774,000 Jobs: NASS must stop private sessions with ministers

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Sir: I refer to the controversial decision by the National Assembly to suspend the employment of 774,000 youths across the country.

The NASS, no doubt, has constitutional oversight functions to ensure that funds budgeted for projects are not only evenly spread, but to also ensure that those projects meet up with specifications and standards.

Over the years, most projects budgeted for roads as Lagos – Benin, Benin – Port Harcourt, Benin – Onitsha, Onitsha – Owerri, Onitsha – Enugu and other federal roads in the north and west, are in sorry states, despite being budgeted for severally and under NASS oversight functions.

The Niger Delta Development Commission has been under the oversight of NASS over the years, yet it is a home of massive corruption.

The forensic audit ordered by the president is being frustrated by the NASS. Yet, our federal lawmakers want us to believe they are genuinely and honestly carrying out oversight functions.

The startling revelation made by the Interim Management Committee on how the NDDC has been milked and siphoned by those we elected into office calls to question the sincerity of the so-called oversight function of NASS over NDDC.

Also, an investigation carried out by Global Development, supported by Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, revealed that locally refined petrol from stolen oil in the bushes in Nigeria is less polluting than petrol that European refineries export to Nigeria.

The laboratory analysis found that SHELL, ExxonMobil Chevron and other major oil companies in Nigeria extract and export up to 2,000,000bpd of high quality, low sulphur Bonny light crude from the Niger Delta, yet very little of it is refined in Nigeria due to the dysfunctional state refineries.

Sadly, 900,000 tons of low grade and toxic fuel made in foreign refineries are sold by government-licensed petrol stations in Port Harcourt and Lagos.

The research found average petrol sold to Nigerians exceeds the EU pollution limit by as much as 204 times, and 43 times more toxic than the black market fuel.

Diesel exceeds the EU sulphur standard by 152 times and 40 times the level of gasoline. All these are occurring under the oversight function of the National Assembly.

The use of these toxic petroleum products is said to be responsible for over 119,000 premature deaths of Nigerian from air pollution yearly.

The air quality in Port Harcourt, Bayelsa, Aba, Onitsha, and Kaduna among other cities is said to have reached a crisis level, resulting in increased cases of asthma, lungs, heart, and respiratory diseases, while NASS that claims to be carrying out oversight functions on such activities.

The ‘oversight function’ by the National Assembly has become a cliché by which it enriches members at the expense of the poor masses they claim to represent. There is no honest oversight function being done.

Nigerians are tired of the consistent accusations of project hijack and interference, budget-padding or budget rearrangements, and reallocations, which features them.

Last week’s saga on meeting between the Senate and House of Representatives’ Joint Committee on Labour and Employment with Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity over the 774000 jobs is one of such.

These jobs are meant for the poor youths to cushion the effect of poverty and Coronavirus (COVID-19), but the conduct of the members under the pretense of oversight function is very embarrassing, especially the invitation of the minister to a private session.

Many ministers and heads of MDAs have attended such meetings to the detriment of would-be benefiting masses.

The NASS should end all forms of secret meetings on projects, contracts, and funding among others.  As Keyamo said, such meetings should be in the public, since it is called public hearing. They invited a minister for the public hearing and then turn it to a secret meeting!

The NASS should release the names of the 15 percent of the 774,000 jobs allocated to members to ensure they do not ghost names.

President Muhammadu Buhari must stand very firm in his fight against corruption in all the three arms of government, while civil society organizations and all well-meaning Nigerians should resist all forms of secret meetings by NASS when discussing funds allocations for projects so as to ensure that they are not hijacked.

Nigerians must stop watching helplessly while corruption, which has denied us the dividends of democracy, continue because until we all resist all forms of corruption in all tiers of government, we will continue to be victims of these oppressors.

Nigeria and Nigerians deserve a better deal.

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