EXCLUSIVE: Saraki replies Obasanjo, promises to cut waste, fight corruption in National Assembly

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

The President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, has formally replied a letter ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to the National Assembly on January 13, accusing the country’s federal lawmakers of corruption, greed, lawlessness and impunity.

In his reply, dated January 29, and exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Saraki responded to Mr. Obasanjo’s concern, saying the 8th National Assembly under his leadership was already taking deliberate steps to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions and ensure prudent management of resources.

“This is to ensure that we plug all leakages and minimize waste across our expenditure systems,” the Senate president said in the two-page letter.

“Likewise, the 8th National Assembly has made the issue of plugging leakages and cutting wastages in our public expenditure system a major priority that should not be toyed with. This may have happened in the past but it will not happen with us.”

The former president had in his letter, addressed to Mr. Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, accused the lawmakers of fixing and earning salaries and allowances far above what the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission approved for them.

He also alleged that most of the 109 senators and 369 members of the House of Representatives were receiving constituency allowances without maintaining constituency offices as the laws required of them.

He faulted the plans by the lawmakers to acquire new exotic cars for themselves, saying, “Whatever name it is disguised as, it is unnecessary and insensitive.”

He advised that “a pool of a few cars for each chamber will suffice for any Committee Chairman or members for any specific duty.”

“The waste that has gone into cars, furniture, housing renovation in the past was mind-boggling and these were veritable sources of waste and corruption,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “That was why they were abolished. Bringing them back is inimical to the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.”

But in his response, Mr. Saraki told the former president that the lawmakers were fully aware of the challenges the nation was facing, saying, “As leaders with a duty, we will not disappoint Nigerians in their yearnings for a more transparent public expenditure system.”

On corruption, Mr. Saraki said the National Assembly was working with President Muhammadu Buhari to stem the menace in the country.

According to him, the legislature was already overhauling its oversight functions to make it more effective in exposing corruption in federal ministries, departments and agencies.

“We are hand in glove with the president on this matter and this is why we are overhauling our oversight functions to make it more effective in exposing corruption in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies,” the senate president said.

“We recognize the hard work our anti-corruption agencies are putting into this fight.

“The Senate is resolved to support them to perform their duty effectively by providing them with adequate funding where necessary, as their work in integral to our oversight responsibility.”

Mr. Obasanjo had written the National Assembly to amplify widespread concerns that federal lawmakers were insensitive to the economic hardship facing their country, and had continued to live in opulence at taxpayers expense.

Even as the Senate President’s letter travelled to Mr. Obasanjo, the federal lawmakers were taking delivery of exotic cars for themselves even when the nation’s monetisation policy forbids them from doing so.

The acquisition of the cars was also done in disregard of the advice of the former president urging the lawmakers to discard the plan.

The National Assembly is yet to make details of its 2016 budget public despite widespread calls on them to emulate the other arms of government – the executive and the judiciary – and do so.

Read Mr. Obasanjo’s January 13 letter here.

See Mr. Saraki’s letter below.

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