Since the National Assembly (NASS) approved N37billion in the 2020 budget for the renovation of the NASS complex, there have been arguments over the appropriateness or otherwise of the amount.
As opinions on the issue oscillate, various camps or divides are being formed in defence of their respective positions the lawmakers have insisted that the humongous sum for the project wasn’t misplaced. As the debates and arguments surge furiously on all sides, there seems to be no meeting point on the issue.
When the NASS legislators sacrificed their annual vacation to approve the 2020 budget, some thought it was done squarely for national interest and to return the country to the January to December budget cycle. They were hailed for a sacrificial act. But their real intentions were discovered with their insertion of N37 billion in the budget.
It is difficult to understand how the federal lawmakers arrived at the figures without a deep reflection the nation’s battered economy which has always been at the butt of global economic rankings. Is it not surprising that despite the belt-tightening homily by President Muhammadu Buhari, the lawmakers could still propose such a prodigious amount for the renovation of the NASS complex?
It seems the NASS lawmakers who claimed to understand Nigeria’s economic problems in their 2019 election campaigns, have suddenly lost touch of what this nation of over 180 million people is experiencing. Why have they chosen to close their eyes to the economic realities and shameful waste of our resources?
Although current oil prices appear favourable, where were these lawmakers when the World Bank forewarned that Nigeria’s economy could be at great risk should oil prices fall to the level they were in 2016? Besides, in arriving at the decision to spend that much on the renovation of the NASS complex, the lawmakers could have considered our rising debt profile and the amount used to service it. Why did these factors fail to feature in their debate?
The truth is what the lawmakers are asking for is more than an upgrade. It is an outright reconstruction or rebuilding of the complex. That is why when Nigerians criticized the proposal, the criticisms were dismissed, especially by the senators. Anyone who has seen the NASS structure in Abuja of recent would agree that the edifice is not doesn’t require such volume of renovation or reconstruction.
This is not the first time federal lawmakers have been criticized by Nigerians for their spending habits in a dwindling economy like ours. A few months ago, senators where criticized over the plan to purchase SUVs that would cost the nation N5.5billion.Those vehicles were purchased in the face of cheaper alternatives. It is sad that these federal legislators, rather than act in ways that would benefit the country economically, indulge in wastes that have always earned them storms of criticisms.
Our federal lawmakers have to purge themselves of the arrogance of power and denigration of the opinion of Nigerians as such arrogance arouses the anger of Nigerians.
Since the advent of the present administration, there have been excessive dependence on foreign and domestic borrowings.The question the legislators ought to ask is whether it is profitable to borrow, not for the development of the nation, but for white elephant projects that add no value to the economy such as the one the reconstruction or renovation of the NASS Complex.
It is better to invest such money more widely in small scale businesses that can get several Nigerians employed than expend it on an unbeneficial single project. The controversy clearly indicates that we haven’t got our priorities right.