From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senators and members of the House of Representatives who, until the recent upsurge in bandits’ attacks, visited various States of the Federation, have made a sudden U-turn.
Many chairmen and members of the standing Committees in the two chambers, have abandoned oversight visits to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) domiciled outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The function of the National Assembly sits on a tripod-lawmaking, representation and oversight. Since the upsurge in bandits’ activities, only one aspect of their function has been effectively carried out.
Beside lawmaking, many senators and members of the House of Representatives, have not visited their constituencies over fear of being kidnapped or killed.
Every year, over N10 billion is reportedly budgeted by the National Assembly for Committee exercises and oversight functions. However, there have been controversies over alleged non-release of funds to the various Committees to carryout their oversight functions.
The key committees which get direct funding from the Senate and the House of Representatives include Public Account, Rules and Business, Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Public Petitions, Media and Publicity, and Services.
A Senate committee chairman and a former governor in one of the Northern States, told Daily Sun in confidence that many senators and members of the House of Representatives have repeatedly declined any invitation to embark on oversight visits to various states on oversight visits.
He said they have cited bad roads, insecurity and lack of funds as major excuses. The lawmaker said the recent attack on an Edo senator, Clifford Ordia, by bandits, has further heightened their fears that anyone could be a victim.
The ranking senator said until security improves, heads of the various MDAs, will continue to spend funds appropriated by the National Assembly without any proper scrutiny by members of both chambers.
The former governor revealed that some of the agencies, which, hitherto, funded some of the oversight visits, were unwilling to release funds for purchase of air tickets, hotel accommodation and other financial commitments involved.
The senator said: “You know that I head a critical Committee of the Senate. We have not really embarked on any oversight visit to any state. We have proposed several visits, but in the end, we cancel it. This is a common thing right now.
“There are two issues here. The MDAs are supposed to, ordinarily, fund the trips. As I speak, they’ll (heads of MDAs) tell you that there are no funds to get our tickets and book our hotels. They’re also supposed to pay some honorarium. But right now, they said there is no money.
“We have cried to the leadership, but it appears that they’re also in their own financial crisis. Without money we can’t embark on any oversight visit. Maybe things will improve soon. But, for now, we just wait and pray that things improve.”