Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, representing Bayelsa-East senatorial district in the red chamber of the National Assembly recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari to adjust his approach to the anti-corruption crusade, stating that the current style is scaring investors away, thereby doing more harm than good to the economy. The commonsense exponent made the remarks while contributing to the Senate’s debate on the economic recession in the country prior to its adjournment for the yuletide. In moving his motion, the eloquent lawmaker categorically referenced the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over interrogation of an acquaintance who deposited a legitimate sum of N50million into a bank account and was quizzed.
Unfortunately, the senator didn’t substantiate the legitimacy of the source of the fund, which attracted the operatives’ forceful invitation and interrogation. Unequivocally, the anti-graft agency under the EFCC Act is empowered to investigate all suspicious financial activities within its jurisdiction. Besides, investigation doesn’t in any way connote conviction. In China, Dubai and other nations, for instance, operatives go as far as intruding into laptops and flash-drives belonging to persons on mere suspicion. The war against corruption demands unfettered support particularly from the legislators who make the laws. Whatever the case, the Act competently empowers the anti-graft agencies to operate as it did.
Obviously, the senator forgot that any huge deposits, which cannot be substantially accounted for will lose its legitimacy. A citizen with a capability to lodge such a huge amount of money should be able to account for its sources. Interestingly, Senator Bruce has toured so many countries of the world and knows that such huge deposits will certainly attract the attention of security operatives in most countries. Without a doubt, Nigeria, since its creation has operated an absolutely disgusting system in which people with no clear means of livelihood flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. This has largely contributed to the high rate of various crimes: stealing in high places, bank-robbery, treasury-looting, ritualism and kidnapping, among others since no one is questioned to give account. Perhaps, this justifies President Buhari’s “Change-Begins-With-Me” initiative. The statutory duties of the anti-corruption agencies cannot sensibly be alluded, therefore, as reasons for the present predicament of the nation. The trouble is the nonexistence of a tangible and realistic economic blueprint by all previous leaders and even the current one.
The crux of the matter as far as the economic recession is concerned and contrary to Senator Bruce’s deduction is that Nigeria’s political class consciously, mischievously and negligently invited recession upon the country. An economy with only one tangible source of revenue will certainly crash as soon as that commodity loses its high demand or crashes in price as it is presently the case. Sadly, despite such a gross drift, the nation unremittingly lavished almost all its incomes on maintaining its political office holders, senators and members of the House of Representatives who receive extravagant allowances. Obviously, a state of emergency is crucial in the legislative arm either to scrap the bicameral legislature in the country in the meantime or do away with all the inexplicable allowances members receive for doing nothing.
Undeniably, the monthly take-home pay for the legislators suggests a divide and rule system, a blinded society and it is the height of oppression. By all economic indices, with the huge amounts running into billions spent on the federal legislature on monthly basis the economic recession may never end in the country. The allowances of the lawmakers should at the moment be promptly placed on hold.
The bell of recession, when it rings in other countries, is a call for adjustments in most of recurrent expenditures at least in the interim. How do we justify pensioners collapsing every now and then and a lot of families being subjected to hunger and starvation, while lawmakers are living in affluence and allocating sundry public funds for luxuries. This has singularly contributed largely to the failure of the economy. Not the anti-corruption methods of the government of the day. The anti-graft agencies owe the nation a duty to eliminate corruption. However, our greatest challenge is that corruption is also thriving among these bodies statutorily set up for a crime-free society. The onerous task for President Buhari is to sanitize the agencies thoroughly alongside concerted and sophisticated monitoring efforts towards efficient service delivery.
By and large, the anti-graft agencies should be allowed to do their work without encumbrances. The only good gesture any lawmaker can make to the nation at this critical time on resumption for plenaries in 2017 is to daringly sponsor bills towards cutting down tremendously all allowances for those in the legislative and executive arms of government. The excessive expenditure far above revenues is itself a crime by the nation’s leadership and is sure to lead to exacerbate recession. Thus, setting our priorities right albeit belatedly remains the only way of getting out of the current quagmire.
• Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and publisher.