Reps’ 50 questions

The Nigerian nation never ceases to throw up interesting, sometimes absurd scenarios. The latest of these is the ongoing face-off between the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, over the budget and the state of the economy.

The committee had asked the minister to furnish it with information and answer to a set of 50 questions which the minister obliged the committee. Last week however, the committee, through its chairman, Abdulmumini Jibrin, rejected the minister’s response out of hand, insisting that “some questions were either not answered, partially answered, ignored or completely misunderstood”. Consequent upon this, the minister has been sent another set of 50 questions and mandated to appear before the committee for further questioning.

There is something not quite right in the present face-off. Indeed, it is actually members of the House of Representative Committee on Finance that have questions to answer. While it is true that the minister is the coordinator of the economy, it is also true that she is not alone in ensuring that the economy does not go to the dogs. The House of Representative, through its committee on finance, ought to realize that Nigerians are not fools and cannot be hoodwinked into shifting blames for the parlous state of the economy to the finance minister alone.

How accountable are the lawmakers themselves? How have they been expending the monies allocated to them for constituency projects and oversight functions? What have they to say about the humongous amount being paid out to them every month in salaries and other emoluments, the bulk of which forms part of our recurrent expenditure?
Can these men, in all honesty, wash themselves clean of the hushed allegation making the round that they routinely collect bribe in order to approve ministry budgets and other spending?

We cannot forget the case of Honourable Farouk Lawan. We cannot forget that this is a parliament whose members have been routinely implicated in sundry cases of bribery leading to aborted investigation into corruption cases. Can this House consider itself morally upright enough to ask the minister the so-called 50 questions?

No nation can expect to be great if the leaders will always think that they can always pull the wool over the eyes of the citizenry. For sooner than later, it would be revealed that no matter for how long falsehood may have been travelling, it will take only a small moment for the truth to catch up with it. Nigeria is our collective heritage and we cannot allow a bunch of self-serving people to keep it down in perpetual thrall.

Issachar Odion,

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