In continuation of its #OpenNASS campaign, which seeks transparency and accountability in the budget of the National Assembly, civic technology organization, BudgIT, has written to John Odigie-Oyegun, chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, asking him to make a clear commitment to an open legislature in line with the party’s campaign promises.
In the letter signed by its lead partner, Oluseun Onigbinde, BudgIT wondered why the party had suddenly become silence in the face of the increasing call for a growing call for a transparent and accountable National Assembly despite clearly promising during the campaign to fight corruption and encourage openness in all tiers of government.
BudgIt reminds the APC that its “#OpenNASS campaign seeks a breakdown of the N600bn spent by NASS between 2011 until 2014, and full details of the N120bn budgeted for NASS in 2015.”
“We seek, going forward, a National Assembly budget where all details of expenditure are made public and wholly transparent,” the letter read.
“You will agree that this is in tandem with the spirit expressed by the APC in the run-up to the elections. Chief Oyegun, your Party said that none of its cardinal programs would succeed, “’f the current level of corruption and looting going on in the land is allowed to continue.’ Then, the APC was exceedingly vocal, and admirably so, responding to every enquiry and communicating its bold opinions on matters of public interest speedily.
“We are therefore perplexed that now, the same Party which relied on the mandate of the people to attain power at the centre is suddenly silent, refusing to voice its position on the issue of lawmakers’ salaries and allowances, much less publicly side with the Nigerian taxpayer.
BudgIT wondered how the APC intends to fulfill its promise to run a transparent and accountable government if it voice is mute in the growing call for an open legislature.
“How does the APC intend to fulfil its vow to “prevent abuse of executive, legislative and public offices through greater accountability, transparency,” if it chooses to not merely sit on the fence, but distance itself totally from the move towards tangible solutions to a more transparent Legislature?
“Even more debilitating to our country is that the APC chooses to lose its voice at a time when Nigeria is submerged in financial woes. The call for accountability should not end when the votes have been counted; rather, the APC, as a key stakeholder, must now amplify and build on its message, lest this nation remains hostage to wanton corruption,” the letter stated.
BudgIT reminded the APC of its promise as stated in its manifesto to “ensure full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act so that government-held data sets can be requested and used by the media and the public at large, and then published on [a] regular basis.”
It then wondered how sincere the party is to these stated commitment if the APC-led National Assembly is still in court defending a suit challenging the denial of a Freedom of Information request for it to make its budget public.
“Yet the National Assembly, which is currently led by the APC, is using taxpayers’ money to defend Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/435/2015, which denies an FOI request from BudgIT, and prevents the disclosure of the NASS budget to the same public who put your Party in the esteemed position it enjoys today.
“Sir, Nigerians were told that: “APC in Government shall muster the political will to wage strident War against Corruption; otherwise our post-oil-economy will be disastrous.” We hereby ask that you give Nigerians a tangible sign of your commitment to these lofty ideals.
“Now is the time for your Party, the APC, to show she is united with the wishes and aspiration of the people that the NASS budget must be made open immediately.”