by Chinedu Brown
We do appreciate the National Assembly for eventually opening their budget after much pressure from civil societies and patriotic citizens. Even though we are baffled that we had to go through the tough route of protest and serious advocacy to get our darling NASS to yield to our request.
Four years ago, EiE initiated the openNass campaign with five demands/goals. The goals include: Opening of the NASS budget; Replacing of voice voting in NASS with electronic voting; maintaining a functional website and make public the attendance records at plenary; work with the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC) to review and reduce allowances of legislators; Provide an audit for the N1.15 trillion ($5.75 billion) it received from 2005-2014.
It took us four years to achieve goal one, or it took us four years to get NASS to reason with us on this, it would probably take twenty years to achieve all.
The irony of this is that even NASS sees this as a rare feat, hence their congratulatory messages and victory songs, “promise kept” “congratulations Nigerians”. Is NASS playing on our intelligence. We damanded that they account for the monies they received before now; and three other things that is sacrosanct to proper democratic engagement and a system that is inclusive of the people, and then they gave us one out of five, then took to the street to celebrate obvious hypocrisy.
They were quick to announce this as a victory for the 8th assembly, and they never deem it fit to to give us reasons why they have not considered other goals or demands nor say anything about it. They just moved on, to NASS, OpenNass is just about opening the details of their budget and that is all. I imagined them saying, “Let us give them this, to remove their attention from others, and then we would move on and they too would”.
Should we be thanking our dear National Assembly for giving us access to their budget, perhaps it is an unusual privilege we asked for, should we take to the street to celebrate our dear NASS for considering partial accountability after 18 years of return to democracy and four years of intense advocacy to get them to do just one out of five.
But NASS should know that with this, we are light years behind those that initiated the system we claim to practice. Why are we just celebrating what we should have been done with before now, do we have to enforce basic accountability on government insitutions before they realize that it is their duty. This is exactly the reason why NASS considered this as a feat, because they do not ever see accountability as a tradition, as a democratic culture or as an indispensable feature of democracy.
Thank you NASS for making us realize that we still have a long way to go.