N’Assembly crises, exchange rate subsidy, others are danger signs for ‘change’, says Adamolekun
FORMER World Bank Public sector management specialist and a leading public administration scholar in Africa, Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun, has described the National Assembly crises, among others, as sinister that could militate against positive change.
Adamolekun said this in respect of the current National Assembly crises, arguments in the public domain on the public asset declaration of the President and recent subsidy on exchange rate for pilgrims, which he crisply described as “wrong message about change.”
He implored President Muhammadu Buhari to implement change and tackle the challenges and shenanigans that poise early threats to his administration.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Mr. John Kennedy-Opara, announced that the Federal Government has approved a N160 to $1 exchange rate for the NCPC operations despite the headline inflation that hits 9.2 per cent at the foreign exchange market and the steep rise exchange to N241 at the parallel market.
As sensitive as religious issues could be in any volatile nation like Nigeria, he advised the Federal Government to stop the unnecessary waste, saying that “Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s decision to discontinue the so-called Ramadan “packages” or “stomach infrastructure” for Kaduna citizens is change,” and a strong argument that “public officials and their colluding private sector middlemen or women who would have pocketed about 50 per cent of the budget for the packages were the losers.”
He stated that Kaduna citizens accepted the change and there was no public outcry since the money saved can be used as increased funding for education, health, transportation or improve on other sectors of the state for the betterment of the general public.
“But President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of a special exchange rate for Christian pilgrims announced on July 13 is not ‘change’.
“In an economy that is nose-diving, subsidising pilgrimages by Nigerians (Christians and Muslims: the latter are sure to benefit, too) at a huge 30 per cent discount of prevailing exchange rate is wrong, 160 naira for one dollar compared to parallel market rate of 240 naira for one dollar.
“It is possible that President Buhari was not briefed about the certainty of abuse of the approval that he has given. Between one-quarter and one-third of the monies exchanged at the special rate would be diverted to other purposes, thanks to the well-functioning middle-men/women across the country,” he said.
Adamolekun, an analyst, posited that Nigeria might be spell-bound if some of the dollars exchanged at the special rate do end up in the hands of Boko Haram leaders or sympathisers, as that will spell more disaster for the nation and its over 180 million population.
He noted that the Christians organise four different pilgrimages per year while Muslims organise two or three; by all implications as submitted by him, “the foreign exchange that would be wasted between now and December would be substantial and could be usefully invested in other priority areas of change promised by the Buhari administration.”
According to him: “Fundamentally, religion should be a private affair between the individual and his/her God, and this is what is called the secularity of the state,” emphasising that there must not be a mix up between religion and the government as enshrined in the constitution of the country.
“I strongly recommend that beginning from 2016 budget, the Federal Government should contain no provision for funding pilgrimages for Christians and Muslims: each should be funded and be accountable to their respective faith leadership bodies,” Adamolekun said.
On the fracas that has bedevilled legislative arm of the government for the past seven weeks, he submitted was caused by unhealthy struggle over leadership positions by some unscrupulous elements and a big threat to the change promised by President Buhari, stating further that the legislative arm is the only arm of government, which is voted into power with the Executive, aside the Judiciary which is independently constituted, to effect change in a consolidated twin movement that the former has resounding effects on the latter.
On this note, Adamolekun observed a foul-play and noted that two illustrations of the threat stand out: “First, if the Senate Rules used for the elections of Senate President and Deputy President are conclusively proved to be fraudulent, then new elections must be held,” positing that leaders produced through a fraudulent process cannot lead the legislative arm of government committed to positive change.
He urged the Inspector-General of Police to expedite the probe of the Senate Rules used for the elections in the Upper Chamber and make it public so that Nigerians can get to the root of the crises to absolve or condemn the alleged culprits in the forged Standing Order Rules of the Senate.
Secondly, he mentioned that Senator Saraki’s widely publicised commitment to “zero tolerance for corruption” (reported in the print media) is obviously linked to the anti-corruption war that President Buhari has promised to lead, affirming that he needs the support of National Assembly to make a dent on the daunting task of taming the corruption monster in Nigeria.
“So, Senator Saraki has decided to be proactive. However, if he was elected Senate President through a fraudulent (corrupt) procedure, how can he be a credible anti-corruption champion?” Adamolekun asked, taking a recourse in the saying that “Whosoever comes to equity must come with clean hands.”
The political guru and D.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University, England, decried the debate in the media over whether or not party supremacy should be enforced in the National Assembly, saying: “It is largely nonsensical.
“Every NASS member was elected on the platform of a political party and he or she is expected to follow the party “whip” (that is, toe the party line) unless she or he decamps, Nigerian-style (others would call it carpet-crossing) to another party.
“How would Nigerians be able to assess the performance of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the polls in 2019 if NASS members elected on its platform become free actors?
In this connection, the so-called election of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator as the Deputy Senate President when the ruling party is not in an alliance with the PDP is a peculiar Nigerian invention.
“It reminds one of Elder Pliny’s centuries-old claim: “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi” (Always something new out of Africa). Of course, all the minority leadership positions will be filled by PDP senators,” the former World Bank boss said.
Adamolekun expressed dissatisfaction over the non-public declaration of asset by President Muhammadu Buhari despite his promise and anti-corruption precedents, which gave him widespread acceptance and mandate of the people during the last electioneering.
He said: “All Nigerians across party divides, foreigners who live in Nigeria as well as Nigeria’s foreign friends believe that President Buhari can lead a credible anti-corruption war. Given his unquestioned integrity, it is disconcerting that his promise to publicly declare his assets and those of his wife has not happened.”
Though Prof. Adamolekun agreed to the reports in the media that President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo have promptly declared their assets, alongside their wives, he pointed out that they are yet to be made public as pledged to all Nigerians before elected into office.
He noted that when President Yar’Adua declared his assets and those of his wife in 2007, he promptly made them public. There was no talk of the ineffectual Code of Conduct Tribunal preventing him from doing so, though his Vice President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, took months to declare his own assets but did not make the declaration public and he did not declare his wife’s assets.
Piqued by President Buhari’s commitment to transparency and zero tolerance to corruption as widely reported in the media during the presidential election campaign to publicly declare his assets and that of the First Lady, he wrote a short essay on “Advice on Fighting Corruption.”
In the publication, he lauded the President for his determination to require his deputy, ministers and other political appointees to publicly declare their assets, which he said, is unprecedented and is not a requirement in any extant law in the land; and also warning that “when President Yar’Adua publicly declared his assets and those of his wife, he failed to require his deputy, ministers and other political appointees to do the same.”
The excerpts partly read: “And we saw that Mr. “Clean” President failed to make a dent on fighting corruption. Buhari’s commitment to public declaration of assets will promote transparency, which is an enemy of corruption that thrives in opacity and secrecy.
“And I would recommend that the list of public officials to publicly declare their assets be extended to include the top executives in the civil service (permanent secretaries and directors) and chief executives of government agencies and parastatals. The implications of this radical approach for the toothless Code of Conduct Bureau and the grossly under-utilised Code of Conduct Tribunal will need to be addressed in the anti-corruption strategy.
“Even when allowance is made for possible aspirational public declaration of assets by some of the concerned public officials, strict enforcement of public declaration of assets would still be a crucial step in the fight against corruption. Specifically, investigative reporters in the media would be free to expose aspirational declarations that should lead to sanctions against the public officials concerned.
“Buhari’s pledge to work with the National Assembly for a rapid enactment of a Whistle Blower Protection Act is a critical accompaniment to the public declaration of assets: public servants, professionals such as accountants and lawyers, media practitioners, anti-C activists in civil society, will feel protected to expose corrupt practices.”
The former Dean of the Faculty of Administration and professor of Public Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University (OUA), Ile-Ife, noted that the President’s scorecard at the end of his first 100 days should include public declaration of assets by the categories of public officials listed in the above extracts as well as an anti-corruption strategy that would be presented for public debate.
His words: “Nigerians voted for change and the nature of the change is widespread, as evident in the results at the polls. The nation is waiting for change to happen though challenges are emerging for implementing change. President was elected on the platform of change by his APC, however, the delay in implementing change is due to the manner of the transition.”
Meanwhile, Adamolekun urged the President to deliver on his electoral promises and never back out on his anti-corruption drives; quoting the principles of policy analysis, which stipulates that “you can never have all the facts.”
He also implored him to make use of the facts at his disposal to effect positive changes in appreciation of the legitimate mandate he enjoyed at the polls.