How NASS Oversight Function Fuels Corruption In MDAs

The oversight function of the National Assembly has become an avenue for mem­bers to corruptly enrich themselves, Daily Independent find­ings have revealed.

Senate passes bill to strengthen Nigerian financial system
Senate passes bill to strengthen Nigerian financial system

The power of oversight is con­ferred on the National Assembly by the constitution to enable lawmakers expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste in the execution or adminis­tration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement and administration of funds appro­priated by the Acts.

However, checks by Daily Independent revealed that in the discharge of their du­ties many of the lawmakers take undue advantage of the powers conferred on them to intimidate the agencies or or­ganisations they are required to oversight.

The investigations reveal that their major victims are ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of govern­ment.

In an interview with Dai­ly Independent last week, Hon. Ari Mohammed Ab­dulmumin, a member of the House of Representatives and deputy chairman, House Committee on Youth Devel­opment, said legislative over­sight was yet to bring about the desired change that Ni­gerians want to see in gover­nance.

According to him, most oversight functions in the National Assembly are mere formalities. He said: “It is one thing to oversight, but it is another thing to influence changes that are required.

“It’s not only about going for an oversight. We went for oversight; of course, televi­sions have shown it, papers have carried it, but what are the results? Do we really ac­tually achieve what we want? So, most of the oversights that we are conducting in the National Assembly are mere formalities. The question is: what is the result?”

Though most ministries contacted by Daily Indepen­dent refused to speak on the development, the few that spoke said they were at the mercy of the lawmakers and, as such, had to make provi­sions for them whenever they came for oversight in terms of financial packages and other benefits.

Others also said members of the committee overseeing a particular ministry or agen­cy of government are usually given special preference when it comes to recruitment exer­cises as they are given slots, which are in turn given to their loved ones.

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Lawmakers are also said to solicit and accept contracts from ministries, parastatals, government agencies and de­partments as well as private organisations, using proxy companies.

They added that any min­ister or head of agency who refuses to cooperate with the lawmakers are usually visit­ed with hostilities, especially when it comes to the passage of their budgets.

Speaking with Daily Inde­pendent, a senior official in a company jointly owned by the Federal Government and a group said the oversight function is a burden to them.

“We’ve not had any visit by the committees this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but to be frank, the oversight function is a burden to us be­cause of the demands of these lawmakers. It has become a norm. In fairness, most of the law­makers don’t demand for it but you can sense it through their body language”.

“Most of us don’t call it bribery, it is called honorar­ium. The lawmakers come on oversight and we usually appreciate them with hono­rarium as our guests, at least to fuel their cars. If you are trying to form holier-than-thou or a man of integrity, that may land you into trouble as they will be hostile.

“A good example is the Arunma Oteh vs Hon. Her­man Hembe’s public alterca­tion in 2012 and the visit of the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Economic Waste in the Nige­ria Customs Service to Comp­troller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), in 2018.”

Speaking with Daily In­dependent on the matter, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the National Assembly could not do a proper oversight as they had turned the process into a money-making venture.

Yinka Odumakin, the or­ganisation’s National Public­ity Secretary, said: “The over­sight function has become a meter play thing as the law­makers have turned it to cash play with the executive arm. Only a dignified chamber can do a proper oversight. A chop-chop legislature cannot have the weight to do over­sight in a proper manner as they would put what they would eat above every other thing and make the whole leg­islative process a joke.”

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On his part, Monday Uba­ni, a former second vice-pres­ident of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said over­sight functions by the Nation­al Assembly had been turned into a corruption circle.

“They have turned over­sight functions into a corrup­tion circle where they make their money. They are not doing over­sight in order to save Nigeria of funds or to investigate those agencies and then ex­pose them. Anytime you hear of over­sight functions or committee work, it is all about their pockets. They want to enrich themselves.

“Over the years, we have found out what these over­sights are all about. If any­body fails to cooperate with them, they will come out with a hostile report even though those reports usually don’t go anywhere. When you bring your bud­gets, they will wait for you at the budget defence and they will make things difficult for you. Nigeria is in a big prob­lem because almost everyone has a mentality of corruption, including those who are reli­gious.”

Also speaking, Tanko Yunusa, a former presiden­tial candidate and National Consultative Front’s (NCF) Head of Public Affairs Bu­reau, said: “The truth of the matter is this, right from the beginning of the submission of the budget, the ministries and the agencies make bud­gets that are over-bloated and have high expenditure rates.

“When they are bringing these budgets to the National Assembly committee for scru­tiny, the committee will also parley with these ministries to add more monies to these already over-bloated budgets. When they go back to do the oversight functions of checking how the monies budgeted were utilised, that is when corruption takes place. So, it is either you do the bidding of the lawmakers or don’t come back to the Nation­al Assembly to demand more money.”

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Yunusa, however, blamed the actions of the lawmakers on the pressure by their con­stituents who make various financial demands from them. Failure to honour these demands, according to him, may cost them their re-elec­tion as they would be labelled as ‘stingy’.

“But let us look at it from the other way. These lawmak­ers who are representatives of the people have to go back to their constituencies. When they go back emp­ty-handed, the people who vot­ed for them will start asking them for financial assistance or gifts, failure of the lawmak­ers to accede to their demands may cost him his re-election. This is how the vicious cycle continues,” he said.

In its submission, the So­cio-Economic Rights and Ac­countability Project (SERAP) called on all affected agencies and ministries to approach the appropriate channels if they believe that the lawmakers are abusing their privileges.

Kolawole Oluwadare, deputy director, SERAP, told Daily Independent that the fact that the National Assem­bly members are lawmakers doesn’t imply that they are above the law.

“The power of the Nation­al Assembly to do oversight is not in doubt. It is clearly pro­vided for in Sections 86 to 88 of the constitution. If anyone is making alle­gations against the National Assembly committees for any kind of impropriety in the course of their duties, then there are normal channels to undertake that”.

“If any of those MDAs be­ing investigated has any proof or record of any wrongdoing, they know the appropriate channels to go to. While all these claims are allegations which should be proven, the fact that the Na­tional Assembly is a lawmak­ing body doesn’t imply that they are above the law.
It is a matter of due pro­cess, transparency, and ac­countability,” he said.

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