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Dishonourable pay

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By Denrele Animasaun

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money—Benjamin Franklin

A sharp intake of breath, try breathing out and then inhale and slowly exhale. There is no point holding your breath, you have got to exhale. So when you hear another stitch up from the Nigerian lawmakers, please do not pop your throbbing veins, they won’t lose sleep over you. They sleep well in their luxurious palatial garrisons and get chauffeured to their hallowed halls, make a bit of noise, doze off and on and then, chauffeured back for serious pay. Nice job if you can get it. No wonder, it is the plummest job worth scrambling and selling their conscience for.

So here goes: Nigerian lawmakers have allocated N23.7 billion as severance gratuity for outgoing lawmakers of the National Assembly.

The sum will also cover allowances for incoming legislators, their aides, funds for National Assembly induction and inauguration of the 9th Senate. This is a gravy train that keeps on running.

While the majority of Nigerians are existing on less than $1 a day, Nigerian senators   earn $55,000 a year in salary, while house of representatives members earn $42,000 and of course with the generous allowances, it adds up to a mouth-watering  $540,000  for each lawmakers and it is expected to raise.

They have come to clean up and their self-interest is primarily to wipe the coffers clean.

These are no honorable people, they simply do not care.

So while majority of Nigerians are struggling, eking out a living,existing,not thriving they are in their Hallowed halls filling their pockets,  then increasing their pay packet as the first order while rubbing their hands in anticipation of another windfall, increase in their pay. The same lawmakers who debated and struggled to accept an increase to the minimum wage.

They are not on the side of the people. The fact speaks for itself if they were ever any doubts, have things improved and do the lawmakers truly deserve their over inflated pay packets?

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This is not the time to be angry, that time has gone. This is the time of action and accountability. Feel the temperature of the nation. The tail can not continue to wag the dog, time to call this errant dog to heel.  While the rest of the world is concerned about the environment, their economy and the future, Nigeria is stuck in the economic doldrums and pernicious self interest, most people are suffering and the country is being unpicked at the seams. May I remind those who have some  scintilla of conscience of an Igbo adage, that; “when two brothers fight, strangers always reap the harvest.”

Nigeria is home to millions of citizens and if this continues, Nigerians will not be in charge of their affairs or their country.

This idea that our lawmakers are impervious of the suffering of those who elected them is beyond the pale.

So they eat cake,while the poor scramble for crumbs. This is no exaggeration:

124,620,000 Nigerians live without sufficient means to support themselves or their families.

Majority if its citizens are living in absolute poverty and this continues to rise from 12.3% to 54.7%.

According to the Nigeria Bureau of Public Service Reform there is  a housing shortage with  over 108 million Nigerians homeless.

Over 70 % of young people are not in education, employment or training. There is an increase in mental illness amongst young people, suicide is becoming more prevalent among the young as they can no longer find a way out of their a life of misery and deprivation.

Yes, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wants us to believe that creating 300,000 new jobs for young people will plug the crater, it is too little too late. This is not even close.

In my column last year:

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]. Quelle 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.

VANGUARD

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