Lawmakers’ Pay: Of Privileged Baboons and Dying Monkeys By Japheth Omojuwa
About 20 out of 100 out-of-school children in the entire world are Nigerian children. The numbers have continued to increase in absolute terms since the advent of democracy in 1999. Relative to our population against the world’s over seven billion population, this is a disaster! Nigeria accounts for the death of 10 out of every 100 women who die while trying to give birth to a child in the world. This is the world’s highest maternal mortality rate. Nigerian senior citizens, whether ex-soldiers or ex-civil servants, continue to die in queues while looking to collect their peanut pensions. Where the pension has not been outright stolen, they are made to go through a tortuous process that has since left many at the mercy of death while trying to get what is essentially their right. Four out of every five Nigerian graduates are out of job. The statistics are so bad one could force a hypertensive patient to die, were each one to be reeled out. Yet, in the midst of these grim realities, Nigerian legislators are about the highest paid in the world.
Of the 109 Senators that were inducted in 2011, 35 have no single bill to show for the allowances and salaries they have been receiving over the past 24 months. In perspective, it means one out of every three Senator is dormant with respect to the introduction of any bill at all, passed or not. Every day, 144 Nigerian women die in childbirth because of the inadequacies of the health care system while every other Senator does more or less nothing earning outrageous allowances. Need one talk of Nigeria’s infant mortality rates against the fact that our lawmakers collect such absurd allowances such as newspaper allowance, recess allowance, entertainment allowance and all sorts of elements of injustice all over their take home? Whatever team crafted the pay structure of our lawmakers certainly ignored the fact that Nigerians matter. According to a research by the respected The Economist magazine, the average Nigerian lawmaker earns 116 times Nigeria’s GDP per person. When you note the fact that Nigeria’s fat GDP has no bearing on the reality of poverty in Nigeria, the anomaly of these legislators’ pay takes a whole new low on the table of injustice.
This nonsense cannot continue. If you expect the lawmakers themselves to make a move to reduce or remove these underserved privileges, you should also expect the late legendary Bob Marley to contest the presidency of America in 2016. It will never happen. Unlike the latter scenario, we the people can make the former happen. Nigerians have shouted and pushed, we have groaned and begged yet the legislators pretend to be deaf and even dumb. They have since assumed that like most things, we, Nigerians shout about, our noise on the salaries and allowances will also come to pass after amounting to nothing. We can change this. What if all Nigerians from every walk of life, choose a date, say in August and march against this act of the National Assembly’s inhumanity to Nigerians? On that day, a warning shot would have been triggered. As long as we don’t expect them to budge over a plan like this, we will win. We must doggedly pursue justice or give up trying from the get go.
A Nigerian legislator earns about N30m per year. As criminal as that sounds considering the fact that they are on recess every other month of the year, it is not as criminal as the fact that, that figure is only a tip of the seamy iceberg. It has also been revealed that the monthly allowances of each lawmaker total about N19m. At the end of each month, an average lawmaker ends up smiling to the bank or wherever they store our money with at least N21m. Add the N7.2m ($44,444) furniture allowance, another N7.2m per legislator for what they call severance gratuity and yet another N9.6m ($60,494.05) as motor vehicle allowance, what allowance is left for the basic existence of the average Nigerian? Are some Nigerians more equal than the others?
Oversight functions are being abused. There are reports of heads of parastatal and even ministers being bullied to drop something or have their departments or ministries suffer the budgetary consequences. Have we forgotten the Arunma Oteh and Herman Hembe controversy so soon? Do you really think that was an outlier occurrence? Have we forgotten the so-called Honourable Farouk Lawan (Mr. Integrity) and the $620,000 issue so soon? These are some of the known ones; the unknown ones cannot be less shameful. The fact that thieves get caught once in a while does not mean thieves steal once in a while. Not also forgetting that na person wey dem catch be barawo.
If you think one end of the federal parliament is better than the other, think of that in terms of their politics and willingness to sometimes get the job done; it has been alleged that there is no difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives when it comes to the modus operandi of unholy under G runs.
Do not assume the money being mismanaged is ours. It is not. Some other rulers mismanaged the national wealth in the past and that is the reason we are here today, what these lots are doing today are the costs our children must bear tomorrow. Who do you think will pay the cost of how Nigeria is being run today? If we do not want our children’s tomorrow to be just as bad, if not worse than today’s fruits from years of planting seeds of injustice in Nigeria, then we must rise. Every injustice we permit from these legislators and their ilk today, we permit on behalf of our children. If we fight and win, we win not only for ourselves but also essentially for our children. Most of them have their children studying abroad; it counts for nothing if the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics are on strike.
We have written articles upon articles, we have facebooked and tweeted about this and other issues for so long. We have abused them in our living rooms and beer parlours, even though we still collect our share when we visit them or they come visiting us at the hardly organised constituency meetings. We clap for them when they open boreholes, because we have come to expect nothing from them. Nonsense, are they more Nigerian than us? They are not! They have just as much rights as we do. The era of the monkey average Nigerian working and the no-bill-passing-estacodes-collecting-despite-no-travel baboon chopping legislator must come to an end. Monkey sef wan chop. We don’t want the money shared, we just want it freed to develop our health care system, to help provide drugs in our drug empty dilapidated primary health care centres, to help free money for the development of the much-needed infrastructure so that more Nigerians can be affected by the wealth of Nigeria. These lawmakers must do something now because the monkey will not be monkeying for too long anymore.
– Japheth-Omojuwa, a social media entrepreneur and editor, AfricanLiberty.org, wrote in via email@example.com. Twitter: @omojuwa
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