The Senate And Theft Of Nigerian Voices By Erasmus Ikhide
Last week, the Nigerian Senate dramatized her reckless impunity of misgovernment at a time reflective governance and moral sobriety is required to douse the tensed political space and barefaced looting that has been elevated to a grand act of the National Assembly. It told Nigerians, through its spokesman, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi that it is not the business of Nigerians to know how much each Senator earns per month/year!
Simply put, ‘Nigerians are inmates in a lunatic asylum’ or in a slave camp where the master’s love for his captives begins and ends with his deification, plain exploitation, pure evil and outright dehumanization. As the beneficiaries of an insecure variety of undeserved incumbencies, the Senate is certain to bring down heaven over our heads or cause an earthquake under our feet and signpost itself as the monstrous assailant that engineered economic retrogression.
Through criminal allocation of our common patrimony via bogus salaries and allowances to themselves, the National Assembly has taken our wealth, they have taken our jobs, they have taken our homes, they have taken our electricity, they have taken our roads, they have taken our hospital, they have taken our education and our livelihood. I have said elsewhere that these usurpers of our political will have constituted themselves into a tribe of social robbers who have stolen our choice; opinion and now, our voice, which debase our existence as social beings. I stand by that position.
Senator Abdullahi’s mindless appropriation of our sovereign wealth in a national television program would have jogged our complacent memories to the recovery of our vocal paralysis, so ruthlessly crushed by the 1999 military constitution, if we were a thinking people. We’re still afraid of creatures of hell like Adams Oshiomhole who opposed restructuring, thereby frustrating the balance of the act of governance. When a public servant’s adroitness is projected as the summation of a people’s political will that suggests rejection of openness and accountability, it is nothing but grand larceny; the theft of over two hundred million voices, and the bastardization of the principles of egalitarian governance.
What with a band of economic predators who lament constant harassment of their gang by the electorate, insisting that the upper legislative chamber cannot disclose its salaries and allowances, for their roles at the upper chamber. What kind of legislation are we expecting from legislative banditry which prides itself over and above the electorate? When will they legislate against their ‘out-of-town’ salaries and over bloated allowances?
The Senate gave itself away this week during a live programme on Channels Television titled, ‘Politics Today’. Senator Abdullahi’s callous concealment of the actual emoluments of the National Assembly and the impunity associated with the refusal designates us as an imprecise entity whose legislative twitches contradict the name of a nation.
The Senate spokesman also refused to state how much each lawmaker earned in salary and allowances. When asked to say how much he earned, Abdullahi said it was rude of the presenter to ask him how much each senator earned. “You don’t expect me to come out on national television to say this is what I earn. It is not done. I cannot ask you as a journalist how much you earn. It is not done. “If anybody is interested in how much we earn, you know where to get the information. The documents are available. If Nigerians won’t believe that, is it what I will say that they will believe?”
The Senate spokesman said the figures released by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay ( SAN ), were false, adding that the Senate’s budget was not even as high as what Sagay released. In a feat of rage, Senator Abdullahi said Sagay was only trying to cause unnecessary tension between the National Assembly and the Presidency.
When confronted with the figures exclusively obtained by Channels Television which put the salary and allowances of each senator at N14 m per month and House of Representatives members as N8m per month, Abdullahi said he could not confirm or deny the figures. Abdullahi said the cost of democracy was not as high as the cost of not having democracy and Nigerians should look on the bright side.
“This issue has become a recurring decimal. In the last two years, people have been discussing this matter and I always ask myself, what do people really want to believe? I think if this subject matter has been discussed for two years and we are still looking at the issues wrongly, then there is something wrong with us. “The institutions that are responsible for providing this information are there. A law was promulgated on Top Salary Scale also known as TOPSA and it is based on this scale that everyone who holds one political office or the other gets paid. “I want to also submit that I presume Prof. Sagay would have been paid based on the provision of this scale. For us in the National Assembly, the question needs to be asked ‘what is the cost of having democracy and what is the cost of not having democracy?”
Lately, Prof. Itse Sagay has been having a running battle with the National Assembly with the figures that a Nigerian senator earns N29 m per month. “From the information, I have gathered, a Nigerian senator earns about N29m a month and over N3bn a year,” the professor said.
He added , “Basic salary N 2, 484 ,245.50 ; hardship allowance , 1 ,242 , 122 .70 ; constituency allowance N 4, 968 , 509 .00 ; furniture allowance N 7, 452 , 736 .50 ; newspaper allowance N 1, 242 , 122. 70 . “Wardrobe allowanceN 621 ,061 .37 ; recess allowance N248 , 424 .55 ; accommodation 4 ,968 ,509 .00 ; utilities N 828 ,081 .83 ; domestic staff N 1, 863 ,184 .12 ; entertainment N 828 ,081 .83 ; personal assistant N 621 ,061.37 ; vehicle maintenance allowance N1 ,863 ,184 . 12 ; leave allowance N 248 ,424 .55 ; severance gratuity N7 , 425 ,736 .50 ; and motor vehicle allowance N9 , 936 , 982 .00.”
About four years ago, The Economist Magazine came up with the report that Nigerian legislator are the highest paid in the world. The magazine reveals that Nigerian federal legislators are the highest paid in the world with an annual basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 m). The report, quoting data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), considered the salaries of lawmakers around the world and expressed it as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.
It reveals that the annual salary of a Nigerian federal lawmaker at $189,500 is 166 times the country’s GDP per capita, estimated at $1,600. Meanwhile, according to the Daily Trust, British MPs earn 2.7 times their country’s GDP per capita. The study listed the annual salaries of legislators from different parts of the world: The US ($174,000), and Brazil ($157,600), UK ($105,400) yearly, South Africa ($104,000), France ($85,900), Kenya ($74,500), Saudi Arabia ($64,000). Other countries according to the Daily Trust: Ghana ($46,500), Indonesia ($65,800), Thailand ($43,800), India ($11,200), Italy ($182,000), Bangladesh ($4,000), Israel ($114,800), Hong Kong ($130,700), Japan ($149,700), Singapore ($154,000), Canada ($154,000), New Zealand ($112,500), Germany ($119,500), Ireland ($120,400), Pakistan ($3,500), Malaysia ($25,300), Sweden ($99,300), Sri Lanka ($5,100), Spain ($43,900) and Norway ($138,000).
It sounds out of place that Nigerian federal legislators receive higher salaries than lawmakers from richer countries such as the US should strike anyone as outlandish, but according to The Economist magazine that is the obvious truth. The Economist report on the Nigeria thieving legislators firmly established the massive gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria, which the figure of $1,600 as Nigeria’s per capita income conceals. The annual income of middle-class professionals would range between $15,000 and $30,000, senior middle-class professionals up to $60,000, while executives would typically exceed $100,000.
Nigerian lawmakers’ allowances include accommodation (Senator N4m, Rep N3.97m), vehicle loan (Senator N8m, RepN6.948m), furniture (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m) and severance gratuity (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m), which are due once in four years. Other allowances, which are payable every year, are car maintenance (Senator N1.52m, Rep N595,563), constituency (Senator N5m, Rep N1.687m), domestic staff (Senator N1.5m, Rep N1.488m), personal assistant (Senator N506,600; Rep N496,303), entertainment (Senator N202,640, RepN198,521), recess (Senator N202,640; Rep N198,521), utilities (Senator N607,920; RepN397,042), newspaper/periodicals (Senator N303,960; Rep N297,781), house maintenance (Senator N101,320; Rep N99,260) and wardrobe (Senator N405,280; Rep N397,402).
There are also estacode (Senator $600, Rep $550) and duty tour allowance (Senator N23,000; Rep N21,000) payable per day when a lawmaker is on an official trip. The RMAFC submitted a report alleging that the various government departments were violating the rules and provisions governing appropriate remuneration through lavish allowances.
Any surprise that Senator Bukola Saraki’s Senate Presidency never spare a thought on balancing the National Assembly satanic remuneration package with a view to equalizing Nigeria’s GDP with their criminal salaries and allowances so as to reflect it on the development index as obtained in other developed democracies.
The Nigerian Senate President, like the one before it, is a fraud and an ultra-conservative capitalist impudent, who stoically but consciously advocates the retention of abominable salaries and other perquisites that fritter away the hope of a new Nigeria.
The truth of the matter is that the constitution to which we consider ourselves bound today does not represent the will and aspiration of the people. The major defeat and defect of the 1999 constitution to which the present government has been sworn into office without public knowledge of the contents of the enabling law that govern them is a grand conspiracy that reduces the people to mere spectators in their own country, which made them slaves and imbeciles who cannot think for themselves.
We need a radical shift that restores to us our stolen voices, stolen patrimony and stolen rights to dethrone the current democratic pretensions of the Senate, where a few individuals who stole their way into public office treat electorate as prisoners. It is only on that platform we can activate and retrieve our nation democratically. Anything other than that, the rape of Nigeria and Nigerians is sure to continue except the people stand up to be counted, and the time is now.
Erasmus, A Social Commentator writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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