Network for Best Practice and Integrity in Leadership (NEBPRIL), has called on the National Assembly to lead a patriotic initiative, hinged on fiscal discipline, prudent budgeting, and reinvigorate its oversight functions, to put Nigeria on the path of speedy post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
This initiative, the Civil Society Organisation (CSO), said included suspension of constituency projects for a period of one year; strengthening oversight mechanisms to ensure blockage of avenues of wastage; application of NASS legislative powers on budgeting to redirect subsidy removal savings to invest in healthcare and education e-learning infrastructure and capacity building; the two sectors the pandemic has exposed their grave inadequacies and pathetic fragility.
NEBPRIL also urged NASS to vote against the executive’s recently proposed “Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill” as well as the proposed 365-day 60th Independence anniversary celebration, describing them as ludicrous in the face of current gloomy economic condition in Nigeria.
It said that the “dwindling economic condition makes it imperative for government to begin to devise creative means to manage scarce resources and make conscious efforts to block every avenue of possible wastage.”
In a letter to both the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, made available to newsmen in Abuja on Sunday, titled ‘The Legislature, budgeting and Oversight in post-covid Nigerian economy “, and signed by its chairman, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, a former deputy spokesperson of the House of the Representatives in the 7th Assembly, NEBPRIL said, “Records show that Nigeria was paying an average of N 11 trillion annually for petroleum products subsidy;
“Now that government has stopped subsidy payment, NEBPRIL requests that NASS applies its legislative powers on budgeting, to ensure that the huge savings from this new policy, is warehoused as special fund and invested in tackling headlong, the crisis in healthcare infrastructure and capacity building in the sector over the next three years.
“That e-learning infrastructure and e-teaching capacity development, in our educational sector, which were brought to the fore by Covid-19 pandemic, receive special budgetary attention from the subsidy removal savings, in order to align with the new development, occasioned by the pandemic.
“That National Assembly, in a gesture of goodwill, leading by example and in appreciation of the current economic exigency, should consider the suspension of constituency projects for a period of one year, starting from the 2021 budget; the allocation for the projects (intentioned to impact on constituents across the nation), should rather, be redirected for the same purpose, but in providing specific, purpose-driven, legacy critical health infrastructure, across the six geopolitical zones; that would be attributed to NASS, as its post-covid special contribution in bringing solution to the health sector.
“NEBPRIL also implores NASS leadership to take deliberate steps to reinvigorate and strengthen the legislative oversight functions and activities, going forward, to reflect the current realities, in order to ensure that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are made more accountable, and that rules of public service are upheld, in line with their mandates and rules of engagement.
“NEBPRIL urges NASS to vote against the proposed “Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill”, recently approved by the Executive, as it largely amounts to unnecessary duplicity and waste of scarce resources, especially coming at a time of crushing economic condition; as a result of covid and other adverse economic indices. Nigeria cannot therefore afford to enable a policy that would inflict more strains on her scarce resources. At best, such agency should function as a department under the Ministry of Finance or Budget and National Planning.
“We also request that NASS votes against the proposed extravagant 365-day celebration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary, by the federal government. We regard such obscenity as inappropriate, poor judgement and a shocking contradiction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier stance that the celebration would be low key, as a result of gloomy economy and current covid realities.
“As a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), that advocates democratic accountability and integrity in leadership, we consider the National Assembly as a partner in progress in pursuit of the overall good and interest of the people, in the true principles of democracy that prioritize the genuine welfare of the people.”