FEATURE ARTICLE

Sam AwedaTuesday, February 21, 2017
Liberationwords1@gmail.com
Lagos, Nigeria

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EMBARRASSMENT TO A GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO FIGHTING CORRUPTION:
2017 ASO ROCK BUDGET

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he discussion here is actually an extract from a larger part of my write up due in about a week or two titled "The Hope of Nigeria in the midst of Bad Confusion"

The hope of many Nigerians are yet to be met in the presidency of Mohammadu Buhari and some people are already making ridicules of us who believe he is the anointed for the job at the 2015 Federal election.

I asked myself in the said forth coming article if I still hold the belief that President Mohammadu Buhari is the anointed, in spite things have gone worse. I answered in the affirmative and I listed my reasons and went on to list our hopes, which largely depend on us as citizens of Nigeria.

I also commented on his quietness over the murders of Christians taking place in some places in certain Kaduna Local Governments and I challenged him to speak up in order to instill the confidence, which we, Christians in particular have in him. I also asked him to comment on what people are observing that he might have taken us to the membership of the Organization of Islamic Countries, knowing that Nigeria's constitution does not allow adaption of any particular religion for the state.

I then commented on the 2017 budget as it affects his care and the State House "Aso Rock" in general.

I copy below what I wrote:

What is our hope? What again is our way out of this mess?

Certain things about our democracy must give way.

Certain things are wrong with our democracy. They are pauperizing us. They must be abandoned.

For example, the cost of maintaining our government officials is too high. The salary and allowances of one law maker can put smile on the face of thousands of citizens.

The World Bank says that our officials constitute 1% of the population, yet they alone consume 80% of our wealth. This is not democratic at all but a government of the Politicians for the Politicians and those in government.

I have in the past asked that our woe in this regard should be placed squarely on those who decided those remunerations. They are evil people.

Something must be worked out to change this one. Democracy is said to be a government of the people for the people. Our own democracy in Nigeria has turned to be a government of the officials for the officials.

What is our hope as a nation?

The President must be taking careful look at what the Civil servants in Aso Rock budget for his personal care and the State House (Aso Rock) in general.

It stains his integrity for which many of us stand behind him.

How can they be budgeting in billions of Naira for his food and entertainment?

Let me quote from the Sun Newspaper of December 29 2016 "----the State House budget for the fiscal year would be N42billion with expenditure on food, cooking gas and kitchen utensils expected to quip well over N850million. Specifically, N100,800, 300 would be spent for the purchase of kitchen utensils such as forks and knives for use in Aso Rock

What much food and entertainment does he want to eat and do? Is he hosting every citizen of the world in Aso Rock?

How can they be budgeting for cooking utensils in millions every year?

The budget is ridiculous. It is one theft that is not covered; a theft without pretence or deceit. It is dubious, scandalous and shameful.

The budget also included a large sum of money for the repairs of the Vice President's quarters and gate; something that had already been budgeted for in the previous years.

Glad however that the Vice president has spoken that he needs no repair in his house and he is satisfied with where he currently lives. The question however is "Did he not see it before it was sent to the National Assembly?" Did he not know what the Civil Servants who prepare the budget are up to? Now they have stained him, an upright man!

It confuses me how those budget writers can be so bold to do such a thing in a government, which its primary duty is fighting corruption. It is frightening and worrisome.

And when in one of my previous sermons, I said "We are praying that the government of President Buhari should be different but up to now, one can vouch for Buhari as the only one who is upright in the midst of corruption" one particular Radio Station refused to air the entire sermon but called for my head.

I have always said it that we are the enemies of ourselves.

The same scenario has been repeating itself at every year budget.

In the days of President Musa Yar'adua, I wrote an article on February 27 2008 titled "A Nehemiah, May God Raise for Us in Nigeria"

(http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2008/feb/271.html)

I concluded the article this way:

In the midst of prevailing hunger, poverty, hopelessness and suffering across the length and breadth of Nigeria, joblessness of College graduates, comes the following headline as provided by the Sunday Vanguard:

Aso Rock budgets N2.3million daily for refreshment....N1.5m for eye glasses

Written by Emmanuel Aziken, Leon Usigbe and Tordue Salam, Abuja

Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE National Assembly has been allocated N65 billion out of the N2.5 trillion spending plan for 2008 proposed by President Umaru Yar'Adua. N2.2 billion of the proposal has been earmarked for food, details of the proposal obtained by Sunday Vanguard have revealed.

The Presidency including the State House has been allocated N26.9 billion in the 2008 spending plan with N1.301 billion going for feeding and refreshment in the State House.

The N1.301 billion feeding plan for Aso Rock Villa is broken into N827.4 million for refreshment while another N474.06 million has been proposed for the procurement of food stuff in the State House. In effect, the Presidential Villa would be spending about N2.3 million and N1.3 million daily for refreshment and procurement of food stuff respectively.

This budget proposal confirms again the submission of the former World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz, when he was the World Bank chief in charge of Africa announced some years ago on a visit to Lagos that the ruling class of Nigeria constitutes only 1% of the entire population, yet it (ruling class) consumes 80% of the nation's wealth, leaving the rest 99% of the population to scramble for the rest 20% of the wealth.

I do not understand how Aso Rock villa could be so insensitively audacious to propose 2.5 million Naira/day for refreshment alone in a country where millions go to bed hungry, where millions live in shamble houses, where millions do not even have shambles to lay their heads, where uncountable do not have money to procure medication for their simple ailments and they die unnecessarily, where salaries of workers are unrealistic with market values. N2.5 million/day, in one month can inject into the employment market 8,300 youths on a salary of N9,000/month.

No one is protesting that entertainment of guests shouldn't be done at Aso Rock villa. No one says personal money should be used neither. Of course, in the historical excursion just narrated, Nehemiah did, with huge amount of his personal money. Prof. Wole Soyinka did not earn salary from the Government when he worked for the Road Safety. Someone recently appointed in Rotimi Amaechi's River State Government, whose name I can't remember, promises to do. Just a couple of days ago, I seem to hear a 3rd Republic Senator, David Dafinone, on AIT said he did not take salary as a senator.

This is where the much-noised 'rule of law' has its lapses. The proposal is made under the rule of law BUT is it one with human face in the midst of woeful poverty that most citizens are facing? Nehemiah refused to use government money but his own money to run the affairs of the state because "His people were already having a difficult time".

The money will be released to the officials in the Aso Rock villa under the rule of law and it will be retired (accounted for) under the rule of law but the question is what percentage of the money is really spent on entertaining guests of the allotted N2.5million/day and what percentage goes into private pockets? I bet the servant leader will hardly drink a can of soda a day and I can bet he does not drink beer. It is cheering to read that he has not dipped into the fund allocated for security.

I am always baffled, miffed, pissed off and at a loss when I travel through the towns, villages and cities of Nigeria and see beautiful architectural masterpieces of mansions from the blues in isolation (while the majority of the citizens live in squalor) and I am told that one civil servant or some public office holders own them. You will wonder whether their legitimate income all their service years can ever account for those properties. The mansions are the rewards of such budgets made under the rule of law but ends up in private pockets. They do it without fear and get away with it because ours is a country where no questions are asked about the source of wealth of anyone until the recent coming of the EFCC. And how many can the EFCC follow? And the masses rather than isolating the thieves, hail them with the notion that "Who will be in the vantage position and not do the same?

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