Epunchng - Most read newspaper in Nigeria Sunday, August 13, 2017 - Page 15

Sunday crossfire August 13, 2017 15 Nigerians suffering, reps enjoying — SERAP The Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, tells TOBI AWORINDE that the initial acquisition of 200 new cars by lawmakers in the House of Representatives during a recession is a misplacement of priorities W  hat do you think about the 200 lawmakers of the House of Representatives taking possession of brand new cars, despite the country being in a recession? The first thing I would say is that our democracy since 1999 has come to mean that once you say you are elected to serve the people, it’s like it is the people that must serve you – and that is quite unfortunate. That members of the House of Representatives would think of their own interests and benefits first, above the interest of Nigerians, whom they claim they are representing, is most unfortunate. Now, such a humongous amount has been devoted to the supply of new vehicles to our legislators in an economy and environment where common Nigerian workers are owed salaries of a minimum of about four months and pensioners are owed pensions running into billions of naira. I think it is not important or compulsory that the legislators must, at every term, have new cars. I know that the lifespan of a new car is about five years (minimum), so if the legislators are really progressive- minded and forward-looking, they would not be talking about renewal or replacement of cars almost every new year. And that, to me, cannot be in the interest of Nigerians, who are already victims of corruption; who suffer and bear the brunt of the degradation that our economy has been subjected to by those who are in power. I think if their argument and the reason some of them have not been able to receive their cars is because they say things are hard, things are even harder for Nigerians. Nigerians in their multitudes cannot afford three square meals a day. What should concern the legislators are the things and measures that would impact on the economic and social life of Nigerians, rather than matters that border on their emolument of office. Let me tell you: We are about 180 million Nigerians. I believe that to be one of the 360 members of the House of Representatives is a sufficient privilege for anybody that says he is a legislator. It is not all of us that will be legislators and, once you’re a legislator, you should consider yourself lucky in the midst of 180 million Nigerians. When you talk about public service, a true lawmaker will forget about personal aggrandisement. Once you say you’re serving the public and your intention is to be personally aggrandised, then you cannot be said to be serving the public interest. That is the way I see it. How essential are these cars to public service by a federal lawmaker? I don’t see any serious connection between a cars purchased on their behalf. What is your response to that? If their argument is that they are being treated with levity, I don’t see that argument as being well-thought out. What I see is a group of people in the legislative and executive arms of government who are larger- than-life characters. I don’t see that they’re suffering. I don’t think that they’re being treated with levity. The person who has the power of appropriation and, the last time, increased his own budget to several billions of naira cannot be telling the average Nigerian that he is being treated with levity or he’s suffering. Do you see the acquisition of those cars as corruption? I won’t call it corruption. Once you say something is corruption, you must be talking about the violation of a known law. Ethics and laws don’t cover the same ground. 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