A Democracy Of Profligacy And Outright Treasury-Looting

Quote (Elombah Perspectives):  “President Barack Obama’s salary is $400,000 per annum. A Nigeria Senator collects ₦48 million per quarter. At the end of the year, each senator’s haul will be in the neighbourhood of $1.7 million. Each of the 360 members of the House of Representatives will receive ₦35 million, that’s $300,000 per member per quarter. At the end of the year, each member of the House would have collected a cool $1.2 million”. 
 
Past surveys of salaries and benefits of public office holders from the Baltic to the Bahamas, the Americas and the Far East and everywhere else, has showed that Ministers and Federal Legislators in Nigeria are the highest paid in the world, despite the country being among the poorest in terms of per capita income, security, social provision and living standards. On the other hand, Nigerian workers are one of the lowest paid in the world.
 
The Nigerian Minister earns more than his American, British or German counterpart, and of course enjoys pecks of office those ones cannot even dare dream of – for doing next to NOTHING!!! This is a wasteful, reckless, licentious and decadent system of governance.
 
Due to space, I will not highlight the data and facts associated with the earnings of both our leaders and lawmakers, but suffice it to say that this democracy that we practice in Nigeria is really a form of fraud and scam committed against the Nigeria people. No wonder then that, as ex-president Obasanjo put it in 2007, politics is a “do-or-die” affair for many potential politicians in Nigeria. It is obvious that the reason why most people decide to go into politics is motivated by greed and personal aggrandisement; not to serve the country and the people, but really to serve their pockets, and to be served by the people of Nigeria.
 
A large chunk of the annual budget ends up as salaries and allowances in the pocket of this small percentage of Nigerians. For example, out of the 2009 annual budget of N3.1 trillion, N1.3 trillion or 42% ended up as remuneration for 17,500 individuals in a country of 150 million people. If this is the case, what is left for social and economic development? What is left for constructing roads, improving education and healthcare, providing water and electricity, regards to the health of the economy and welfare of the people, etc?
 
And don’t omit various other incomes accruing to these shameless, jobless individuals, law breakers, the 419s, paedophiles, murderers and election riggers. If we add constituency projects (in the US, it’s called PORK BARRELS), add the inflated contracts plus the wheeling and dealings over appropriations, rubber stamps of the executives and junket jamborees. Compatriots, we’re looking at almost 90% of GNP.
 
According to 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. Apart from being illegal, it is obscene, in a country where a huge chunk of the population lives on less than 1 US dollar per day.  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. It is no wonder that Nigerians are yet to see the dividends of democracy, over 10 years later! Ours must be the most expensive democracy on 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 bloated salaries and allowances of our public office holders,” rightly said the Action Congress party.
 
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.
 
According to Wikipedia, in ecology, a feeding frenzy is a situation where oversaturation of a supply of food leads to rapid feeding by predatory animals. For example, a large school of fish can cause nearby sharks to enter a feeding frenzy. This can cause the sharks to go wild, biting anything that moves, including each other or anything else within biting range. This term is most often used when referring to sharks or piranhas, due to these being some of the most feared predators. Feeding frenzy is also a metaphor often used in a non-biological sense to describe excited involvement by a group over some focal point of attention. I will take the example of our politicians, especially the so-called lawmakers or legislators (read – “legislooters”). Their feeding frenzy is a result of their excited involvement over the unregulated wealth and resources of Nigeria. There is nobody to control the wealth; it is there for all (actually a very miniscule percentage of the population – less than 0.5%) to take and put in their pockets.
 
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”.
 
Sooner than later Nigerians should march to the National Assembly Complex for a show down with them. I will gladly lead it.
 
The members of this NASS are of the same ilk…greedy looters of our treasury who are insensitive to the economic situation of the country, and the plight of the general masses.
 
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?
And to top it all, look at their shameless behaviour in the House while trying to remove their Speaker, who is also accused of gross corruption. These are common thugs, mediocre and thieves, men and women, and even the reason for their behaviour was based on the loot. Are these lawmakers we should be proud of? Do we really need these types to make laws for us? No, and this is why Nigeria is going backwards everyday. We have vagabonds in power. We have mediocre in power. And when that happens, no country like that will ever progress.
 
Reuben Abati in his write-up “Nigerian Legislators!” wrote “I believe that they over-paid and underworked. It is members of the Lower House that are in the news this week, but the Senators are no different. N27.2 million per quarter, and now they w
ant more! And what do they do? The only time Nigerian MPs suddenly become vocal and creative 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. They insist that no one should blame them because they can see the Governor and other members of the Executive taking “their own share,” so why should they be excluded? In states where there is peace between the House and the Executive, it is usually the case that the Governor, to put it in their language, “knows how to settle.” This is the sad Nigerian story.  And yet, so much money for what? What kind of legitimate work can anybody do in Nigeria that will fetch a salary, the type the MPs are asking for in three months? These are the same lawmakers who are mostly absent. Their standard lie is that they are busy with committee meetings, but in reality most of them are busy chasing contracts in government departments or peddling influence around town, or busy harassing companies and MDAs over which they exercise oversight functions”.
 
“The statistics can be easily worked out with the result that the amount of public funds that has been guzzled by Abuja MPs alone in the last three years, not to talk of since 1999, is enough to fix Nigeria’s comatose railway lines, the federal universities and a number of hospitals (assuming the money does not also get stolen by inefficient contractors!). Nigeria is in a financial mess. The foreign reserve account, according to one report quoting the Minister of State for Finance, which used to be as high as $62 billion in 2008 is down to $38 billion, while the excess crude account which in 2007 stood at $20 billion is down to zero. But our MPs do not care”
 
There is an unwritten consensus that politicians are only interested in looting the treasury. But Nigeria cannot make progress that way. There must be sanctions for this kind of conduct, particularly from voters in the next election. Where lies Nigeria’s future? Whence cometh the change that we seek?
 
Nigeria is paying a price continuously for the hijack of the political space by hungry men and women. I align myself with the old suggestion that parliamentary work in Nigeria should be a part-time engagement. 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. In the alternative, legislative work should attract very minimal remuneration in form of sitting allowances only, with a proper accent on service.  That should shut the “legis-looters” out.
 
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.
 
This phenomenon is replicated in the States’ Houses of assembly down to the Local Government Council Chambers.
 
Secondly, 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. 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.
 
I will admit that this latter solution is a bit tough because many countries with unicameral legislatures are often small and homogeneous unitary states and consider an upper house or second chamber unnecessary. Nevertheless, we should not make either bicameral or unicameral legislature a full time activity for our politicians.
 
Those leaders in transient, political power, who had tried to usurp God’s authority on earth, have often faced occasional deprivation. Their regimes were either overthrown or their term of office would eventually end anyway. They become expired politicians, with wrinkles and gray hairs to show for it. Jetting from one political event to another, they pontificate on what should be done; now that they have become “wiser and humbler” (Babangida is an example)
 
Nigerian politicians do not seem to know that they owe their people economic well-being and good life on earth. Unfortunately, many of our politicians actively and openly corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the state and the people they are supposed to lead and rule. Through administrative fiats and legislative props, they racket the economy.
A new, strict regime against political, economic and cultural corruption must be put in place: otherwise the “small people” will rise up and overthrow their fake and small kingdoms of evil.
 
In my article “In A Lighter Mood: The Way We Seriously Feel About Our Leaders” 29th August 2007 (http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/akintokunbo-a-adejumo/in-a-lighter-mood-the-way-we-seriously-feel-about-our-leaders.html), 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 give 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.

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