The rejection, by principal officers of the National Assembly, of the housing facilities being built for them, underlines the wastage of public resources that has become an administrative routine in government circles. It also buttresses the fact that members of the ruling class are largely responsible for the bloated cost of governance that stultifies the country’s growth.
Sadly, the federal government appears incapable of finding a clean and acceptable way around the housing of key officers of the national legislature, 14 years into the present republic. Rather, every time new officers are elected, government goes into a spending spree either by purporting to build new houses, renovating existing ones with stupendous amounts or monetising the houses to the recipients, all in a vicious circle and in a manner that portrays endless financial rigmarole.
The incumbent presiding officers, namely, Senate President David Mark, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker, House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha who rejected the facilities cited security concerns and delay in the provision of infrastructure, for doing so. Intriguingly, the housing facilities being built by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were sited at Maitama extension now known as Goodluck Jonathan District behind the Lungi military formation.
Curiously too, the officers concerned are already accommodated at the Apo Legislative Quarters which suitability has also been supposedly undermined by security concern. The consequence is that the facilities are to be downgraded to guest houses while a new site has been acquired at the Three Arms Zone for the construction of the same structures for the presiding officers, notwithstanding the huge amount of money already expended on the rejected facilities estimated originally to cost about N3 billion.
This is a typical Nigerian story – one of gross irresponsibility and self-interest over and above the interest of the country and its people. This development is reprehensible, and calls for a fundamental review of government’s monetisation policy under the broad rubric of privatisation embarked upon by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
The interrogation of the subversion of government policies by agents of government who ought to play by the rule of law is necessary. So also, the pervasive culture of profligacy should be questioned. For example, it was initially gazetted that the official quarters of the presiding officers of the National Assembly should not be sold. Yet, previous presiding officers sold the official quarters to themselves under the guise of the monetisation policy.
It is worth recalling that former Speaker, House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh was impeached ostensibly for alleged inflated cost of renovation of her official quarters. Is it not ironical that government that set out to monetise benefit-in-kind of public officials would start anew the construction of housing facilities in a ridiculous policy summersault?
The rationale for monetisation as spelt out in the Federal Ministry of Finance Circular in July 2003 was to facilitate ownership of house ahead of retirement; reduce waste and abuse of public facilities; minimise capital expenditure as well as cost of maintenance of public facilities; reduce cost of rent; promote a culture of maintenance and discipline in the use of public facilities and save resources for use in capital projects. Critics of the monetization project had called into question the feasibility of the exercise on the ground that those saddled with the task of implementation could sabotage the process and, more fundamentally, cost-benefit analysis was not carried out in quantitative terms. In a manner of speaking, the chicken has come home to roost.
The attitude of the incumbent state actors with regard to state policies amounts to a subversion of government plans. What makes public servants more important than the people whom they are elected to serve? What has become of the monetisation policy? Has it been jettisoned and consigned to the garbage bin of history? Does the massive construction of official houses for so-called presiding officers of the National Assembly who bought over the houses that were initially built with hard earned public funds not amount to hypocrisy and revisionism of the monetisation policy? All considered, it is the common business-as-usual attitude and the perpetration of a culture of waste. It is deplorable.
The FCT authorities should discontinue the waste of public resources on another site for substitute facilities. And above all, it is high time the expedient colonial policy carried over to the post-independence era was jettisoned. In the colonial era, it was necessary to offer a basket of incentives to expatriate administrators who were reluctant to serve in the tropics.
Unfortunately, the post-colonial elite took over those incentives and reified them within the civil/public service. It is thus apposite to pose the question: what sort of logic is it that governs the allocation of 100 percent of basic salary to housing, 75 percent to furniture, 350 per cent to car loan and 25 per cent to personal accident allowance among others? The monetisation policy should be revisited, reviewed and backed by the necessary legislation to avoid the free-ride of self-seeking public officials.
Source: The Guardian
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