construct. Year on year, funds remaining are never sufficient for people development programs that can educate the citizens and create jobs.
This primitive concept of government and governance is one reason most African nations appear overwhelmed with the job of self-determination. After 55 years of Nigeria’s flag independence, there is no justification for not finding 37 upright, experienced and fearless judges out of a population of 170 million citizens.
Even some of the 36 candidates for federal ministerial positions that took Buhari six months to assemble have well known carbon prints in corrupt practices. Shows there are too many crooks in the system and not enough Nigerians to do actual useful work.
The unimaginative 1999 Nigerian Constitution, cobbled together in the archaic era of half-literate military dictators, is the platform on which the current system of waste and foolishness was founded. Right now under the Constitution, Nigerian governors can loot all funds allocated to their states without being guilty of any crime.
No society can make it to modernity under this kind of social contract. There is got to be a shift in how Nigeria understands the principle of self-governance. We have got to cut back on the number of ravaging chefs in our kitchen. This is the time to wind back the number of states, local governments, districts and wards, not to be adding more.
Fighting the Nigerian brand of corruption without establishing safe harbors in the permissive Federal Constitution will likely yield limited results. As I have stated before, Mr. Buhari needs to tackle Nigeria’s culture of corruption like he has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, Buhari’s preparedness for the job could have been more rigorous.
For someone who had contested in four presidential elections, Buhari should have had his proposed amendments to the constitution ready and submitted his bills to the do-nothing Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS) within his first three months when he was riding the highest crest of his political career with the Nigerian electorates.
With his party wielding the majority power in NASS, Buhari would have most probably forced the legislators’ hands in favor of part of his demands, if not all. Momentum is a most terrible asset to squander, especially in politics.
Now feeling besieged by Buhari’s war against them, the notorious criminal political class have started monkeying with the rule of law, fighting their corruption charges with innumerable injunctions in the appellate and supreme courts.
They have always used parallel injunctions and other antics to force so many adjournments that ultimately stretch a clear open-shut case of corrupt enrichment while in office so interminably it is rare to reach a guilty verdict on the original corruption charge, if at all.
Saraki, the Senate president, who is currently arraigned in the CCT for false declaration of assets when he was a state governor 13 years before is not only playing the injunction card, he gets to shut down the entire Senate, sometimes for days, each time he attends a CCT court date. It is not clear whether the 50 or more colleague senators who accompany Saraki to the courtroom each time do so for solidarity or fear for thyself.
Buhari’s war on corruption will not tear the country apart, if he conducts it intelligently. That patriot CCT judge shouldn’t have to be applying for additional security around his person, family and office, two long months after his first sitting. All of this should have been engineered into Buhari’s corruption war carriage before deployment.
Buhari needs not only prayers of Nigerians but also capable and thinking people around him. A single corruption court operating within confines of an antiquated Constitution cannot possibly handle the size of a bloody street war that Nigeria is about to witness. A hill of high profile cases of corruption that is said to be forming at the CCT could crash the entire war machine.
This war will require many critical moving parts to it such as serious prison reforms, a solid witness protection, efficient anti-corruption agencies, etc. Have they thought about that? The number of convicted politicians will probably be staggering and where to lock them and the national security around such facilities could make or mar the success of the war on corruption.
Mr. Buhari must not allow incompetence, ethnic bastardization and judiciary adulteration to cripple his resolve to recover Nigeria.
This war must not fail.
Dr. Salako writes from Boston, MA. USA. He is a frontline social critic and commentator on Nigeria and Africa. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.
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