by Chukwudi Akasike
A former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu and the outgoing Senate President, David Mark, on Monday disagreed on the need for National Assembly to cut its budget in line with the current economic realities in the country.
They spoke at a retreat organised for the Peoples Democratic Party National Assembly members-elect in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
Ribadu had stirred up a hornet’s nest by calling on the lawmakers-elect to make their monthly salaries public and also cut their budgets. His call immediately attracted side talks by the participants which included governors and the leadership of the PDP.
Obviously aware that his advice was not being welcomed by majority of the lawmakers-elect, the former anti-corruption czar, reminded them that they would be going to the National Assembly as the minority.
He said that Nigerians would not support the PDP if they (Nigerians) did not know what was earmarked for the National Assembly and how much a senator or a House of Representatives member earns.
Ribadu, who was the PDP’s Adamawa State governorship candidate for the March 28 election, pointed out that patriotism and quality contributions by members of the PDP in the National Assembly would go a long way in reinventing and preparing the party for a successful comeback in future elections.
He said, “If Nigerians do not know how much is earmarked for the National Assembly or how much money a senator earns, they will not support you. We must understand the pulse or the mood of the nation.
“The first step, therefore, is to open up the National Assembly by ensuring transparency. Public office is what it is; public. Also, at this critical time of austerity, be champions by slashing your own budget.
“My very good friend, Ben Bruce (a senator-elect) has already spoken about this. There are many others already saying it. For you to excel, you must put in extra effort than your colleagues in other parties.”
He stressed that the PDP lawmakers-elect must not only be champions of probity and discipline, they must wage war against corruption in the system and ensure strict compliance with appropriation as well as due process.
Ribadu added, “As legislators, you will be going to the National Assembly as the minority. There is a sense of personal loss no doubt; but there are good opportunities for all and democratic practice in Nigeria.
“Your patriotism and quality contributions as members of the National Assembly will go a long way in reinventing our party and preparing it for a successful comeback in subsequent elections.
“You must demonstrate personal will and commitment towards being above board if you really want to checkmate others. The first charge for you is to be champions of probity in the workings of the National Assembly as well as the Legislature-Executive relations.”
But Mark, who showed his dissatisfaction with Ribadu’s charge, wondered why “every time, people will talk about National Assembly budget.”
Explaining that the budget of the Assembly had always been in public domain, the outgoing President of the Senate argued that Senators and House of Representatives members had always made sacrifices in line with the nation’s economic realities.
“Every time, people will talk about National Assembly budget; for Heaven’s sake, unless you would say you have never seen the national budget, it is a public document. The National Assembly budget is there with every other budget,” he stated in an angry tone.