Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday railed against unbridled corruption that allegedly pervades the National Assembly, calling on President Buhari to step in.
The former leader said the nation’s top lawmaking body missed an opportunity to reform itself when it ‘ganged up’ against a whistleblowing lawmaker.
“If the Judiciary is being cleaned, what of the National Assembly which stinks much worse than the Judiciary?” Mr. Obasanjo queried.
Mr. Obasanjo, who led Nigeria twice from 1976-1979 and again from 1999-2007, said the lawmakers have become ruthless and shameless about their behaviour, a condemnable act he said Nigerians should no longer tolerate.
“They are blatant in their misbehaviour, cavalier in their misconduct and arrogant in the misuse of parliamentary immunity as a shield against reprisals for their irresponsible acts of malfeasance and/or outright banditry,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “We should not continue to live with the impunity and corruption of the National Assembly.”
The blistering attack was part of a speech he delivered at a forum in Lagos on Wednesday afternoon, during which he chafed the Nigerian parliament as “a den of corruption” controlled by “a gang of unarmed robbers.”
House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, told PREMIUM TIMES he didn’t immediately have a response for Mr. Obasanjo’s attacks, which were delivered with a devastating gusto.
In his speech, Mr. Obasanjo took serious issues with the constituency projects proposed annually by lawmakers.
Mr. Obasanjo joined other critics who have perennially rubbished the purpose of the projects as a conduit for channelling public funds into the pockets of individual lawmakers.
“These constituency projects are spread over the budget for members of the National Assembly for which they are the initiators and the contractors directly or by proxy and money would be fully drawn with the project only partially executed or not executed at all,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
During his administration, he said lawmakers frustrated his efforts to open up the budgetary process of the parliament to make it more efficient and less corrupt.
“Look at how re-current budget of the National Assembly with the so-called constituency projects has ballooned since the inception of this democratic dispensation.
“What were their budgets in the 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015? The revelation was both alarming and scandalous. Once, when I was President, I asked outside auditors, both normal and forensic, to audit the account of the National Assembly, they frustrated it on the basis of separation of power.
“They claimed they had oversight responsibility for their corruption and misdemeanour and nothing can be done. It is like asking a thief to watch over himself,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
The former president implored Mr. Buhari to investigate all financial transactions conducted under the intervention programs in recent years.
An audit of these projects, which constitute a huge drain of taxpayers’ money, will uncover incontrovertible evidence of corruption to nail a good number of legislators, Mr. Obasanjo said.
“The president should ride on the crest of the popularity of what is happening in the judiciary to set up a highly technical team of incorruptible investigators to look into the so-called constituency projects of the past and the present and bring culprits to book.”
The former president also queued behind suspended lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin, in his unfolding confrontation with the leadership of the House.
Mr. Obasanjo said it was wrong for lawmakers to gang up against Mr. Jibrin for being the lone voice against alleged sharp practices in the House.
There has been no love lost between Mr. Obasanjo and the National Assembly for several years.
The latest attack came two years after the former leader came down hard on the lawmakers, describing the parliament as an assemblage of looters.
In January 2016, he wrote a letter to Mr. Dogara and Senate President Bukola Saraki, accusing them and their colleagues of profligacy and lawlessness amidst a scorching economic crisis.
An attack he directed at the legislature in June was immediately rebuffed by lawmakers who said he was picking on them for rejecting heavy bribes he allegedly offered them to procure a third-term in office.