By Denrele Animasaun
It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit — Noël Coward
They say, confession is good for the soul and somewhere, somehow, a Nigerian senator had surprisingly developed a conscience. Senator Shehu Sani, revealed (actually, it is a known secret) that each senator receives 13.5m naira [£27,000, $37,500]. Quelled surprise! He mentioned that there is no accountability on how the money allocated to the lawmakers is spent! He has, shock horror, called for the allowances to be scrapped, how insightful of this fellow, he tells us that there is little wonder why people chose to go into politics! How intuitive of him. I wish he could have told us something we do not know. He sure would not be very popular amongst his peers but credit to his new found conscience. We all know there is no honour amongst thieves and this group of people has been robbing the nation dry for so long and we all know it. This is one prolonged daylight robbery.
The poor senator, for whatever reason is unburdening his soul. The good senator continued –‘The National Assembly is one of the most non-transparent organs of government. It pricked my conscience and I decided to burst the bubble and open the National Assembly to public scrutiny. If the expenses payment system was ended then parliament would only be attractive to people who contribute ideas. Me thinks, someone has developed a backbone. The good senator is not telling us what we do not know already, that there is money to be had in the hallowed halls of power and so little wonder, why everyone wants to be lawmakers in Nigeria. It is shameful that 109 senators, each earning, pardon me, but there is nothing basic in a salary of $2,000 per month, where the average Nigerian is living on a paltry minimum of $50.0 per month. So, the greed of these lawmakers knows no bounds. What the good senator was alluding to was, on top of their not so basic salary they also ‘claim each $37,000 per month for expenses, $5,500,000 yearly as constituency budget. Shockingly, the Nigerian senator ‘earns’ a mouth-watering $5,974,000 per annum so, the 109 senators cost Nigeria a whopping $651,166,000! Let that sink in,if you will. After serving two terms, a senator’s expense payments is well up to $3.5 million, little wonder why they fight tooth and nail to stay on.
‘Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks’— Doug Larson
In 2014, I wrote that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world:
‘Nice job if you can get it. No wonder the Nigerian lawmaker fights tooth and nail to stay on the gravy train. It is a known fact that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world.
According to Professor Itse Sagay, the Nigerian lawmakers at the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly are the highest paid legislators in the world. A senator in Nigeria earns 240 million naira (about 1.7 million US dollars) in salaries and allowances and a member of the House of Representatives earns 204 million naira (about 1.45million US dollars) per annum. It definitely rubs insult to injury for the average civil servant who earns about 46 to 120 US dollars per month.
There are 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives so in terms of payment by result, the Nigerian lawmakers do not deserve such high pay and surely do not perform their duties to warrant such hyper inflated pay. In America, a senator earns 174,000 US dollars and in the UK, a member of Parliament, about $64,000 a year. So what do our lawmakers do for this generous amount? Can someone please, tell me why they deserve this stupendous amount of money? It is about time we demand better services, institutions and standards of living for every Nigerian and not for only a few politicians.
No one deserves that much money while ordinary people are scavenging for a few Naira to make ends meet. Nigeria has got a multitude of deprivations; high infant mortality rate, high maternal mortality rate, malnutrition, inadequate health care and transportation and lack of electricity outage, high crime rates, majority of its young people not in education, employment or in training. So then why are these lawmakers earning such excessive amounts of money that could have been best used to improve the lives of Nigerians? These lawmakers are being paid for below par performance, they are rubbing the proverbial salt into the open wounds of all Nigerians, who they were voted to represent. I am afraid; the joke is on every Nigerian. This is one expensive joke and it is not funny at all. It is apparent that ordinary Nigerians have been severely short changed, cheated and have been and continuously insulted by these so called honourable people.
So how have the politicians got away with the sleight of hand while they have systematically siphoned the public coffers? Now they use decoys, gas lighting and misdirection -they are good at finding a problem at every junction and the gullible fall for it every single time-hook, line and sinker. They pit one religion against the other, tribe against tribe and one political party against the other and so on, while getting rich on excessive salary and allowances.
They create division and diversion helps the politico-manipulator to continue serving their own self-interest to the detriment of the majority. They start the proverbial fires and move to a safe area to watch it burn and wilfully allow the innocent and the gullible fight amongst themselves. We have always coexisted and no matter the issues, it was always settled amicably. We traded with each other, goods exchanged hands and it oiled the economy.
If Nigeria was running smoothly, no one should go hungry. This is not a far-fetched idea, with the capacious natural wealth, if properly dispensed and appropriated, there would be efficient and affordable health services, a standard of educational system that could be the envy of the world (we know Nigerians used to excel in education), definable amenities, transportation, good roads, railways and airways that is of a high standard and well run; a business friendly environment that encourages growth and development.
We also need conscientious Nigerians who are happy to provide a good service and take pride in their jobs, opportunity to create jobs and prosperity. Investment in the arts, environment and leisure. This way we can begin to diversify in our economy and tourism. Of course, it will help to have a police and armed forces to be proud of, their training, fully funded, their barracks and uniforms worthy of their jobs. Their pay will be enough to live on and anyone caught taking bribes will face the consequences. Most of all, they will be disciplined and knowing fully that they are there to serve and protect.
Imagine, it is possible, some of us did experience it in the not distant past and I hope many more have that opportunity now and in the future. I am full of optimism that it can and it should happen again for the future of the nation and its citizens. Forward, together.
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. -Mahatma Gandhi
Prison fit for Nigerians
British Ministers have drawn up plans to build a prison in Nigeria to enable its government to transfer prisoners from Britain. With the proposed 112-bed wing, it will be built to United Nations specifications on the Kirikiri prison site in Lagos. The deals to transfer prisoners in UK jails to their countries of origin is not only in Nigeria but the same will happen in Albania, Rwanda, Jamaica and Libya .
This has been long time in the making and is to be built as part of a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement. Ever the sticklers to rule, they have estimated it will cost under £700,000, according to the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Imagine that and I’m sure if it was a Nigerian project it would have cost 100 times more and not got for purpose.
Boris Johnson said, ‘As part of this agreement, eligible prisoners serving criminal sentences in Nigeria and the UK can be returned to complete their sentences in their respective countries. Helping Nigeria to improve its prison conditions and increase prison capacity will enable us to transfer more prisoners to Nigeria, which will in turn free up prison places in the UK.’ How ironic, now British are building prisons in Nigeria because, Nigerian prisons break so many human rights violations and they cannot expel Nigerian offenders because of this. Am sure once built, it will be like the Hilton compared to the present prison standards.