Revisiting The Remunerations of Nigerian Legislators: Time For Action

I am really sorry I have to bring this up again, but my conscience, frustration and
disgust will not allow me to rest. I have written several times about this issue, 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 just
collected 42 million Naira as their salaries, expenses and whatever. Each
Member of the House of Representative had just collected 36 Million Naira.
These are per quarter, which means each Senator gets (I will not say “earn”
because judging from the very low quality services they provide to Nigeria, we
could hardly say they earned these huge sums of money) 164 million Naira per
year – and there 109 of these parasites. A simple calculation therefore means
109 Senators X 164 million Naira X 4 years = 71,504,000,000 or 71 Billion Naira
for 4 years. In other words, each Senator will 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. Each gets
36 Million per quarter, which translates to 144 million per year per Member. The
calculation of their drain on the Nigerian treasury is 360 X 144 million Naira X 4
years = 207,360,000,000 or 207 Billion Naira. Each member of the House of
Representatives will take home 576 Million Naira after 4 years, laughing all the
way to the bank.

According to some reports, “each Senator will pocket 720 million Naira in four
years, while each House of Representative member will get 540 million Naira.
These sums do not include the approved pay by RMAFC which they also collect.
Senate President David Mark gets 250 million Naira per quarter; Deputy Senate
President Ekweremadu 150 million Naira; and each of the eight remaining
principal officers 78 million Naira”. Wow!

Lord have mercy on my poor people of Nigeria. What a waste? What a damn
waste? What a thievery and cheating and injustice? And what an aberration of
democracy? What an 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 11
years later Nigeria’s democracy must surely be the most expensive ever run on
this planet called Earth and if nothing is done quickly to stem this looting tide, it
may come to a time that there will be no money to run the government beyond
paying the swollen salaries and allowances of our public office holders. It is
definitely unsustainable, profligate, and wasteful and does not yield the desired
result. Our democracy, much as we desire it, is run by thieves, opportunists,
charlatans and never-do-wells.
Compatriots, think of what these huge sums of money can do if diverted to
building power plants to rescue us from our comatose power problem; funding
railway and road construction; funding education; reviving agriculture; funding
hospitals and dispensaries; rescuing our moribund sports development;
developing the Niger Delta; even, paying salaries of teachers and the pension
entitlements of our pensioners. I will throw in funding the proper training and
arming of the Nigeria Police Force.

Okey Ndibe called it “A Feeding Frenzy”. NEXT’s Musikilu Mojeed and Elor
Nkereuwem christened it “An Assembly for Looting” saying “Considering that
Nigeria’s minimum wage stands at ?5, 500 a month, each senator’s quarterly
allowance “will pay for 2,909 workers earning the minimum wage.” The reporters
offered other tantalizing projections. If Nigerians were to fire the entire
membership of the National Assembly, the savings would be more than enough
to “fund the N88.5billion” Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua budgeted this year for building
power plants. Alternatively, we could “fund hospitals and clinics” all over Nigeria,
“fix the Benin-Ore Expressway, which has collapsed, or make a significant down
payment on the Lagos-Kano railway line”. The Tribune editorialised this perilous
trend as “Poverty Inflicted by Profligacy”. Whatever it is, Nigeria cannot sustain
or afford this waste.

The fact is Nigerian politicians have turned themselves into instant millionaires
just for being members of the National Assembly, paying themselves huge,
obscene and unjustified salaries and allowances not commensurate with their
very low productivity and without doing anything worthwhile for the country, for
you and me, or for humanity. They are “Legis-looters”, “Dis-Honourables” and
“Execu-thieves”.
What visible difference has their representations made in the lives of the
represented Nigerians to give them the false idea that they deserve their
present salary talk less of a pay rise? Please, someone tell me: how many bills
have these 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?
What are we getting in return for their large obnoxious salaries and expenses?
Why are Nigerians funding their expensive lifestyles, and getting zero in return?
What kind of legitimate work can anybody do in Nigeria that will fetch such
atrocious remuneration or salary?

Our law-makers are overpaid and underworked and what do they do? The only
time Nigerian legislators suddenly become vocal and creative (according to
Reuben Abati) is when they are hustling for jumbo pay and allowances. This is
the case not only in Abuja but also in the states, where the members of the
Houses of Assembly are perpetually fighting the Governor to give them more
money.

Most of the lawmakers, Federal, State and even the Local Government
Councillors are mostly absent, running after and making dubious political and
financial deals, “busy chasing contracts in government departments or peddling
influence around town, or busy harassing companies and MDAs over which they
exercise oversight functions”. (Reuben Abati). Anytime they say they want to
visit MDAs, etc, it is actually to go and demand and collect money from the
hapless civil servants, or else they will institute investigations into their affairs,
they always threaten. Compatriots, yes, it is that bad.

At the same time, no Bill gets passed unless individuals and organisations pay
bribes to these “legis-looters”, despite their already huge remunerations. Yes,
believe it. I know. I have been keenly following a struggle to get the National
Assembly to pass a Bill to establish an agency which will be of tremendous
benefit for the health and safety of Nigerians and huge sums have had to be
paid to lawmakers just to get the bill passed, and it has not even happened.
They keep demanding more and more everyday.

For Ministries and Government departments and parastatals to get their
budgets approved, they have to factor into their respective budget what will go
to the legislators as bribes.

Yet, how many Bills and Acts have these politicians passed since 1999? Help me
out here, dear brothers and sisters. I am in the dark here. I can’t put my finger
on a single Bill since 1999. Their services to this battered and abused country
are not commensurate to their remunerations, and this is the bottom line!

How many of our legislators have Constituency Offices, for which they collect the
allowances, and where they are supposed to regularly meet and listen to the
concerns of the people who they are supposed to be representing?
How many of them implement Constituency projects in their communities, for
which they also collect huge sums?

These opportunists, thieves and charlatans have hijacked Nigeria’s political well-
being and economic wealth and it is the ordinary Nigeria who continues to pay
the price.

This has got to stop. One way it can stop is to reduce very drastically the
remuneration of lawmakers and other political offices such that it will be
unattractive to potential thieves and looters and that only people who sincerely
want to serve will see such small remuneration as enough motivation to contest
elections to these office and be committed to good governance and delivering
desired results. Right now, we have only self-serving politicians – executives or
lawmakers. The obscene salaries and perks are what is attracting thieves to the
serious business of governance and lawmaking, and this is why these thieves
will always rig elections, commit murder and assassinations to position
themselves where they will steal, shutting out genuine and sincere democrats
who want to do well for the welfare of their people.
Secondly, as I have written before (A Democracy Of Profligacy and Outright
Treasury-looting, http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/akintokunbo-a-
adejumo/a-democracy-of-profligacy-and-outright-treasury-looting.html ), Nigeria
does not need a full time bicameral legislature (In government, the practice of
having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament
or bicameral legislature is a parliament or legislature which consists of two
Chambers or Houses); in other words, we do not need full time lawmakers or two
assemblies – Senate and House of Representatives. What is needed is a
unicameral legislature (the practice of having only one legislative or
parliamentary chamber) that will meet for a maximum of 30 days a year and
afterwards, they would go back to whatever their various professions are, if they
have any at all.

Or maybe we need to change back to the Parliamentary system of government
or democracy. This Presidential system, although a good option, is not being
operated properly by Nigeria. In a country and society as corrupt as ours, we
now know that it very open to gross abuse by unscrupulous and self-seeking
politicians.

I am firmly and definitely of the opinion that that legislative work in Nigeria should
be a part-time commitment. Only persons with a visible means of livelihood
should be allowed to become lawmakers, and the various legislatures do not
have to sit so often.

Lawmaking should NOT be a full time career, as we have it in Nigeria. I am
proffering a solution which is a part -time National Assembly that sits for no more
than 30 days a year. There’s no reason why a country half the size of the State
of 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-time
basis. This is what obtains in several states in the U.S, whose system of
government we claim to be copying. If the attraction of effortless money is
removed, we’re certainly to see an enhancement in the quality of lawmakers.
The leeches who are in it for the cash will take their game elsewhere.

In my article “In A Lighter Mood: The Way We Seriously Feel About Our
Leaders” (http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/akintokunbo-a-
adejumo/in-a-lighter-mood-the-way-we-seriously-feel-about-our-leaders.html
29th August 2007), I wrote “Therefore, any new political reform should address
this. Legislators must be paid expenses only for their service to the country. The
current system is very profligate, expensive and attracts thieves and mediocre.
Expenses must be for attendances, cost of keeping constituency offices open,
and if they have to be given car, housing and transport allowances, these must
be properly allocated, scrutinized, monitored and commensurate with the service
provided by these people. Judging from recent revelations on the wastefulness
and profligacy of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senators, etc,
the cost of running Nigeria’s democracy is too high, and especially given our
penchant for lack of accountability and corruption, this has to be brought under
rigid and strict control. Our unscrupulous political class should be discouraged
and deterred from going into government to make money. Hence make it
unattractive to them.

Having said all these, who will change it? We are in a dilemma, big trouble,
because the very politicians who can change and implement our suggestions
are the same people benefiting immensely, corruptly and illegally from it – the
Senators, the Representatives (or the Legis-looters). How can they deny
themselves the opportunity of looting more money? Where is their conscience
and moral and political will to change the system from within, by themselves?

Dear compatriots, how do we overcome this problem and change this system?
The problem is not abating, it is getting worse. Next year, they will again move to
increase their remunerations. I am out of ideas, please help!

These unscrupulous and conscienceless looters are draining the very life out of
us. And others are waiting in the wings to take part in the looting too. We must
stop them before it is too late.
Let the truth be said always.

Akintokunbo Adejumo is the Global Coordinator of Champions For Nigeria
Organisation (www.championsfornigeria.org)

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