Senate President Bukola Saraki Says Poor Oversight By The 7th Senate Was Responsible For Arms Deal Fraud As Senate Reveals Abandoned Projects Cost N7.78trn
Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, yesterday blamed fraud in the arms purchase deal in the Office of the National Security Adviser, under Col. Sambo Dasuki, on failure of 7th National Assembly led by the duo of Sen. David Mark and Hon. Aminu Tambuwal to carry out oversight functions properly.
Saraki maintained that the legislature, which would have carried out oversight to ensure that the money appropriated for arms purchase was strictly used for the purpose it was meant for, failed in such responsibility.
Giving his remarks, after debates on a motion entitled ‘Abandonment of Projects: A Menace to Development in Nigeria’, Saraki, however, vowed that the present National Assembly, which he heads, would not allow a repeat of the development. “This issue about Dasuki and the arms deal is a failure of the lack of oversight on the part of the National Assembly.
If we had done our job, this would not have happened. “I think we shied away from our responsibility. This issue is an indictment of the National Assembly. “It is our duty to ensure that projects are not abandoned, and that funds appropriated (for them) are well used.
This 8th Assembly must play its role. “I want to thank you very much for your contributions that we have all added today. But really, distinguished colleagues, I think we have shied away today from one of the main reasons because some of the projects are duly appropriated in the budget, and embarked by various ministries and agencies. “And the motion, whether we like it or not, is a partial indictment on us in the National Assembly; and we must accept that because these projects that we are talking about, under Section 88 of the Constitution, 1(a)(b), it is our responsibility to oversight these functions and these projects to ensure they are not abandoned, and to ensure that the funds appropriated are properly addressed.
“I want us in this 8th Senate to ensure that our committees carry out proper oversight, and we, the leadership, we are going to ensure that we, too, find a way to make sure that committees do their work on oversight because, truly, that is the bottom line to this. “Even the current investigation going on in the National Security Adviser’s (NSA) office also, whether we like it or not, in a way, too, again, the oversight function of the National Assembly is brought to question.
We must play our roles in the area of oversight because, if we don’t do it, at the end of the day, this is what we will get. “Please, distinguished senators of the 8th Senate, I want us to make a difference -that we should really carry out our oversight functions, and we will put a system in place, where we will be asking to the committees to give us the situation of their functions and the oversight that they are doing so that this should be things of the past, and we should move forward in providing a new way by which the National Assembly carries out its functions,” Saraki said.
Leading debates earlier, the sponsor of the motion, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who pointed out that about N7.78 trillion was needed to complete ongoing projects across the country by the federal and state governments, added that 11,886 projects have been abandoned. Although he did not give the period within which the said projects were abandoned, Nazif noted that the practice was wrong, and, therefore, resolved to take drastic action in order to put an end to the ugly trend.
He observed that public infrastructures account for most of the abandoned projects, and that the said projects were awarded based on considerations given to friends, even when they do not possess any technical knowledge of the project. He blamed the practice on inconsistency of government policies and wondered why new governments were fond of abandoning old projects when they come into office. “Previous governments embarked on weekly charade of awarding new contracts or re-awarded old ones at higher prices during its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.
The desire for ego credit taking, rather than genuine service delivery was behind the drive for new projects and abandoning of old ones. “Abandoned projects fuel corruption and reduce public confidence and trust in governance. Factors such as poor planning, inadequate budgeting, delay in releasing project funds, which led to project executing delay, increased contract cost variation and contract splitting in order to give jobs to friends are the major reason for projects abandonment,” he noted.
After a robust debate on issues raised in the motion, the Senate resolved, and urged the government, to set up a project performance and monitoring task force to severely punish contractors who collect mobilization funds and disappear. The Red Chamber said the move will help to check unbridled wastage and corruption in abandoned projects and by extension, serve as a deterrent to others.
-Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja