Jan 27, 2015

Oil Price and Salaries in the National Assemblies



Entrance to the Nigerian National Assembly
When, in June, 2014, the news came out that the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was to be crowned the Emir of Kano, I was quick to say that the transition was a minus to the nation. My reason was that, given his extensive understanding and experience, becoming an Emir would sum up to a waste of that resourcefulness in his head.

Sanusi has more than just knowledge and experience: he has guts to step on “big toes” as long as there was a justification in his action. This character is something that is rare in Nigeria, and is the reason why cold-hearted “big men” get away with their sins against the nation. It was Lamido who came out to tell Nigerians that the Nigerian National Assembly, alone, gulps up to 25% of Nigeria’s recurrent expenditure. He was, also, the guy who exposed the dirty dealings between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), at a time when he was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He paid this with a heavy price: his job as the Governor of the Central Bank.

No one knows, exactly, how much the take-home of a Nigerian MP is. One common way of putting it is to say that it is bigger than Barack Obama’s take-home, as President of the United States of America. In Nigeria, a lot ordinary people fail to understand that MPs don’t have any business with capital projects. They, thus, expect the legislators to, directly, carry out capital projects, such as building hospitals, bridges, and healthcare centers. This, in addition to a culture that expects political office holders to shoulder the financial burdens of constituents who come begging, are the excuses MPs often cite in their justification of the profits they make at the National Assembly. To the MPs, shouldering the financial burdens of poor neighbors is seen as duty to the nation. One is, however, confused that the financial allowances that build the towering incomes of MPs in Nigeria, enjoy buffers from judicial scrutiny.

We were told that democracy is a tool that builds a nation faster than any other alternative. Among the processes of nation building, democracy should cater for, is education of the ordinary people. MPs are supposed to meet with their constituents, on a regular basis, to keep them abreast with events and matters relating to their constituencies. Thus, the constituency meetings should, also, be forums where legislators educate constituents on their actual functions at the assemblies.

If the ignorance of the people is a clock in the wheel of democracy, it is expected that the same democracy should find a way of removing it. If schools have failed in their responsibility to educate Nigerians to understand the duties of the different appendages of government, then, democracy should find a way of getting the schools to carry out their functions properly. Democracy should, also, compel parents to enroll their kids into schools, where the people have the groveling habit of not doing so.

 It is true that only a few per cent of Nigerian legislators actually have constituency offices, despite allowances they take to maintain such. So, the issue of educating constituents does not, even, arise. Most constituents often complain that the moment MPs are elected, they move to Abuja to stay permanently, only to be seen in four years time, when a renewal of tenure is been sought.  In a nut-shell, the allowances that build the incomes of MPs do not really go toward addressing the excuses that justify their collections.

In the last twelve years, Nigeria has seen oil money more that it has ever seen in any other period in its history. All we have seen within the same period, however, have been a distinct level of financial irresponsibility. Now, oil price has crash-landed with a preposterous intensity. For any well meaning government, this should be a time for austerity measures. If the take-homes of MPs, at the National Assembly, are higher than the take home of President of the United States of America, then it is time to start the strict measures by cutting down those allowances of MPs that should cater for bogus constituency projects and give out largesse to poor neighbors. Poor neighbors of MPs must be pushed out of laziness as part of the austerity measures. It is time to resort to educating the masses on the functions of every arm of government. This should be imbued into an austerity measure the government must embark upon. The legislators must give up the financial bounties that have drained the nation like a vampire drains its victim.

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