(By Ameh Ejekwonyilo)
“Going by the breakdown, one will understand the reason why the National Assembly members were asking for the head of Lamido Sanusi Lamido, the Central Bank governor, who once said that the Federal lawmakers take about 50 per cent of our National Budget. If you juxtapose the above figures with our current budget, you will see clearly that the National Assembly members are the albatross of Nigeria; because they legislate on, and appropriate public funds to themselves, thereby looting the masses blind.“
IN the usual characteristic of the Nigerian political elite, the Nigerian Senate took an egocentric stand against the greater good of the Nigerian people, as the lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against local government autonomy but endorsed life pension for the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
What is clear from this self-serving action is that, our collective interest as a people is never paramount to these so-called representatives. Having conducted a public hearing in various constituencies across the land during which Nigerians overwhelming advocated total autonomy of the local government and expressed their views on other constitutional matters, one would have expected our senators to allow the wishes of the people to prevail. Rather, they chose to be on the inglorious part of history, dissipating their energies in promoting mundane desires instead of solving the peoples’ ultimate desire – welfare.
Local government is the closest tier of government. It is therefore the government most likely to address the dire infrastructure deficits that plague the grassroots. The lawmakers instead of freeing them from shackles voted for a recommendation seeking life pension for the principal staff of the National Assembly; when it is now an open secret that Nigerian lawmakers are among the highest paid in the world, that they even earn more than the American President and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps, it is imperative to share with our esteemed readers the breakdown of what a Nigerian senator earns yearly. Below is the breakdown of the monthly earnings of a Nigerian senator:
Basic Salary – 2,484 245.50; Hardship Allowance (50 per cent of B.S) – 1, 242, 122.70; Constituency Allowance (200 per cent of B.S) – 4, 968, 509.00; Newspapers Allowance (50 per cent of B.S) – 1, 242 122.70; Wardrobe Allowance (25 per cent of B.S) – 621, 061.37; Recess Allowance (10 per cent of B.S) – 248, 424.55, Accommodation (200 per cent of B.S) – 4, 968, 509.00; Utilities (30 per cent of B.S) – 828, 081.83; Domestic Staff (70 per cent of B.S) – 1, 863, 184.12; Entertainment (30 per cent of B.S) – 828, 081.83; Personal Assistants (25 per cent of B.S) – 621, 061.12, Vehicle Maintenance Allowance (75 per cent of B.S) – 1, 863, 184.12; Leave Allowance (10 per cent of B.S) – 248, 424.55; Severance Gratuity (300 per cent of B.S) – 7, 452, 736.50; Car Allowance (400 per cent of B.S) – 9 936 982. 00—Every four years. Senators’ salary per month – N 2, 456, 647.7; Total = N 29, 479, 749 × 109 Senators. Grand Total = N 3, 264, 329 264.10
Going by the breakdown above, one will understand the reason why the National Assembly members were asking for the head of Lamido Sanusi Lamido, the Central Bank governor, who once said that the Federal lawmakers take about 50 per cent of our National Budget. If you juxtapose the above figures with our current budget, you will see clearly that the National Assembly members are the albatross of Nigeria; because they legislate on, and appropriate public funds to themselves, thereby looting the masses blind.
Equally disturbing was the argument that ensued between the Senate President and Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima of Zamfara State. The latter who saw the bill to criminalise early child marriage as anti-Islam and reprehensible, vehemently opposed the idea. By this position, Yerima has again brought to the fore his penchant to marry under-aged girls when he married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl, the daughter of his driver. Senators Ahmed Yerima and Danjuma Goje, who were state governors of their respective states for eight years, did not have much to show for it; have often used religion to push their political agenda in the country. Islam as we all know is a religion of science and knowledge, and cannot not sacrifice a child’s rights for early marriage without education. Therefore, the action of Senator Yerima and his cohorts have further pushed back the total implementation of the Child Rights Act that seeks to protect children from all forms of child abuse that is prevalent in the country.
Comparatively, the local government administration from 1999 to 2007 was far better than its current emasculated condition. Things started deteriorating when there was change of guard in 2007 with the coming on board of new state governors. Between 1999 and 2007, local government chairpersons could award contracts for the construction of brides and boreholes as well as provide transformers for electricity and primary health centres in communities. For instance, it was in these glorious days that the current Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, held sway as the council chairman for Okpokwu Local Government in Benue State, where he performed creditably. That was what gave him the impetus to contest the PDP gubernatorial primaries in 2007. But what we have today are local governments that cannot award contracts for the construction of culverts let alone monkey bridges. Sadly these days, some state governors have never held local council elections in their states since they assumed office seven years ago. The case of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State comes to mind. Despite his much touted financial prudence in the management of Anambra State resources, he has refused to conduct local council elections; he would rather use caretaker committees.
The reasons for this abysmal failure at this third tier of government lies with the state governors and federal lawmakers who have literally turned the councils into their private business empires, from where they draw public funds at will. The councils are at their mercy because those who superintend over the affairs of the councils are their stooges, who have confined them to the payment of staff salaries and mobilising party members to attend party conventions and nothing more. After all, the council chairmen were hand-picked and foisted on the people and cannot, therefore, resist the instructions of their political benefactors.
That is the pathetic and disgusting state of local government affairs in our country. What is, however, more reprehensible and anti-democratic in the recent rejection of an amendment to the local government Act by the senate, is the speed with which they chose to endorse life pension for principal officers of the National Assembly. Their action can best be described as a travesty of democracy. It clearly demonstrates the height of political insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary Nigerian. Therefore, the task before the people is to use the power of the ballot box bestowed on them by the constitution to vote out these self-seeking lawmakers and their collaborators – governors, in the next general elections come 2015 if our votes will count!
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”