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Friday, August 23rd, 2019

The Senate and theft of Nigerian voices

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by September 24, 2017 General

Erasmus Ikhide

Last week, the Senate dramatised her reckless impunity of misgovernment at a time reflective governance and moral sobriety are required to douse the tensed political space and barefaced looting that have been elevated to a grand act in the National Assembly. It told Nigerians, through its spokesman, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, that it was 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 dehumanisation. As the beneficiaries of insecure variety of undeserved incumbencies, the Senate is certain to bring down heaven over our heads or cause 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 debases our existence as social beings. I stand by that position.

Senator Abdullahi’s mindless appropriation of our sovereign wealth in a national television programme 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 170 million voices, and the bastardisation 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 fellows who pride themselves over and above the electorate? When will they legislate against their “out-of-town” salaries and bloated allowances?

The Senate gave itself away recently during a live programme on Channels Television titled, ‘Politics Today’. Abdullahi’s callous concealment of the actual emoluments of the National Assembly and the impunity associated with the refusal designate 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, 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 N14m per month and each House of Representatives member 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?, he said”

Lately, 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 N2,484,245.50; hardship allowance, N1 ,242,122.70; constituency allowance N4,968,509.00; furniture allowance N7,452,736.50; newspaper allowance N1,242,122.70. “Wardrobe allowanceN621,061.37; recess allowance N248,424.55; accommodation N4,968,509.00; utilities N828,081.83; domestic staff N1,863,184.12; entertainment N828,081.83; personal assistant N621,061.37; 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 year 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, considered the salaries of lawmakers around the world and expressed it as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product 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.

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.

Erasmus, a social commentator, wrote in from Lagos via ikhide[email protected]

Twitter @IkhideErasmus1

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