#ScrapTheSenate: Opening The Requisite Debate On Scrapping The Nigerian Senate By Peregrino Brimah
I utilize this forum to invite all progressive meaning Nigerians to the important debate on whether and when we should scrap the senate. As Nigeria grapples with bedevilling crises including an austerity, uncontrolled corruption, political chaos and intractable terrorism, the need to make our administration most effective and efficient and truly in Nigerians’ interest become most pertinent. To this end, and in view of the agitation over the hidden earnings of Nigeria’s two chambers and the jumbo figures as obtained with evidence, we must debate and act on the future of congress.
I present the summary of my points and look forward to the debate and a consensus among Nigerians to invite the action of our President.
My Position: Scrap The Senate
I am for an urgent and total scrapping of the senate. I am eager to challenge anyone to tell me the use of our senate and how the body has benefitted Nigerians over the past 16 years. I would also like such person to answer whether from their point of view, the senate if it has benefitted us, has done so over the destruction and harm the body has otherwise caused.
More Than Half World Nations Are Unicameral
From the largest nation in the world, China, to the smallest, The Vatican City. From our dear Ghana to New Zealand. From the UAE to Scotland and Wales. Over 150 sovereign states in the world are unicameral, having only one congress. Angola, Iran, Kuwait, Hungary, Norway, Hong Kong are other of the hundred and half unicameral nations. Senegal in 2012 tossed its to cut costs. Indeed two congresses is redundant and a sheer waste. These is no justification for this 17th century colonial system of extra baggage that arose only as an accident due to the discrimination between nobility and commoners in colonial England… definitely no justification in these times of austerity.
Assembly Has Become Largely A Liability And Plague
In my view, Nigeria’s senate and much of its house of representatives have been more of a liability and not benefit. In the past four years the senate according to a report in PremiumTimes this May, passed only 106 bills, yet the assembly in the same period consumed a whopping N600 billion ($3-4 billion). And this sum does not include an additional N40-60 million per quarter for Reps and Senators as “Constituency project” allowance that is almost certainly usurped in entirety or used illegally for politics. Can we responsibly deny that these houses need to be cut down in budget and size and the senate must be done away with?
In comparison, US senators passed 300 bills between 2013 and 2014. And yet the US congress budget is a fraction of Nigeria’s budget.
Some people with suspicious intentions have tried to waylay the debate on the allowances by advertising the assembly’s purposeful strategy to keep the true figures secret, deliberately insisting on violating the FOI bill. I posit that this very tactic of a closed budget assembly is a violation that indicates excessive power, thuggish rascality and the ever so urgent need to cancel the senate. However in spite of the so-called unknown figures, we do know, accurately, perhaps not how much in total but a figure of how much they earn in the least.
The new senate president Bukola Saraki confirmed that Senators earn 25% of their basic salary as wardrobe allowance. A lot of other ridiculous allowances given by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, add up another 1660% to their basic salary. The bogus and illegal “Constituency Project” allowance adds another N260 million ($1.4 million) per annum. According to BudgIT, all other civil servant staff only take N2.5 billion of the Assembly N150 billion budget. This April after years of struggle a Abuja Federal High court finally ruled that the senators must make public the details of figure of this allowance. Overall, each legislator directly and indirectly consumes as much as N600 million ($3-4 million) per year. Nigeria cannot afford a tenth of this for the negative work they mostly do.
“Hon” Baba Ibaku of Nasarawa described how he uses his constituency project money:
“I can use it as I like… What is this money for? If your wife is sick and I carry her to the hospital, how do I quantify that? If I take people to hajj, how do I quantify that? For the past six years, how many people have I sponsored to Jerusalem? Will I use my father’s money to do that? If maybe I decide to buy a vehicle for somebody, is it bad?..”
It is clear that the senate has been more of a danger than of value. Constituency project allowances have paid for the political thugs, and sponsored Boko Haram and MEND terror across Nigeria. These legislators are a danger to themselves and to us. Not only must the assembly budget be immediately down revised by 90%, but also we need less than half the 469 members and we only need them part time.
Note: RMAFC have been co-conspirators in defrauding Nigeria through outrageous emoluments for legislators and executives alike…CBN, NNPC, etc. we call for its disbandment and investigation.
Senate Fails To Protect Nigerians And Only Serves Itself
I invite my readers to research any instance the senators in the last 5 years threatened to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan. You will find that each of about three instances were not when the president failed the people, Chibok girls, the northeast, the economy, released murderers from jail etc, but were only when the president failed the senators. The most recent example that is fresh in our memory was that ridiculous threat a month to the end of his tenure, when they said they will impeach him for not signing a bill that contained life pensions and immunity for the senators, and power of over the president.
Clearly by collecting thousands of times more than the average earnings of Nigerians in their constituencies, senators now belong to a new constituency—the FCT billionaires “constituency”. They even coveted Apo estate senate lodging and forced Nigeria to build new quarters each time there is a new senate. Currently they and other executives own all the property in Abuja and have relocated their entire families to live in these dozens of houses thus effectively totally detaching from their constituencies. Our assemblymen do not represent us anymore. Our senate is a risk to our continued existence.
The Buhari administration cannot honestly address corruption without urgently dismantling this dangerous usurping network that has over lived its usefulness to the state. With our ministries and half the house of reps, we will be better represented and have a more secure future.
Scrap The Senate, Tinubu Said
Firstly, an undismissible Nigerian political figure and the leader of the All Progressives Party, the current leading party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a.k.a Jagaban is on record in September of 2012 as calling for the scrapping of the Nigerian senate to save costs.
Quoting from ThisDay:
“The centre is just too big, Abuja is too bloated and should shed weight. By doing that also, it would help in making the centre less attractive maybe. By the way, and this is just an aside, it would be interesting to see how Senator Oluremi Tinubu would react to her husband – a former Senator – Asiwaju Tinubu’s call for the scrapping of the Senate and sending her back to her New Era Foundation project.”
I believe this was a honest and selfless statement made in the best interest of Nigeria and from a best analytical position.
Based on our conviction, we will continue protests to scrap the senate, decrease assembly allowances by 90% and have them run part time; have open voting and open budget with 100% transparency and get RMAFC investigated and decommissioned.
Dr. Peregrino Brimah; http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something] Email: email@example.com Twitter: @EveryNigerian