22nd November, 2010
I am really sorry I have to bring this up again, but my conscience, frustration andÂ disgust will not allow me to rest. I have written several times about this issue,Â but because the situation is getting worse, I still have to write about it.
Whilst in Abuja just this week, I learnt that each Nigerian Senator had justÂ collected 42 million Naira as their salaries, expenses and whatever. Each Member ofÂ the House of Representative had just collected 36 Million Naira. These are perÂ quarter, which means each Senator gets (I will not say â€œearnâ€ because judging fromÂ the very low quality services they provide to Nigeria, we could hardly say theyÂ earned these huge sums of money) 164 million Naira per year â€“ and there 109 of theseÂ parasites.
A simple calculation therefore means 109 Senators X 164 million Naira X 4 years =Â 71,504,000,000 or 71 Billion Naira for 4 years. In other words, each Senator willÂ take home 656 Million Naira in 4 years. Not a bad little earner, is it?
For the House of Representatives, there are 360 of these parasites.Â Each gets 36Â Million per quarter, which translates to 144 million per year per Member. TheÂ calculation of their drain on the Nigerian treasury is 360 X 144 million Naira X 4Â years = 207,360,000,000 or 207 Billion Naira. Each member of the House ofÂ Representatives will take home 576 Million Naira after 4 years, laughing all the wayÂ to the bank.
According to some reports, â€œeach Senator will pocket 720 million Naira in fourÂ years, while each House of Representative member will get 540 million Naira. TheseÂ sums do not include the approved pay by RMAFC which they also collect. SenateÂ President David Mark gets 250 million Naira per quarter; Deputy Senate PresidentÂ Ekweremadu 150 million Naira; and each of the eight remaining principal officers 78Â million Nairaâ€. Wow!
Lord have mercy on my poor people of Nigeria. What a waste? What a damn waste? WhatÂ a thievery and cheating and injustice? And what an aberration of democracy? What anÂ expensive type of democracy we are running here. I am in the dark here!
It is no wonder that Nigerians are yet to see the dividends of democracy, over 11Â years later Nigeriaâ€™s democracy must surely be the most expensive ever run on thisÂ planet called Earth and if nothing is done quickly to stem this looting tide, it mayÂ come to a time that there will be no money to run the government beyond paying theÂ swollen salaries and allowances of our public office holders.
It is definitely unsustainable, profligate, and wasteful and does not yield theÂ desired result. Our democracy, much as we desire it, is run by thieves,Â opportunists, charlatans and never-do-wells.
Compatriots, think of what these huge sums of money can do if diverted to buildingÂ power plants to rescue us from our comatose power problem; funding railway and roadÂ construction; funding education;Â reviving agriculture; funding hospitals andÂ dispensaries; rescuing our moribund sports development; developing the Niger Delta;Â even, paying salaries of teachers and the pension entitlements of our pensioners. IÂ will throw in funding the proper training and arming of the Nigeria Police Force.
Okey Ndibe called it â€œA Feeding Frenzyâ€. NEXT’s Musikilu Mojeed and Elor NkereuwemÂ christened it â€œAn Assembly for Lootingâ€ sayingÂ â€œConsidering that Nigeria’s minimumÂ wage stands at N5,500 a month, each senator’s quarterly allowance “will pay forÂ 2,909 workers earning the minimum wage.” The reporters offered other tantalizingÂ projections.
If Nigerians were to fire the entire membership of the National Assembly, theÂ savings would be more than enough to “fund the N88.5billion” Mr. Umaru Yar’AduaÂ budgeted this year for building power plants. Alternatively, we could “fundÂ hospitals and clinics” all over Nigeria, “fix the Benin-Ore Expressway, which hasÂ collapsed, or make a significant down payment on the Lagos-Kano railway lineâ€. TheÂ Tribune editorialised this perilous trend as â€œPoverty Inflicted by Profligacyâ€.Â Whatever it is, Nigeria cannot sustain or afford this waste.
The fact is Nigerian politicians have turned themselves into instant millionairesÂ just for being members of the National Assembly, paying themselves huge, obscene andÂ unjustified salaries and allowances not commensurate with their very lowÂ productivity and without doing anything worthwhile for the country, for you and me,Â or for humanity. They are â€œLegis-lootersâ€, â€œDis-Honourablesâ€ and â€œExecu-thievesâ€.
What visible difference has their representations made in the lives of theÂ represented Nigerians to give them the false idea that they deserve their presentÂ salary talk less of a pay rise? Please, someone tell me: how many bills have theseÂ odious, greedy and lazy thieves passed into law since 1999?
Do we actually know what they are doing except some of them using big vocabularies?Â What are we getting in return for their large obnoxious salaries and expenses? WhyÂ are Nigerians funding their expensive lifestyles, and getting zero in return? WhatÂ kind of legitimate work can anybody do in Nigeria that will fetch such atrociousÂ remuneration or salary?
Our law-makers are overpaid and underworked and what do they do? The only timeÂ Nigerian legislators suddenly become vocal and creative (according to Reuben Abati)Â is when they are hustling for jumbo pay and allowances. This is the case not only inÂ Abuja but also in the states, where the members of the Houses of Assembly areÂ perpetually fighting the Governor to give them more money.
Most of the lawmakers, Federal, State and even the Local Government Councillors areÂ mostly absent, running after and making dubious political and financial deals, â€œbusyÂ chasing contracts in government departments or peddling influence around town, orÂ busy harassing companies and MDAs over which they exercise oversight functionsâ€.Â (Reuben Abati).
Anytime they say they want to visit MDAs, etc, it is actually to go and demand andÂ collect money from the hapless civil servants, or else they will instituteÂ investigations into their affairs, they always threaten. Compatriots, yes, it isÂ that bad.
At the same time, no Bill gets passed unless individuals and organisations payÂ bribes to these â€œlegis-lootersâ€, despite their already huge remunerations. Yes,Â believe it. I know. I have been keenly following a struggle to get the NationalÂ Assembly to pass a Bill to establish an agency which will be of tremendous benefitÂ for the health and safety of Nigerians and huge sums have had to be paid toÂ lawmakers just to get the bill passed, and it has not even happened. They keepÂ demanding more and more everyday.
For Ministries and Government departments and parastatals to get their budgetsÂ approved, they have to factor into their respective budget what will go to theÂ legislators as bribes.
Yet, how many Bills and Acts have these politicians passed since 1999? Help me outÂ here, dear brothers and sisters. I am in the dark here. I canâ€™t put my finger on aÂ single Bill since 1999. Their services to this battered and abused country are notÂ commensurate to their remunerations, and this is the bottom line!
How many of our legislators have Constituency Offices, for which they collect theÂ allowances, and where they are supposed to regularly meet and listen to the concernsÂ of the people who they are supposed to be representing? How many of them implementÂ Constituency projects in their communities, for which they also collect huge sums?
These opportunists, thieves and charlatans have hijacked Nigeriaâ€™s politicalÂ well-being and economic wealth and it is the ordinary Nigeria who continues to payÂ the price.
This has got to stop. One way it can stop is to reduce very drastically theÂ remuneration of lawmakers and other political offices such that it will beÂ unattractive to potential thieves and looters and that only people who sincerelyÂ want to serve will see such small remuneration as enough motivation to contestÂ elections to these office and be committed to good governance and delivering desiredÂ results.
Right now, we have only self-serving politicians â€“ executives or lawmakers. TheÂ obscene salaries and perks are what is attracting thieves to the serious business ofÂ governance and lawmaking, and this is why these thieves will always rig elections,Â commit murder and assassinations to position themselves where they will steal,Â shutting out genuine and sincere democrats who want to do well for the welfare ofÂ their people.
Secondly, as I have written before (A Democracy Of Profligacy and OutrightÂ Treasury-looting), Nigeria does not need a full time bicameral legislature (InÂ government, the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus,Â a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a parliament or legislature whichÂ consists of two Chambers or Houses); in other words, we do not need full timeÂ lawmakers or two assemblies â€“ Senate and House of Representatives.
What is needed is a unicameral legislature (the practice of having only oneÂ legislative or parliamentary chamber) that will meet for a maximum of 30 days a yearÂ and afterwards, they would go back to whatever their various professions are, ifÂ they have any at all.
Or maybe we need to change back to the Parliamentary system of government orÂ democracy.
This Presidential system, although a good option, is not being operated properly byÂ Nigeria. In a country and society as corrupt as ours, we now know that it very openÂ to gross abuse by unscrupulous and self-seeking politicians.
I am firmly and definitely of the opinion that that legislative work in NigeriaÂ should be a part-time commitment. Only persons with a visible means of livelihoodÂ should be allowed to become lawmakers, and the various legislatures do not have toÂ sit so often.
Lawmaking should NOT be a full time career, as we have it in Nigeria. I amÂ proffering a solution which is a part -time National Assembly that sits for no moreÂ than 30 days a year. Thereâ€™s no reason why a country half the size of the State ofÂ Texas will have as many legislatures as big as the whole of the United States.
Ideally, legislators should be paid sitting allowances and work on a part-timeÂ basis. This is what obtains in several states in the U.S, whose system of governmentÂ we claim to be copying. If the attraction of effortless money is removed, we’reÂ certainly to see an enhancement in the quality of lawmakers. The leeches who are inÂ it for the cash will take their game elsewhere.
In my article â€œIn A Lighter Mood: The Way We Seriously Feel About Our Leadersâ€, IÂ wrote â€œTherefore, any new political reform should address this. Legislators must beÂ paid expenses only for their service to the country.
The current system is very profligate, expensive and attracts thieves and mediocre.Â Expenses must be for attendances, cost of keeping constituency offices open, and ifÂ they have to be given car, housing and transport allowances, these must be properlyÂ allocated, scrutinized, monitored and commensurate with the service provided byÂ these people.
Judging from recent revelations on the wastefulness and profligacy of the Speaker ofÂ the House of Representatives, Senators, etc, the cost of running Nigeriaâ€™s democracyÂ is too high, and especially given our penchant for lack of accountability andÂ corruption, this has to be brought under rigid and strict control. Our unscrupulousÂ political class should be discouraged and deterred from going into government toÂ make money. Hence make it unattractive to them.
Having said all these, who will change it? We are in a dilemma, big trouble,Â because the very politicians who can change and implement our suggestions are theÂ same people benefiting immensely, corruptly and illegally from it â€“ the Senators,Â the Representatives (or the Legis-looters). How can they deny themselves theÂ opportunity of looting more money? Where is their conscience and moral and politicalÂ will to change the system from within, by themselves?
Dear compatriots, how do we overcome this problem and change this system?Â TheÂ problem is not abating, it is getting worse. Next year, they will again move toÂ increase their remunerations. I am out of ideas, please help!
These unscrupulous and conscienceless looters are draining the very life out of us.Â And others are waiting in the wings to take part in the looting too. We must stopÂ them before it is too late.
Let the truth be said always.
â€¢Akintokunbo Adejumo, a social and political commentator on Nigerian issues, livesÂ and works in London.