Nigeria: Stop Playing Father Christmas to Niger Republic, Afghanistan – CSOs Flay Govt

Nigerians at home and abroad are rightly scandalised by the recent expensive gifts of the Federal Government to Niger Republic and Afghanistan.

But more nauseating is the failure of the National Assembly to checkmate these unapproved spendings and make the president to explain his action.

This unfortunate situation reinforces a pattern that reflects the weakness of the country’s 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives to control and monitor the national purse.

The civil society views this tendency and its escalation early this month when the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sum of N1.145 billion for the purchase of ten luxury Toyota Land Cruiser V8 cars for the government of Niger Republic with serious concern, bearing in mind the words of the great thinker, Edmund Burke, who said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Also worrisome is the reality that many Nigerians have lately become lethargic, divided by ethnic and sectarian sentiments and weakened by widespread poverty brought on by the political class and bad governance.

The citizens are too busy eking out a living, and so they have no time for the government while those who dare bother about happenings in government and have taken it upon themselves to keep people in government on their toes are labeled idle, lazy and even saboteurs.

However, some activists and civil society groups, who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, are not adopting the self-defeating attitude of the legislators and many other citizens who prefer to turn a blind eye instead of confronting the issues and demanding financial accountability from the government.

According to them, the current administration’s construction of a $1.8bn railway line to Maradi, a city in Niger Republic, a country so dear to President Buhari, and the donation of $1m to the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan four months ago reflect its perceived culture of sympathy to cronies and promoters of extremist religious ideologies.

Decrying the Federal Government’s penchant to dip its hand into the nation’s treasury and play the “Big Brother” without due process, the Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Zikirullahi Ibrahim, cautioned that until the Buhari administration purges itself of the tendency for misplaced spendings, the dwindling economy of the nation may never exit the woods.

He said, “We are disturbed that the Federal Government recently donated $1 million to Afghanistan’s Taliban government.

“That ill-advised donation ignored the fact that the Taliban is led by terrorists who have no respect for women, have prevented women from attending school, and are serially abusing the rights of Afghan citizens.

“It is difficult to understand how the Buhari administration came to befriend the terrorist Taliban government in Afghanistan to the point of donating funds to them.

“We categorically denounce this indiscriminate use of the nation’s funds, especially in these trying times. Aside from making little or no economic sense, such a gift should not come from a government that claims to be fighting terrorism within its borders,” he told Saturday Vanguard.

Three years ago, many Nigerians were worried when two governors from the Niger Republic graced President Buhari’s re-election campaign rally in Kano.

Barely a year after President Buhari won the election, the Federal Government approved a $1,959,744,723.71 contract for a rail line that would link Nigeria to Niger Republic even when the pre-independence Eastern rail network remains comatose.

The rail construction to Niger republic was an executive fiat which was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the importation of a paltry 15,000 barrels of fuel per day from the French-speaking country into Nigeria.

Signatures were appended to the oil importation agreement between Nigeria and Niger Republic after N81bn had been reportedly spent on the Kaduna, Warri, and PortHarcourt refineries without any head way.

Unfortunately, no one has been arrested for deceiving the nation and frittering away such a humongous sum of money in the name of rehabilitating the oil refineries in the country.

Lambasting the National Assembly for failing in its constitutional role of checkmating the misplaced spending of the executive arm of the government, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, a human rights activist and convener of a pro-democracy, Concerned Nigerians, charged citizens to show more concern about the quality of those seeking legislative seats at the federal level in 2023.

He claimed, in a chat with Saturday Vanguard, that the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives played the ostrich on the frivolous spendings on other sovereign states by the Federal Government, because they were imposed as firsts among equals by the executive and the powers-that-be in the ruling party.

“It’s unfortunate that the President purchased N1.145bn vehicles for Niger Republic when ASUU is on strike.

“This depicts the parody of a nation that we live in, because nothing else explains this in any form.

“Also, the irony of the Federal Government giving $1m to Afghanistan without appropriation crowns it all by demonstrating the level of impunity in the country.

“The illegalities of the government vis-a-vis the refusal to comply with the doctrine of separation of powers guaranteed in Sections (4), (5), and (6) of our Constitution, and the flagrant abuse of the Rule of Law and the Due Process has become characteristics of this current government.

“It’s unfortunate that all these things the government did has indeed set a bad precedence for our democracy.

“This is why we must stop electing weaklings into the National Assembly. As Nigerians are interested in who becomes the President, they must also show interest in who goes to the National Assembly to represent us.

“We must also try as a nation to prevent the executive arm of government from imposing a leadership on the National Assembly as we saw in 2019 when Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila became Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

“Those kind of moves are counter productive for any democracy and does not augur well for checks and balances between the executive and legislative arms of government.

“All these unapproved spendings happen, because of the way politics has been played. Regrettable, they have in no small measure dampened the tenets of democracy in our country.

“It is sad and ironical. However, the citizens must rise up to the occasion to criticise the government the more and hold it accountable to the people,” Adeyanju lamented.

Nevertheless, activists and civil society groups are not alone. Opposition political parties, that are warming up to wrestle power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023, have also joined in condemning the Federal Government’s inclination to spend public fund on other countries without appropriation by the National Assembly. The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), led by a former Kano governor, Engr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, described as absurd the tendency of the Federal Government to recklessly throw taxpayers’ money around while Nigerians are finding it hard to sleep with their two eyes closed.

“It has been tales of woes across the country. The state of the nation is very bad.

“This is not the time to play Father Christmas or Big Brother Africa as charity begins at home. National interest supersedes parochial sentiments when the nation is under siege and its territorial integrity violated with impunity by terrorists, insurgents, bandits and militants as if there is no constituted government in place,” the NNPP spokesman, Agbo Major, told Saturday Vanguard.

He counseled President Buhari to channel the nation’s resources to secure the populace in tandem with Section 24(2)b of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.

“So far, the outgoing APC-led Federal Government has failed woefully in this critical provision of the Constitution it swore to uphold, protect and implement,” the NNPP surmised.

In all of these, what is clear is that Nigerians must begin to ask questions about what would become of them when a loan taken in the name of Nigeria but used to develop facilities in another sovereign state can’t be paid back? One possibility is that China may end up taking over facilities in Nigeria with no consequences to the Niger Republic.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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