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Monday, December 6, 2010

Discourse 312 Revolting against NASS

Discourse 312
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
 
Revolt against NASS
 
It is clear that the federal legislature does not enjoy a good reputation among Nigerians, judging from public’s reaction to its recent misunderstanding with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank Governor. It was another opportunity for all sorts of sensational reports and misrepresentations in the press against the lawmakers. Even after Sanusi made his clarification at the Assembly, the most comprehensive report that I read on the issue, which was carried by the Leadership of Saturday December 4 (Pg. 19), said in its opening sentence that “…he raised an alarm over the high cost of maintaining the National Assembly, which he put at 25 per cent of the nation’s expenditure”. Wrong. Sanusi did not say so.
 
Also, in the brief heading of the article, the author said, “The statement credited to Central Bank Governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido that 25% of the nation’s recurrent expenditure is consumed by the national Assembly annually no doubt stirred the hornet’s nest…” Again wrong. Sanusi did not say ‘recurrent expenditure’.
 
Sanusi used ‘overheads’ in describing the N136.2billion he referred to in his lecture. But it was this form of reporting that enraged the lawmakers who were so furious that they did not investigate to find out what he actually said and even when they summoned him they were not ready to listen to the correctness of his statement.
 
In reporting what transpired, The Nation made an elaborate cover last week which unfortunately ended with a note that showed the legislature punctured Sanusi’s line of defence. I relied on that report to write my Trivial 2, titled The Day Sanusi Got it Wrong, in which I accused the Budget Office of misinforming Sanusi and him for not verifying the figure. My attention was drawn to the fact that Sanusi was indeed correct, as some Saturday papers showed. I took considerable time to study many of the reports and the 2010 federal budget which I obtained from the website of the Federal Ministry of Finance. It is clear that I was wrong. The figures from the Budget Office were correct, but only without the addition of service-wide votes of N660billion which, of course, are also part of recurrent expenditure. Why the Budget Office excluded the vote is not mentioned in any of the reports that I studied but the lawmakers suspect it is aimed at blackmailing them by jerking up their percentage of the recurrent expenditure.
 
This controversy, which is a product of a simple misconception, is leading to a sustained condemnation of the legislature by the Nigerian public. If it will end in reducing the running cost the legislature, that would be a great development. The legislature has been waxing its pocket through various means. Its budget has risen from N19billion in 2000 to N154billion in 2010. Each senator is now entitled to a total of N37.5million, and each member of the House N31.3million, as a package of basic salary and allowances. Then comes the most criticized constituency allowance that totals N111.6million for every House member and N180million for every senator, annually. Generally, the constituency allowance is seen as a cooool money, since it cannot be accounted for in most constituencies.
 
Apart from what they get within the premises of the National Assembly, Nigerians generally believe that the legislators extort the MDAs, which themselves have become a bastion for executive corruption. The lawmakers use their power to approve budgetary provisions by the executive bodies and their role as watchdog over them to share in the stupendous theft. Their harvest from this area could be more than what they receive at the Assembly including the now  infamous constituency allowance. We have also witnessed situations where the lawmakers were bribed by the President during the tenure of Obasanjo in order to pass bills, their basic function.
 
In a country where the average citizen earns less than a dollar per day, the extravagant living of the lawmakers will justifiably attract condemnation from the public and competition among politicians. As a result, less than 30% of them return to the Assembly at every election. The public is also hesitant to support them and is ready to believe anything that would be said, genuine or fabricated, about them. For example, a text message started circulating yesterday that says “it costs the Nigerian tax payer N290million to maintain each member of the National Assembly. A working day earning of a Nigerian senator is more than a yearly income of a doctor; it is more than the salary of 42 army generals or 48 professors and 70 commissioners of police, more than twice the pay of the US president or 9 times the salary of US congressman.”
 
The Assembly is largely to blame for this bad public image. Instead of focussing on their legislative duties, they dabbled into executive functions, claiming that they will not be a rubber stamp of the executive. So they started adding and deleting budgetary provisions mostly in favour of the departments that would bribe them or for their own benefit. They forced the executive to include “constituency projects” whose funds they spent without much to show. Yar’adua wanted to stop the practice in the 2008 budget but he was pressured to retain them, though, instead of putting it into the pockets of the lawmakers as Obasanjo was doing, he placed the vote under the MDGs in the Presidency. The lawmakers were furious. They have not stopped complaining.
 
The lawmakers should also not blame the public for any misconception. They have refused to approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in collaboration with the executive because it will empower Nigerians to know, ask and fight for their rights. Many Nigerians will believe the above text message which is almost the per capita distribution of the Assembly's recurrent expenditure among the lawmakers. Though not accurate, as not all the recurrent expenditure of the Assembly is stolen by the lawmakers, there is very little anyone can do to defend them. The situation is worsened by the absence of whistleblowers among them. Not a single lawmaker came out to show the public his payslip in order to douse its apprehension. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.
 
The FOI bill would have accorded aspirants the information they need to plan, before elections, what they would do in government. That would have shifted our politics from focussing on personalities to issues. But right now, how can a presidential candidate come up with an agricultural plan, for example, when he does not know what is on the ground? All he can do is to make popular statements, like “7-point Agenda”, during his campaign and spend over two years in office planning. If the lawmakers have not been conniving with the executive, which we despise just equally as much, much would have changed in this country.
 
What do we do with the legislature? There have been a number of suggestions. However, whatever should be done must encompass three things: reducing the number of members, severely cutting down their per capita expenditure, and harnessing their capacity. Their numbers can be reduced by adopting a unicameral legislature. We do not have to become Americans. The number of constituencies also needs to be reduced to something like 109, given the advances in transport, communication and information technology. Their capacity can be improved by raising the basic qualification of eligibility to be a lawmaker and intensive on the job training. Finally, their salaries should be tied to the national minimum wage, may be 20 times of it; that is, if the minimum wage is N7,000.00, a lawmaker will earn 20 times that amount, or N140,000. Then allowances could be similarly fixed as percentages of the basic salary but not exceeding, say, what a federal permanent secretary would collect as a package. I think this will give us a manageable, affordable and tolerable figure. Bodies like EFCC and RMAFC should ensure that the lawmakers do not pouch elsewhere as they do now. It is only then we would know who are really ready for service and who are not.
 
Needless to say, the executive too needs similar taming, if not more, for the corruption happening there is by far more than the one at the National Assembly. Yes. The National Assembly has a total budget of N158billion or 3.4% of the 2010 Federal Budget. What is happening to the remaining 97% of the budget, or N4.4trillion spent by the executive? We do not see it. We do not feel it. The presidency alone, it was reported by Transparency International in the mid 2000s, accounted for 56% of the total corruption taking place in the country. And i add: it is vicariously 100% responsible for it since it controls the instruments agencies of law enforcement. There is nothing to indicate that anything has changed significantly as at today.
 
Would the legislature and the executive succumb to these demands? Not until we revolt. And our greatest revolt would be with our election votes. They are the missiles with which we will bring down the fighter jets of corruption. Let us make better use of them.
 
Tilde
December 6, 2010

16 comments:

Dr Oliver Akamnonu said...

This was a very beautiful article Dr Tilde. Apparently the National Assembly fixes its own wages and allowances. It is only natural that in a greedy and selfish society such as we find ourselves the members will go for "a kill" irrespective of the economic realities on the ground. To set things right the Freedom of Information bill must be passed into Law. Otherwise every Public Institution should begin to fix thaeir salaries. I was surprised that the Nigerian Labor Congress asked for so little as the Minimum Wage in view of the Excesses of the Legislature and the Executive.

We never stop to ask ourselves whether if the Founding Fathers of our Nation State were as greedy as many of us are today in governance, we would have seen the light of this new day. See "Nation of Dead Patriots" www.nationofdeadpatriots.com
Dr Oliver Akamnonu
New York, USA

HISHAM IMAMU-DEEN said...

What need to be added to this mayhem is that one month salary of a senator is enough to feed a ten member family for 50 years based on the current inflation ,if they spend 2000 naira every day,or is enough to send twenty eight students to university from nursery one based on 15,000/term (2 years)for nursery and 25,000/term (6 years) for secondry and 100,000/session for university (5 years) !!!just one month salary !!!and if you interpolate it to public school it means paying 20 teachers salary of six years at the rate of25,000/month !!!ALLAH yaji kanmu !!!

TAOFEEQ ADESHINA said...

I say this with no apologies and it is unfortunate. We have a large chunk of irresponsible people as politicians today. What we have today in Nigeria are job-seekers. They are businessmen who come to look for their daily bread; they are not politicians. They did not come to give but to take away. They did not come to lead but to loot. And they are looting us blindly. Things were not like this with our founding fathers. Things have gone so wrong that the country is in a pitiable condition.
Bad leadership—that is the problem. If the leaders were honest, if we have leaders who could not steal, if we have leaders who could look at the lot of the common man with the eyes of compatriots and not the eyes of the privileged few, if we have leaders who could be straightforward, we may not be having these problems. If there is no pen robbery, there would be no armed robbery. It is pen robbery that has given birth to armed robbery. When people see that some persons who were worth nothing only a couple of years ago have become something overnight because of what they are getting illegally in their position—the positions of trust which they betray—these common people would take laws in their hands too. Out of frustration, they would want to fight back, they would want to fight violently to grab that which they believe ought to have belonged to them but which they could not get because their families or relations are not in power. Their families or relations were not given the opportunity to become captains of industry or government contractors.
Let me tell you a story. During the reign of Sultan Muhammad Bello in the Sokoto Caliphate, a German came to the Caliphate and visited different parts of the Caliphate. When he got back home, he wrote: ‘I have been to the different parts of the world, I have never seen an empire or domain where the subjects are enjoying the benefits of good leadership, honest leadership, justice and fair play as in the Sokoto Caliphate.’ He said under the leadership of Sultan Muhammadu Bello, a straightforward man, a just and fair man, the common man has a say and a place. The German visitor observed that in that Caliphate under Bello’s leadership, any woman would be given a golden pot filled with gold bars and that old woman could travel from one end of the Caliphate to the other no matter how far the distance, without an escort and nobody would stop to rob her. This was so because of the honesty and justice of the leader. Justice and fairplay are the only things that can establish peace and stability. Justice and fairplay would take care of all these ugly things that we are experiencing today. The leaders must learn how to be just; they must learn how to be fair. The leaders must have the fear of God. They must have the feeling that one day they would stand before God to account for what they did. Good leadership is the answer.

Sisi Olomoge said...

Those NASS guys are rascals. Nigerians are fed up with them and Sanusi has provided a unique opportunity for a brawl, simple

IDRIS DANKAKA said...

Kai! Gaskiya it is too much and unbearable.Thank you very much Dr.Tilde. However, it important to note that it is only a tip of the iceberge.If one could come down to states and local governments one wll a worst stuation. The volume of money being looted few rascals in this country is unquantifiable.I am not suprised when the current EFCC chairman called it a clear madness.We must have to stand up against this mess either by votes or any other means.

A. Sani said...

Dr. Aliyu Tilde,

As always, thank you for your relentless contribution in enlightening and sharing your opinion to the public for common good.
It is a fact that Nigerian democracy as we know it, has nothing to do with “We the people” alas, not a democracy where citizens have the rights to fairly participate in it. As such, the mixture of feudal, dictatorial and Laissez-faire leadership style is unavoidable.
It is fascinating though, how “we the people” are being taken for a ride to the journey of nowhere thus far and all that most of us do, is at best to keep wondering who should be the captain of our dead end voyage.
Wrong or correct figures quoted by the print media on Sanusi L. Sanusi's statement regarding NAAS fiscal misappropriation, should be a catalyst for a greater inquiry by “we the people” on legislature's misrepresentation.
The greatest weapon legislature and executive have and they hold them dearly against “we the people” is their ability to keep the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill under the carpet for a long time now. I raised some concern on that about 2 years ago and without the bill being passed and enacted into law, our situational leadership will keep enjoying the Carte Blanche they offered to themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dr Tilde,
I really appreciate your effort by devoting your time in extracting facts and figures to jsutify your statements, you are really an asset to this great country of ours. i am so convinced with this facts you have produced and I pray that the people of this Nation will reflect and take all the necessary actions they can. I wish you the best in life and May Almighty Allah increase your wisdom and understanding, Also give you haelthy life. Ameen.

Engr. Shehu Ibrahim
(shehuttabari06@yahoo.com)

Babangida Alfadarai said...

Thank you for bringing to the lamplight of the Nigerian populace the cost of maitaining a Nigerian Senator. We all can now understand why the Personal Income Tax Act bill sent to the National Assembly since 2007 has not been passed. If passed, they will end up paying higher taxes than they do now. But they should remeber that they are paid with the taxpayers' money.

Babangida Alfadarai said...

Thank you for bringing to the lamplight of the Nigerian populace the cost of maitaining a Nigerian Senator. We all can now understand why the Personal Income Tax Act bill sent to the National Assembly since 2007 has not been passed. If passed, they will end up paying higher taxes than they do now. But they should remeber that they are paid with the taxpayers' money.

Babangida Alfadarai

alfadarai2006@rediffmail.com

Isah Buhari Alkali said...

I recieved the text u refered to in ur article, it was very shocking. In some places were we have legislatures that are continoually absent in the chamber, who are they representing? Now we know why their politics is a do or die affair cos they are afraid of loosing their loot and could not continue maintaining themselves without loot!

Anonymous said...

Dr Tilde, thank you for the beautiful article.
Our members and senators should be ashame of themselves for milking this country dry.
The Almighty will never forgive the cheats. Its time they stand up and do good to the populace of this nation or else they die poor.
Ado.

Anonymous said...

How will one expect justice from those legislooters. Nigerian masses are crying No! food, No! electricity, No! good access road, and so on. But to our surprise, non of the legislooters has ever come to their aid. When Sanusi, unveiled the secrete, then tend to eat him off. They have forgotten that there will be accountability on the last day.

Rotimi Adedayo said...

I didn't bother to read your first piece on the CBN Governor because the Senators were dead wrong, displayed crass ignorance of economic analysis, but this retraction has put things in perspective. The truth be told, members of the National Assembly are simply overpaid for doing so little! And what baffles me is that, despite their stupendous wages, multi-billion naira fraud are perpetrated in connivance with Government Ministries and Departments. And wait for this; 90 % of those in that hallowed chambers never won any election! So they feel not accountable to anyone. In addition to your suggestions, I would canvass making the job of lawmaking a part time venture, we cannot continue like and expect developmental projects to spring up, and Nigria's fortune to improve, that would be self delusion.

Muhammad said...

The salary of the NASS is just the tip of the iceberg. As you mentioned in the article Nigerians generally believe that the legislators extort the MDAs, which themselves have become a bastion for executive corruption. This staement is TRUE. Ask anyone with an "insiders" knowledge of the activites and you will be shocked to your bones.
On a visit to ant MDA, the Ditinguished Honourables make a point that "we are monetised" and every executove has to "pay the monetisation" to a named "officer" or else..! Add this to the Executives abuse of their residual powers and you could see how systemic the Corruptionis in Nigeria. Just check the "Capacity Building Vote" for confirmation.

Anonymous said...

nothing will happen , the next batch will also have their way.

this is nigeria ,while countries in europe are busy cutting cost at all costs but here in nigeria nobody is interested in cutting cost but in gaining cost

DANDUGAJE said...

Greed! greed! greed! and heartlessness