Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The Gospel Of Democracy According To St. Obasanjo
November 16, 2006
Since, the National Assembly abruptly aborted the third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the National Assembly threw out the constitution amendment bill. Now the President is battling for his political life as he is desperately looking for dubious ways and means of elongating his tenure. The reason for this is not far-fetched, Obasanjo has indulged in one constitution breach too many that the fear of the unknown is driving him to the precipice and he does not know what the in-coming government would do
. The case at hand is the withdrawal of 2.1billion naira from the excess crude oil funds in March, 2006. Following speculations that the presidency had been fiddling with the fund, President Obasanjo quickly opened up that he had made the withdrawal supposedly the supplement the cost of the extention of the national census. Curiously, Obasanjo did not bother to inform the National Assembly, let alone the nation of this very significant for over two whole months. In fact, he kept quite until the probe being conducted by the Senate committee on finance and appropriation started to uncover skeletons in some cupboards. Only then did the President, who is fond of trumpeting anti-corruption slogans like mantra, found it expedient to come clean.
In a letter to the House of Representatives, Obasanjo claimed $17, 290, and 067; (about 2.1 billion naira) was withdrawn after he had convened an emergency meeting of the stakeholders. He mentioned only some state governors and the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission as the stakeholders who apparently induced him to make the withdrawal. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expressly forbids such. Section 80(3) of the 1999 constitution states that no monies shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the federation, unless the issue of those money has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly. So, the President in his usual characteristic manner has deliberately disregarded the constitution. He claimed to have held a meeting with some governors, yet he lacked the courage to name them. In any case, which part of the constitution mandates or permits him to withdraw such monies with the governorsí approval? Since when have the so-called stakeholders replaced an Act of the National Assembly as stated in the constitution?
Obasanjo has become infamous for breaching the constitution with reckless abandon, since the advent of his government in 1999, the president has not fully implemented any of the annually budgets approved by the National Assembly. Instead, selective implementation of the Appropriation Act has been the rule rather than the exception. Staggering sums of are frequently withdrawn from the federation accounts without following the due process. For instance, $170, 549 006 was illegally withdrawn on December 12, 2005. Also, N846, 544, 06 was allegedly withdrawn on October 31, 2005 just to mention but a few. Early this year the states and local governments experienced sundry financial crises following the federal governmentís shenanigans with the federation accounts, at their expense. So angry were the two tiers of government over the brouhaha that they jointly decided not to accept their share of the federal revenue until the shortfall, involving billions of naira, was explained.
In 2004,Obasanjo unilaterally granted Ghana and the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe unauthorized loans. Only when uproar broke out across the land over the presidential braggadocio did he dashed to the National Assembly to legitimize unconstitutional indulgence. In the heat of the frenzy to pay off the debt owed the Paris Club of Creditors, the Senate passed a motion forbidding Obasanjo from dabbling into the federation account. In a letter to the Senate dated September 9, 2005, Obasanjo had requested for approval to withdraw $2.4billion from the account as the governmentís counterpart fund for the Power Sector Development Scheme (PSDS). He also requested for $12.4 billion to settle the balance of the debt owed the Paris Club. In its resolution on the letter, the Senate told the president that PSDS fund would be obtained only after it had been appropriated by relevant authority as required by law. It, however, approved that the $12.4 billion to settle the balance of the debt owed the Paris Club.
If the senators thought Obasanjo would honour their resolution, they soon proved wrong. The president simply spurned their advice, and did as he pleased. Indeed, he withdrew the $12.4 billion from the federation account instead of the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account which the senate specified. Needless to say, he also withdrew the$2.4 billion PSDS fund without waiting for the approval of the relevant authorities as required by law. Finding from the House of Representatives Committee on Public Finance and Appropriation disclosed that the preliminary investigations conducted so far clearly show that impeachable offences have been willfully committed by the same man who had sworn to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The panelís chairman, Hon. Farouk Lawal, bluntly stated that the presidentís action was, indeed, padded with irregularities. He therefore wondered why, for instance, Obasanjoís request for fund outside the Appropriation Act was never brought to the National Assembly for consideration and possible approval.
The series of constitutional violations by the president is legion, flagrant disobedience of court order, unauthorized use of the military such as Odi and Zaki Biam,the withholding of the local governments of Lagos State funds against the ruling of the Supreme Court just to mention but a very few. Constitutional democracy as it is operated in Nigeria is predicated on the rule of law, but in a situation where those that swore on oath to uphold the constitution, are wantonly violating the constitution, then such characters on the political landscape should be tactically eased out of the system, so that the country can have a sustainable democratic culture, thereby deepening the roots of democracy in the country.
This is even more so, as a result of the fact that Nigeria have had the misfortune of being ruled by military jackboots for most parts of her post independence years, and this has been the of the country. However, it is worrisome to note that the members of the National Assembly are being threatened by the EFCC and ICPC. It is most unfortunate that the president is running rings around the constitution. And, he ought to be protective of the law, instead of overheating the polity at all times.
Therefore, the National Assembly should be allowed to carry out its constitutional responsibility in the overall interest of the country.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.