The Emergency Powers: The Fruit is Corruption, Nepotism, Whimsicality and Authoritarianism
I have read the points made by proponents of sweeping Emergency Powers to the President on the economy and wondered whether supporting an administration one helped into power is synonymous with mortgaging ones brain and conscience in the name of partisanship. I must admit though that there are others that are backing the “Power Demand” of the President based on pure conviction and their analysis of the economic situation. Those that are backing the policy based on conviction are the focus of my piece. The usual bunch of see no good, hear no good and appreciate no good in President Buhari are also not part of my focus.
The “Sweeping Emergency Powers” sought by the President will only breed corruption, nepotism, whimsicality and authoritarianism in our polity. The President is not asking for amendment to laws that are impeding economic development. He is asking for powers to UNITARILY determine what is good at any point in time. That is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. This is democracy and all democratic norms and ethos must be promoted. Anything that will abridge democratic principles must be thrown away without a second thought.
Let us consider a few areas where the President is asking for Sweeping Powers;
Procuement Process: the economic team through the President is asking that laid down procedures should be abridged to enable the President through his appointees bypass the checks and balances in procurement. What fuels corruption more than procurement? Governance is a continuum and the framers of the procurement law in their wisdom enshrined certain provisions to protect the public exchequer from looters. Some have argued that the integrity of the President is enough to ensure there is no corruption if he gets the power, but the truth of the matter is that there are so many “little men” around the President exercising powers beyond their mandates and the President has not called them to order. In any case, if in the future we have a corrupt President and we have already given the presidency such sweeping powers, how do we get out of the mess? Let us think of institutions first before personalities.
2.Virement of Budgetary Allocation to Projects without recourse to National Assembly: this will breed corruption, nepotism and whimsicality. Budgets are passed by the National Assembly based on the conviction of the legislature that they are prudent, needed and probably as an equalizer to developmental lop-sidedness. Imagine the NASS passing a budget that contained N40bn for second Niger bridge or the same amount for construction of a new dam in Shiroro, then all of a sudden, the President’s economic team decides that the funds should be channelled to Jos for another project without justifying same to the Nigerian people through their representatives. This will undermine the effective of NASS and destroy the confidence of the masses in the democratic process.
3.Sale and Lease of Government Assets: this request is not only ridiculous but smacks of a well-orchestrated contraption to auction off national assets to individuals and groups without anybody asking questions. For those supporting the Sweeping Powers, this will give the President the authority to sell off Nigeria’s stake in institutions like NLNG, Refineries, Bulk Storage facilities, etc. In fact, the President can even wake up tomorrow and decides in his wisdom that NNPC should be leased or sold to Kelechi Jeff Eme without anybody asking him questions. Is this the kind of power we want for our President? Look beyond President Buhari and consider the institution of the presidency. More importantly, there are political sharks and hyenas that are around the corridors of power. There are luminary looters of the treasury. It is not inconceivable that they could have their surrogates in the Economic Team and many strategic agencies. This scenario will breed festering corruption.
4.UBEC and Counterpart Funding: the framers of the constitution were clear in their minds when the 50% counterpart funding clause was added to the law. The objective is to ensure that monies meant for basic education are not looted by the states. Our experience so far is that the governors have looted their states. So why give them the UBEC fund to loot? They are aware that they will not be in full control of the counterpart funded UBEC, hence they abandoned it. Some states have accessed their UBEC funds and we can see the benefits. The objective of the UBEC will be defeated if the President is given sweeping powers to whimsically release funds to corrupt governors to loot. I see this as an attempt to entice governors to mandate their National Assembly members to avail the President, the Sweeping Powers. If this nation wrecking law is passed, the governors will seek for similar powers in their states. Look beyond President Buhari and focus on the institutions. A sworn enemy against corruption should not be seeking such license.