By Oladipupo Mojeed
The war of words between the Gov Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State and the National Assembly over the secrecy of the National Assembly’s budget escalated further yesterday with the governor telling the legislators that resorting to attack on his person will not wish away the issue of transparency.
“It is inconceivable that an important institution, vested by the constitution with representation, lawmaking and oversight powers, has, for at least seven years, ignored the imperative to set an example of transparency, despite being severally urged to do so,” reads part of the statement.
The statement, signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on media and publicity, Samuel Aruwan, noted that even if governor El Rufai “refrains from further commentary on this matter, the genie is already out of the bottle.
“The public will not accept a secretive NASS, or any other branch of government for that matter”.
“Despite the rush to personal attacks on a matter of public policy, we cannot allow the enthronement of the republic of distraction.
“It is important that everyone who is interested in protecting and advancing democratic discourse should stay focused on the issue.
El-rufai pointed out that it is strange that persons entrusted with high offices will justify their abdication of the responsibility to be transparent in such cavalier fashion.
“We don’t believe that most of our esteemed legislators will construe a demand for transparency as aimed at undermining the National Assembly.
“Notwithstanding the intemperate response of the spokesman of the House of Representatives, the demand that the NASS budget be made public will not go away.
“It is not personal, and there is a strong civic constituency that is demanding it.
“The sooner all of us in public life recognised that the game has changed, and that segments of civil society and indeed everyday citizens of Nigeria, are much more aware, astute and advanced than the state of our politics, the better for our democratic health.
“Since the NASS began conceiving its budget as a single-line item, how many legislators, not to mention other citizens, have seen the details of the budget?
“Can anyone recall seeing the spending patterns and details in any published audited accounts of NASS recently?
The governor maintained that by contrast, all state governments present their audited accounts to their state Houses of Assembly as required by law.
“The federal statutory agencies that NASS cites as not having their budgets reflected in the National Budget submit details of their budgets to the NASS for review and approval.
“How, in the 21st Century, can we have any national institution that is comfortable with not being subject to any oversight, audit or external scrutiny.
“The constitutional principle of checks and balances was not introduced for purposes of idle luxury, but to ensure that every institution exercises its power in an accountable manner.
El-rufai noted that Kaduna State Government presented details of its security budget, saying what was presented represents the only security vote for the entire government.
“As the figures show, there is no security vote for the Governor of Kaduna State.
“This may be a shock to those used to the notion of security votes as barely disguised slush funds, but we do not operate such a system in Kaduna.
“Our budgets specify what is voted as assistance to security agencies, and its expenditure is properly recorded and accounted for.
“These are not monies given to or spent by the governor.
“If the leaders of the NASS have security votes allocated to or personally collected by them, they might wish to disclose such.
“Our security spending does not operate like the NASS system of sharing public funds in such an opaque fashion that even NASS members do not know how their entire budget is broken down or what the leadership gets as its running costs.”