The House of Representatives has continued hitting back at the former Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, after her call that members of the National Assembly should serve on a part-time basis, dismissing it on Thursday, as the idle talk of a jobless woman.
Responding to the controversy, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, said Ezekwesili’s persistence on linking the high cost of governance with the budgetary allocation to the National Assembly was a ploy to blackmail the legislature in order to gain public attention.
Ogene said while the House welcomed Ezekwesili’s request for a public hearing on the issues of budget transparency and remuneration of public officials, he, however, warned that such an engagement must be devoid of the “guerrilla tactics of someone plagued by an out-of- office syndrome.”
He accused Ezekwesili of being in the habit of stirring controversies and raising allegations without being able to substantiate her claims.
“There appears to be no let-up in the crave by Ezekwesili to get back into national consciousness, simply by randomly throwing shots anchored on misplaced aggression, in the ardent hope that such mudslinging would elevate her to the status of a moral crusader.
“As an institution, we ought not to be responding to the tirades of Ezekwesili, especially as they are anchored on wrong deployment of figures, weird generalisations and outright falsehood. But as elected representatives, we owe it a duty to the Nigerian people to always seek to conduct our affairs in an atmosphere of openness, candor and fidelity to the truth.
“Indeed, if there is any point we are agreed upon with Ezekwesili or anyone else for that matter, it is for the promotion of transparency in governance and ensuring that democratic institutions of state function optimally for the benefit of all.
“On the basis of this shared vision, the seventh House of Representatives wholeheartedly welcomes her request for a public hearing on the stated ideals. In doing so, however, the former minister must be ready to comply with some basic ground rules, so that we may all not be fooled by the guerrilla tactics of someone plagued by an out-of- office syndrome,” Ogene said.
Ogene who wondered what the motives of the former Vice President of World Bank (Africa) are, said he was curious that a discussion which centred on “cost of governance in Nigeria” had turned into an inquest into the operations of the National Assembly.
“Since it is public knowledge that whosoever wishes to go to equity ought to do so with clean hands, we restate our earlier posers which Ezekwesili conveniently glossed over in her latest statement on this issue, to wit: What is the percentage of the National Assembly’s N150 billion allocation in a budget of N4.9 trillion? Is it right to insinuate that the budgetary allocation for the National Assembly is for “members salaries and allowances,” while deliberately leaving out capital projects component, salaries of legislative aides and the bureaucracy, as well as allied institutions such as Institute for Legislative Studies? What is the total disbursement to the Executive and the Judiciary arms of government over the same eight-year period? If she was not mischievous, why would she elect to believe The Economist, rather than the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) over the issue of salaries of Nigerian public officials?
“For an ex-official of government, who between the 2006 and 2007 federal budgets, superintended over a total of N422.5 billion as Education Minister, what percentage of the public fund was expended by her as recurrent cost? Indeed, answers to these posers are necessary in the build-up to Ezekwesili’s anticipated incarnation as an activist, else she would once again embark on spontaneous flight of fancy, whose major destination is mere ruffling of feathers,” Ogene said.