- …Laments emphasis on legislative expenses
SENATOR Rose Oko (PDP Cross River North) yesterday said the National Assembly budget was not only open but accessible to all contrary to claims in some quarters that the budget is being shrouded in secrecy.
She wondered why there was so much emphasis on the National budget without same to other agencies in the executive arm of government.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, against the backdrop of public outcry over secrecy in National Assembly budget,the senator asked Nigerians to direct their searchlight on the larger chunk of the budget rather than that of the legislature, which she noted,was only N115 billion.
Senator Oko, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Societies Organisations, said: “The National Assembly budget is a one-line budget like that of the judiciary, like that of INEC ,like even some of the statutory allocations to agencis like TETFUND, UBEC and things like that.”
“It worries me that there are so much emphasis on N115 billion out of N6 trillion and that we still have N5,885 billion out there and that nobody is bothering about this,” she added.
Although, Oko said no one has asked the National Assembly to breakdown its budget,she,however, said the legislature would not hesitate to do break down its allocation if requested to do so.
“National Assembly can break down the budget for all to see but nobody has asked that these things should be broken down”,she said.
Senator Oko added: “For goodness sake, the National Assembly must be held accountable for what it receives but for goodness sake,let us begin to pay attention to the larger picture which is so much money out there.
“People must know that even if you collapse the entire budget of the National Assembly, which is a N115 billion,that even if you say don’t have the National Assembly again, it doesn’t solve the problem of corruption of almost 99 percent of the budget that is still out there.
“The National Assembly will do what it needs to do to make sure that we have an open system but let us ensure that where most of the money is,that due process is also followed and that we can plug all the loopholes and the gaps that continue to drain this country away.”
Commenting on last year’s xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the recent deportation of some Nigerians from the United Kingdom,Senator Oko asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ask the governments of the affected countries to handle the issues without bias.
“We are aware of the situation in South Africa, where there are xenophobic feelings and reaction, which has led to sometimes,the killings of Nigerians,the recent one being a Nigerian that was killed while being arrested.
“It’s a situation that our committee has continued to busy itself with. We will continue to speak out and request the Minister of Foreign Affairs to treat the matter as it should be,to give it more indept look at it should be,”she added.
Speaking more on the deportation, she said: “We need to look at the merit of the whole issue and we are saying from our committee point of view,we are not saying that Nigerians who are illegally abroad should not be deported,but what we are saying is that in deporting them,all due process must be followed.
“For instance,the recent deportation of some Nigerians from the United Kingdom,we said Nigeria has entered an MoU with the UK on the deportation of Nigerians, one of which is to ensure that they have a place to come back to here and that they have exhausted all legal rights and avenues of staying back in the UK and that they are physically fit among others.
“We said once you have fulfilled all these and Nigerians are there illegally,you can now deport them.
“So,it is the issue of treating them fairly,it is the issue of not infringing on their fundamental human rights as human beings that we are concerned about.
“But of course,if there are Nigerians who are illegally abroad, we cannot do much to say that you can’t deport Nigerians,” she stressed.