N’Assembly plans to spend N159m on Democracy Day

Nigeria: Despite the global financial meltdown, the National Assembly may spend N159m to mark the 10th anniversary of the return of democracy to Nigeria on Friday. It was gathered on Sunday that the week-long event, which begins on Thursday, would feature lectures, symposia, awards and a gala night. For example, certificates, memorabilia and plaques will gulp N10m and the gala night, N2m.

A proposal for the events, it was gathered, was being handled by a director in the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Nasiru Arab.

Details of the expenditure also showed that N25m will be spent to produce 5,000 copies of the National Assembly year book and N15m on 5,000 handbooks.

However, it was learnt that a tripartite committee comprising the National Assembly management, the Senate and the House of Representatives would implement the programme.

A source told one of our correspondents that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, heads the committee.

The source said that Arab was enthusiastic to make the celebration “a huge success because it is going to be his last public outing before his retirement from the service.”

When asked on preparations for the event, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, said Nigerians should not scream over the financial implications of such a celebration, rather they should look at what would be achieved.

He said it was an event that called for a review of the past 10 years of democracy in the country, stressing that it would provide the planners of the events, the opportunity to look into areas that needed to be seriously addressed.

Eyibo said the financial meltdown should not discourage Nigerians from celebrating a milestone in the nation’s democratic experience, stressing that this was the first time in the country’s history that democracy spanned 10 years.

Eze, who admitted that the committee met last Thursday and asked the secretariat to draw the estimate, added that the occasion was not for merry-making.

He said, “The occasion is not a bash. If not because of the significance to us in Nigeria – 10 years of uninterrupted democratic rule – it is not something others would want to celebrate.

“The budget has not even been drawn up. I can assure you that the amount you are calling is strange and we don’t have that kind of money. We met last Thursday and asked the secretariat to give us the estimate.”

Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties on Sunday declared a one-week of mourning for democractic practice in Nigeria, saying the country was dangerously sliding into a one party state.

The CNPP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said after reviewing the democratic experiment started on May 29, 1999, it came to an inevitable conclusion that the last 10 years could only be classified as “10 Locust years.”

The conference said after reviewing the core ingredients of democracy, it came to the conclusion that the principles of popular government had taken flight from the country

“It is our considered view that indeed Nigerians cannot in all honesty claim to be practicing democracy, when the people’s votes do not count, nor do we have government by the people and for the people; at best we can claim that we are under civil rule,’ it said.

The CNPP added that the result of an opinion poll conducted among Nigerian on whether or not democracy should be celebrated or mourned, indicated that 78 per cent of the respondents voted for the latter.

The statement reads in part, “78 per cent of those sampled gave a damning answer that they were mourning democracy, that there was nothing to rejoice for, when they were not part of decision making, since their votes did not count”, the statement read.

“To them, this is not the democracy Chief M.K.O.Abiola, Maj.-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Bobo Nwosisi, Baguda Kaltho and dozens of Nigerians died fighting for.

“They recall the high expectations and aspirations of Nigerians in getting the military back to the barracks and how those expectations were smashed by ex-president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

“They lament the death of Chief Bola Ige, Chief Harry Marshal, Chief A.K.Dikibo, Chief Ogbonna Uche, the over 400 that died during the Jos North Local Government election and a host of others too numerous to mention, the hunger in the midst of unprecedented oil receipt, the collapsed infrastructure and monumental corruption.”

The CNPP also said it regretted that despite a whopping N85tn realized between 1999 and 2008 from the sale of the nation’s crude oil , the federal and state governments had failed to solve the problems in the Niger Delta; provide electricity and good roads; and make education as well as health care accessible to the people.

It said the results of government’s poor performance were the crisis in the Niger Delta and the despondency in the land.

The conference further said that Nigerians bemoaned that the little hope raised when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua assumed office on May 29, 2007 had vanished.

It added that “ the wide gulf between the President’s pronouncement of Seven Point Agenda and inaction, the cold water he poured on war against corruption and the emerging dictatorship emanating from the controversial electoral bills he presented to the National Assembly,” were the reasons why Nigerians had lost hope in his administration.