On The N9bn Wardrobe Allowance, By Habib Gajam
The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria marked a watershed in the political history of this country. Not only did it usher in new administration, it also raised hopes and expectations of Nigerians for a better and prosperous country. Contrary to general perceptions and beliefs, an incumbent government suffered massive defeat from the opposition and handed over the baton of leadership without a single bloodshed. This indeed, could not have been possible without the collective resolve of Nigerians to no longer be held hostage by the impunity and recklessness of our ruling class. Power indeed resides in the hands of the people.
Steady power supply, security of life and property, job opportunities, quality education, infrastructure, healthcare delivery, as well as improved general economic conditions top the long and inexhaustible list of expectations and hopes of Nigerians from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. The legislature is paramount in addressing these difficult, yet surmountable challenges. This is because it provides legislations and enact laws, that shape the policy direction of government. Suffice to say, a vibrant and people oriented legislature plays a vital role in the consolidation of democratic process and good governance.
Barely 2 weeks into the life of the 8th Assembly under the leadership of the APC (with majority in both upper and lower chambers) it has demonstrated that the ‘Change’ slogan which has been chanted and emphasized during electioneering campaigns is nothing short of a charade and lip service. It is a matter of public record that over the years, the Nigerian legislators are the highest paid in the world. They have over the years gulped billions of Naira in salaries and ridiculous allowances which include wardrobe, housing, furniture, vehicle, hazard, newspaper, and domestic staff; and without commensurate results. According to Parliamentary Watch, the National Assembly has gulped 600 Billion in the last four years resulting in the passage of only 106 out of 10,063 bills. This implies that on average, only 2.2 bills are passed monthly representing only 10% delivery.
In view of the current political woes, harsh economic realities, and national mood, the National Assembly should have exhibited the spirit of exemplary leadership and demonstrated a sense of patriotism by taking a pay cut in their bogus salaries and allowances. This would have sent a very clear message of their selflessness and resolve to put the interest of Nigerians over and above theirs. The current controversy surrounding the almost N9billion wardrobe allowances of the ‘distinguished’ Senators and ‘Honourable’ Members is a justification of assertions and fears entertained from many quotas that very few people within the APC share President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision and zeal to bring the much desired change to Nigerians.
By estimation, each Senator and Honorable Member will smile to the bank and cash out 21.5 and 17.5 million Naira respectively to buy Agbadas and Asoebis. If this madness stands, a very insignificant (zero-behind-the-decimal-point as my secondary school maths teacher would say) 465 people (compared to a population of 180 million) will gulp money enough to invest in small and medium-sized businesses and millions of jobs will be created, poverty alleviated, and GDP improved. This ridiculous allowance is more than enough to build thousands of Primary Health Care centers in the remotest villages with state-of-the-art facilities to address the prevalent challenges of maternal and child mortality. If only these ‘distinguished’ and ‘honorable’ ladies and gentlemen could sacrifice their wardrobes, millions of poor children will go to school, with adequate learning materials and healthy meals. 9 billion will also go a long way in alleviating the sufferings of ravaged people in the war-torn North East.
Regardless of party affiliation, it is the duty of every Nigerian to rise up against this impunity, and financial recklessness as it is coming from those who we have mandated to articulate and promote our collective interests. The change mantra does not stop at the polling units. questions must be asked, answers must be demanded, they must be held accountable. These unjustifiable huge allowances must be reviewed, and that is not negotiable.
Habib Gajam can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @Habibgajam.