A lot of people have often seen the Nigerian houses of assemblies as more of financial institutions than democratic. There are more dealings regarding cash than those regarding legislations. The latest insult to Nigerians is the one oozing out of the Nigerian Legislature. It is the issue of the wages of legislatures. It is an open secret that the wages stand at between N160 and N90 Million ($ 1.07 and $600, 000 respectively) per annum for ordinary floor members in the senate and house of reps respectively. Where a legislator is a principal officer, such as a chairperson of any of the various house committees or a mere member of any of such a committee, his earnings go far beyond that by an outrageous amount.
Why is the issue of the wages of the legislators an ‘open secret’? All wages of public officials, either appointed or employed, are set by the National Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commissions. Any legal remuneration in Nigeria is a result of the recommendation of this commission and subsequent approval by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Portion of the wages of MPs in Nigeria that is an outcome of due process is nothing more than N10 Million per annum. It is this amount that a legislator in Nigeria quotes as his annual income, knowing that quoting everything will raise eyebrows.
The harmful consequences of this to the nation are the series of embarrassing events in the two legislative chambers. It is the reason why there have often been series of scandals about money or power leading to seven Senate Presidents in the last ten years. This means that there has been an average of one and half President of the Senate in every one year since 1999. Where money rules, there is little sanity. As a result there is no way we can have the best of legislation in the Senate and House of Reps. Money is also the reason why there have been cases of illegal arm importation to Nigeria prior to elections in 2011. Anybody that earns such an amount of money will want to do anything to defend it by hook or by crook to ensure that it keeps coming. Further more, the outrageous wages gives them the financial muscle to afford these weapons. Why do we need the houses of assembly? We need them for a democracy that is wholesome. The way things are going however, there is a chance we may end up losing the democracy if nothing is done.
What do we do? Since the issue of financial doping in the Senate and House of Reps have become a cause of sleepless nights for Nigerians who feel cheated, then there is the need for Nigerians to inform aspiring legislators of what they want them to do when they get there: ‘work towards the downward review of these mocking wages when you get there’, should be the condition. There are chances that politicians will promise anything just to get there. When this becomes clear, then the voters can consider choosing one of them and support him to get there with the sole aim of correcting this financial aberration.
By democracy, power devolves down to the ordinary man. For this to happen however, the democracy must be real where every vote counts and the people’s decision is taken into account. It is hoped that the huge promises of President Goodluck Jonathan and financial commitments by the nation towards a credible election should not end up as one of the series of failures of the nation.