29th November, 2012
Mudashiru Obasa, the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Economic Planning and Budget, in this interview with P.M. Assembly Matters, speaks on the reason for the increase in corruption among politicians
As Chairman of the House Committee on Budget, how would you rate the performance of the Lagos State budget in 2012?
Sincerely, I would like to say that after the first quarter of the year, we had a meeting with Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) in May this year and I can tell you that we were not so happy with the performances of the MDAs then. Our ratings were quite different from those of the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning. It improved in the second quarter, maybe the first quarter was not so good because it was the beginning of the year, the revenue might not have come in as expected and some outstanding issues had to be sorted out.
The government has been criticised for poor budget performance…
Well, I don’t know what those people are talking about; look at it from the fact that all the aspects of the state’s economy have been touched. Issues have to be based on the various sectors. For me, we have not neglected any area of the economy.
In terms of the recurrent and capital expenditures, infrastructure have been developed all over the city of Lagos. I am sure if you go round your local government, you will see that development is going on everywhere. Others might not be all that visible such as transportation, health, education and all that. Schools are being built, teachers are being recruited. I don’t know what they base their judgment on.
There is a need for me to add that budgets are just projections, which depend on the revenue of the state. Even the revenue is a projected figure, so it is what we raise from the projection that can be utilised on the capital projects and others. As it is, we can’t say revenue generation has been rosy for the nation and this affects the states as well. So, in view of this, we can’t have it all as projected, but the issue is the performance, and we can only give you a good response at the end of the year.
Looking at the level of corruption now, would you still give the civilian rule any credit compared to the military?
It depends on how you look at corruption. For me, I don’t see the politicians alone as being corrupt. What about the technocrats and the professionals? Look at the civil servants, are they not technocrats? So, who is corrupt, when people say politicians are corrupt, I want to say it depends on how you categorise corruption and you have to analyse the category of the people that are corrupt.
What I’m saying in essence is that we should be able to draw a line when we are talking about corruption so that we can really identify the culprits and those that are disturbing the economy. Until you do that, you are generalising.
People are generally corrupt. When it’s time for election and you go about telling the people to vote for you, they will definitely tax you. When the church has a programme, they will invite the state governor, the Speaker of the House, members of the House of Assembly and local government chairmen and they would be expected to drop some money. The same goes for the mosques; they want you to donate money for their launching and all that and these requests are not provided for in the budget.
But when you fail to drop any money, you would be tagged a bad person and they would be waiting for you to come back in the next election.
Just now, I received a letter from my people in a market in my constituency, threatening me that I have been ignoring their requests and I begin to wonder what they have asked me that I have ignored. So, if you are threatening me in my first year and saying that if I treat your request with levity I would have myself to blame, then what are we talking about?
People generally are corrupt, when there is a naming ceremony, they would come to you for help, when they have weddings, they would come to you. It is when we change our orientation and beliefs in public offices that we are ready for change, but if we continue in this manner, you cannot hold the people in public office responsible.
All over the world, government is not the major employer of labour. All we expect from the government is the environment for job opportunity. That is the problem we should address, so if it is not happening, we should not continue to suppress the economy through our habits.
How will you rate the proposed N4.7 trillion budget of the Federal Government for the year 2013?
Rating the Federal Government budget is not the issue, the performance is what matters and I think we must commend the National Assembly this time around. The members have performed well and they are doing well in their oversight functions because they are the only people that have brought open all the corruption at the federal level.
Even the budget performance, it is the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives that came out to say the 2012 budget is not performing. I think we must commend them because the Finance Ministry has taken the position of the big brother that dishes out whatever it could. It is not the MDAs that are benefiting from the budget, but those that can curry the favour of the ministry. While certain sectors are performing, others are being neglected. Even those that are performing, we are not feeling their impact, we are almost at the end of the year and we heard the budget is performing at 37 per cent. So what happens to the remaining 63 per cent? Why are they refusing to release money for the agencies?
Nigeria is seriously challenged and people are giving diverse suggestions as solution. What is your own suggestion?
It starts with the electorate. We should be able to elect those we believe strongly would serve our interest. Also, we should not make unnecessary demands from public office holders. We must also decentralise our system in terms of allocation. No state should be given allocation, let every state and local government generate its revenue. When people start asking questions, then those in authority would learn to work for the people.
Why do we have the developed countries? It is because they pay their taxes and immediately anything happens, they spring into action and ask questions. But, here, nobody cares, even tenement rates, nobody cares, we go to Abuja every month to collect money, we spend it and we go back again. So, nobody is asking questions.
If you look at our tax structure, you will see that it is only companies that are paying and those who are in organised settings, ministries and government parastatals, and what is the percentage of these people in the whole state? Those paying don’t even care because it is deducted at source.
It is only when we start living on what we can generate that we can be okay and if any state or local government cannot generate what it needs, then let it submit it’s sovereignty to any other state or local government. If we don’t do that, nothing will happen.