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Parliamentary Grants Should Be Scrapped – Hon Banmi 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom

CameroonPostline.com — The MP of the Balikumbat Special Constituency in the Northwest Region, Hon. Emmanuel Banmi, has said he is one of those who are advocating the scrapping of the parliamentary grants that are given to MPs in liquid cash every year.

According him, the yearly grants of FCFA 8 million given each MP every financial year, does not fully serve the purpose because the MP ends up using the money to solve the social problems of his or her people.

In this exclusive interview with The Post recently in Yaounde, the soft-spoken MP proposes that development projects worth FCFA 100 million should be put in the budget for each area that an MP represents. Such an arrangement, he says, will bring more development and liberate MPs from the social assault of their constituents and accusations of mismanagement. Read on:

The Post: What is your opinion about micro-project funds that MPs are often accused of mismanaging?

Hon. Banmi Emmanuel: Thank you for raising this question. Parliamentary grants should be scrapped. I will want to state here that I am one of those MPs advocating the scraping of the micro-project money, the infamous, FCFA 8 million. I propose that each MP should be given the opportunity to come up with projects for his constituency worth a hundred million every financial year that will be included into the budget and made sure that these projects are executed. If this is done, for the mandate which is five years, you will realise that a lot of things will go right in this country.

How do you appraise the fact that the draft electoral code was adopted by the CPDM parliamentary group against popular will?

Well, I will beg to disagree with you that the bill was adopted only by the CPDM MPs. As you know, what people don’t know is that the greatest work of the assembly is done in committees.  The plenary is just a day’s work or a few hours work to look into the work that the committee has done.

So, it would be surprising because I was in that committee. I am not a member of the constitutional laws committee but I took part in the debates in that committee to follow up what was unfolding and I was there with other members of the assembly, of other political parties notably the CDU, NUDP and of course, the SDF. They participated from the beginning of the committee’s work right to the adoption of its report.

Most of their proposed amendments were rejected…?

Well, I could equally say that we are in a democracy; you don’t expect that anything you propose must be accepted. But I want to point out that if they are honest, they would say that some of their proposals were taken into consideration. Just like most of the proposals made by CPDM MPs were rejected.

I know of a CPDM MP who submitted more than 20 amendments and only one of them was taken into consideration. So, should we say that No! I would not vote for the law because my amendments were not taken into consideration? What happened on the day of the plenary, to me, was just a drama because it seems to me that the SDF or all those who walked out were just playing to the gallery…

It was because they discovered that the bill had a lot of loopholes that would not guarantee transparency in the electoral process as widely expected. Why did you not join your colleagues to reject the bill?

I have said that in any democratic parliament there is debate. We debate and we vote. Democracy requires that when we debate and vote, you have to respect the vote of the majority. It is unfortunate that they are from the minority, but as we respect their opinion, they have to respect ours.

Walking out when you have participated in the committee, participated in drafting the report that was presented, is baseless.  You can’t say it is only the opposition that defends the aspiration of the people. All of us have been voted by these same people and we defend the points of view of the population as we get the inspiration from them.

You don’t seem to have grown above the so-called party discipline. Why can’t MPs at the National Assembly close ranks and act as people who carry the aspirations of the masses instead of always hearkening to partisan dichotomy?

Please, I am talking as an MP and there were issues that we all agreed upon. The members of the Assembly stood their grounds and the Government had to give in. When you ask us to put into the bill two-round elections, reduce the presidential mandate to five years, introduce the single ballot and limit the term of the presidential mandate to two terms….it was not possible. I am surprised that MPs who put in place the constitution of this nation act that way. It would have been realistic if our colleagues were requesting for a constitutional amendment rather than asking us to put into law unconstitutional provisions.

Is that not what they did in their preliminary objection?

Amendments are entertained only when they must have been tabled in committee. We have to be honest. The constitution is there, the standing orders of the National Assembly are clear. Any proposal wherever it comes from must first be tabled in the committee. They didn’t table any amendment to the effect of constitutional amendment in the committee. So, it was out of mere acting that they put in a preliminary motion that the constitution should be amended. 

When the bill was first tabled we got reports that you people were very angry because of some of its obnoxious articles. We got it that even at the level of the Central Committee; the CPDM MPs raised hell, promising to reject the bill if Government did not change such provisions. What happened that you people suddenly took a u-turn and voted the bill?

I will say outright here that we had certain provisions in that draft law that were not in conformity with our constitution and we made it known to the Government that we would not accept any provision that is unconstitutional. So, saying that we were angry and we suddenly toned down our anger or whatever, I don’t seem to see that. There were things that we changed that were not in conformity with what is supposed to be done.

Are you happy to be a member of a National Assembly that is some kind of powerless in the hands of an overbearing executive?

As a member of the National Assembly I belong to a political party and don’t forget that it is my political party, the CPDM that is governing, that is the Government in power is an emanation from my party. What we ask from the Government is that each time there is a bill, the members of our political party should be associated when they are drafting the bill so that we harmonise our views before it gets to the level of the tabling before the National Assembly.

Tomorrow, those who are opposing will be in power. You vote a Government or you vote an Assembly on the basis of a manifesto and once you are in power, you are bound to apply that manifesto. So, the government is working according to the program that was sold out to the electorate.

What will you say makes you proud that you are an MP?

Just the fact that I am at the service of my people makes me happy. It is not for money, because if it was for money, I would have gone elsewhere.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01342