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Bulletproof cars, for operational purposes, not our personal properties – NASS  

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None of the cars soon to be distributed to members of National Assembly would be their personal properties, but just one of the tools to enable them discharge the duties given to them by their constituents and Nigerians in general.

This was the explanation Akin Rotimi, spokesman of the House of Representatives, gave on Sunday, in an obvious attempt to pour cold water on the general discontent of Nigerians, who had assailed the lawmakers for what they termed insensitivity in awarding such a luxury to themselves in the face of suffering masses.

Each of the lawmakers is expected to get a brand new bulletproof Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), said to have been purchased at the cost of N100 million each, a trend which seems to have become a tradition of the NASS at every term of four years circle.

Rotimi, who made this known in a statement on Sunday evening, said the vehicles were work tools, and not status symbols, adding: “Honourable Members are diligent and patriotic elected representatives and not entitled. The anticipated allocation of vehicles will contribute to improved representation, constituency outreach and oversight functions.

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“The House of Representatives is monitoring a trending topic across multiple traditional and online media, concerning the allocation of vehicles to honourable members, and because this issue has understandably generated significant public interest, we believe Nigerians deserve feedback from their elected representatives.

“While many versions of this story carry varying exaggerations, we can confirm that the National Assembly bureaucracy is in the phased process of procuring and distributing operational vehicles to honourable members over the coming weeks and months.

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“This development is in accordance with extant procurement laws and has been the practice in previous assemblies. It is also not peculiar to the Legislature, as unelected government officials in the Executive arm of government from Director level and above, in most cases, have official vehicles attached to their offices.

“It is important to make a few clarifications. The vehicles to be allocated to the offices of honourable members are utility operational vehicles tied to their oversight functions in the discharge of their duties in the standing committees. They are not personal vehicles gifted to honourable members.

“For the duration of the 10th assembly (2023 – 2027), the vehicles shall remain the property of the National Assembly. At the expiration of the tenure of the 10th Assembly in 2027, should the extant assets deboarding policy of government still be in place, honourable members may have the option of making payment for the outstanding value of the vehicles to government coffers before they can become theirs, otherwise it remains the property of the National Assembly.

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“The public is invited to note that as part of the 10th Assembly’s objective to ensure our integrity and independence, honourable members of the Green Chamber have resolved to maintain a respectable distance from the Executive arm of government, especially in issues relating to logistical aspects of oversight functions, including reaching difficult terrains in the country.

“No matter how remote the location is, as long as there are Nigerian citizens living there, they deserve highly mobile representatives who can see first-hand what they are going through, and ensure government interventions, programmes, and policies are carried out effectively. This can only be possible with functional and reliable off-road vehicles.

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“Also, the House would like to inform the public that we remain committed to reducing the cost of governance in line with present realities. Those willing to research further would find a significant body of work with evidence that the percentage of the component of the Legislature’s budget as part of our national budget has been on a downward trend over the past decade, despite inflation and the expanding role and relevance of honourable members in the lives of citizens. It currently stands at 0.5% of the Federal budget.

“Accordingly, as all stakeholders continue to advance the conversation about reducing the cost of governance, we encourage looking in the right direction, and not cause disaffection for honourable members who want to discharge their duties effectively and above board, without being susceptible to inducement when the enablement to function is impaired.”

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Soyinka, terror to dictators, face of democracy – Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, spared no nice words in showering accolades on Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate on Literature, extolling his democratic credentials, ending it all with the renaming of the National Theatre as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts, in honour 90th birthday of the celebrated playwright, novelist and activist.

The President’s sentiments, on Soyinka, a professor of literature, globally celebrated essayist, actor, singer, composer, and documentarian, who brought great honour to Africa and Nigeria when he won the coveted prize in 1986, was conveyed by Ajuri Ngelale, his spokesman in a statement, ahead of the birthday on Saturday, July 13.

Describing him as one of the finest minds of his generation; conforming to the highest standards of human enlightenment, but unyielding to injustice, oppression, and base impulses, Tinubu hailed his long-time friend, with whom he was in the trenches some three decades ago, during the June 12, 1993 struggle.

The statement, which stressed that Tinubu also hailed Soyinka as one of Nigeria’s living repositories of history, knowledge, and courage, and commended him for his valiant efforts in the trenches for the nation’s future both as a pro-democracy champion and as a trenchant voice against corruption and maladministration over several decades, recalled the days of the struggle.

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His words: “Our paths crossed during our just struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. When faced with a trial in absentia and death sentence by the military regime at home, he galvanized opposition in exile through NALICON and NADECO. His global stature made him the face of our struggle to validate June 12 and restore democracy in Nigeria.”

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Wishing him many more years in good health and creative fulfilment as a global force for change, he added: “Today, I join the world to celebrate his profound influence on generations of writers, scholars, and activists who have been inspired by his work. I celebrate him for giving us the spark to fight and confront military dictators in our country.

“I am, accordingly, delighted to have the honour to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.”

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S’Court: No more allocations to 37 Development centres in Lagos, others  

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The 37 Local Government Development Centres (LGDC), created in Lagos in 2003, during the tenure of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of the state, may have been dealt a hard blow, as they will no longer be captured in the funding bracket of the state, going by the interpretation of Thursday’s ruling of the Supreme Court, by some legal minds.

One of those who believe that by the judgement, the councils have lost their source of funding, following the pronouncement of the courts that allocations from the Federation Account be paid directly into the accounts of recognised entities is, Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Lagos has 20 local governments originally created by the Federal Government, while the 37 LGDCs, were created by the Tinubu administration, in a bid to further take governance to the grassroots, a development, which led to a bitter feud between the government and the Federal Government under the President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In fact, throughout the period Obasanjo was in power after the creation of the LGDCs, the state was denied its council allocations, as a punishment to the state, following the former President’s aversion to the move.

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It was only the government of Umaru Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, who released the entire entitlements to the state, when he assumed power in 2007, after the state had funded the councils from its own resources for four years.

Ozekhome, a renowned constitutional lawyer,  who was a guest of The Morning Brief, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, on Friday, told his host that Thursday’s apex court judgement on the autonomy of the councils, made it clear that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) would not send funds to local government areas headed by caretaker committee chairmen, or development centres.

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Hear him: “The judgement of the government is clear. If you want to receive funds from the federation account, then conduct an election. If what you have in place is a caretaker committee as local government chairman, be sure that it will not have money from the federation account.

“What this law is saying is that if you are not a democratically elected local government council, you cannot have this money under section 162 subsection 5 and 6 of the 199 Constitution. So, what it means is that money should now be ploughed to those local governments that are in existence democratically.”

The only remedy, he stated was for the state to find ways of funding the development centres from the allocations of the councils, adding: “They can do that internally to share. That is their internal business. Nobody can control that one. But for now, the money can only go to those local government areas named in the constitution. Don’t forget they are even named in the constitution, 774 local governments. If you want money from the federation account, such councils must be democratically elected.”

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The apex court not only endorsed full local government autonomy and ordering that funds from the FAAC be paid directly to their accounts, but also barred governors from henceforth dissolving democratically elected officials for local governments adding that doing so would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution.

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Tinubu completely caged, now surrounded by thieves, Ndume insists

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Ali Ndume, Senator representing Borno South at the National Assembly, on Thursday dug deeper in his earlier revelations putting Nigerians on notice that President Bola Tinubu is currently under a cocoon thrown around him by his aides, who have used the opportunity to mindlessly fleece the national till.

A guest of Prime Time, a current affairs programme on Arise News Network, Ndume, Chief Whip of the Senate, told his host that the seat of power has now been captured by “kakistocrats” – a government run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens and kleptocrats – one run by thieves.

Absolving Tinubu of complicity in the alleged massive thievery he alleged that the Presidential Villa and top government bodies have become, he said: “The government is also populated by kleptocrats, but unfortunately that is not what the President is up to. He really meant renewed hope, but you can only do that when you have people around you that are on the same type of thinking.”

Ndume one of the longest serving members of NASS, explained that much as Tinubu, whom he described as a close political associate and a democrat, would always be quick to act on any act of malfeasance that came to his attention, such as his recent repudiation of the Cyber-crime bill, the said unscrupulous aides, had been doing much to keep him away from some critical information.

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Hear him: “When the president realised that he had not heard about it, he quickly suspended it.” He highlighted the significant challenge of hunger and food scarcity, mentioning that inflation has risen to 40%. In some places, even with your money, you won’t find the food items you want to buy, which is very dangerous..

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“Nigeria has never been included among countries facing severe food crises or food insecurity, but recent UN and World Food Programme figures rank Nigeria as a hotspot. For people like me, I have to be scared because I’m 64 years old with 10 children, 20 grandchildren, and I don’t have a passport or visa to anywhere.

“Some Ministers only meet the president during council meetings and that the President is often the first to leave. I’m the chief whip, and if the chief whip can’t have access to the president, the new senators won’t have access either. During the time of President (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s administration, any senator could see the president within 24 hours.

“President Tinubu is caged in. There are no visible efforts by the government to address pressing issues like climate change. The President has to harness Nigeria’s natural and human resources. He must get the right people into office and dominate his government with democrats. The president needs people who will realise his dream and tell him when something is wrong.”

Ndume who also bemoaned the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy, argued that much as it was a good move to eliminate corruption and allow savings to benefit the people, measures must be taken to cushion such effects, like the introduction of food stamps, adding that presently the anger of Nigerians over their parlous situation could snowball into uncontrollable conflagration.

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