Frugality, please

September 9, 2019
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Senate should reverse its plan to purchase N5.5 billion exotic cars for members

The class action instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP, BudgIT, Enough is Enough and 6,721 citizens at the Federal High Court, Lagos, is a step in the right direction; it is a duty of civil rights campaigners to protect the public interest. The plaintiffs  told the court to stop our 109 senators from purchasing exotic cars worth N5.5 billion for themselves, arguing that it is not commensurate to the task they are constitutionally assigned, and it is also out of tune with the country’s economic realities. At N5.55 billion, each car would amount, on the average, to more than N50 million per senator. Indeed, as the name of one of the organisations at the forefront of the campaign and plaintiffs in the suit suggests, enough is enough. The pillage of the common patrimony must stop.

Nigerians should support SERAP that has a record of taking up matters of public interest, sometimes taking them to court. The organisation is not frivolous and it does not appear to be self-centred. What it does is a wake-up call to the other nongovernmental organisations and civil rights activists. Vigilance by citizens is important in sustaining democracy. If many Nigerians had followed SERAP’s footsteps, the society would most likely have advanced faster than it is today.

The Senate has a duty to respond positively to the query from SERAP, on behalf of those who elected its members. This is no time for extravagant spending. It is time for frugality and empathy for the growing clan of the underprivileged in the society. The rate of growth of the economy has slowed down considerably and Nigeria is reputed to be the world’s poverty capital. This should be cause for concern for all leaders, given the immense resources in the country. Every state has solid minerals which sustain the economies of some countries that are not even as endowed with them as Nigeria. The leakages in the public purse should be a challenge to all leaders in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government.

For a government that promised to effect fundamental change in the mode of governance, one way of doing this is by considerably pruning the cost of governance. Questions to be asked here include: what happened to vehicles bought by members of the 8th Senate? Could it be said at a time that the economy is in a parlous state, as Senator Dayo Adeyeye pointed out in an interview, that the vehicles had become unserviceable? How many Nigerians, including our senators, can afford to change their cars every four years? Are sacrifices meant for only the poor on whom the rich have put the burden of state?

We agree with the plaintiffs that the proposed act of the senators is a violent negation of the oath they swore to, to work for the welfare of the majority of the people. The vote is unconstitutional as it is against provisions of the seventh schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). This is no time to hide behind legalism as Adeyeye chose to do, arguing that anything provided for in the budget has become legal and cannot be challenged in the court of law.

We expect the senators to serve as good models for other leaders in the country. Pointing out that other leaders are as profligate and that previous senators had turned it to a convention is no excuse for their spurning the duty to serve the people. The senators’ activities will show what to expect of this 9th Assembly, as the House of Representatives’ members will follow their steps.

Beyond cutting their expenses, we expect the lawmakers to use the power of appropriation to cut down expenses by the other arms of government, with a view to spending public funds to enhance the standard of living of the people. Our legislators are reputed to be the most pampered in the world, they don’t have to flaunt this in the provocative and insensitive manner they are doing.

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