The theme of the symposium was “Saving A Nation From The Precipice: Between Re-Federation And Secessionalism”. The occasion was the 10th annual symposium of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, B-Zone. The event which took place last week held in the Ogun State Capital, Abeokuta.
Vice Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, Kwara State, Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji, was the guest lecturer. Top among the dignitaries that graced the talkshop was the Deputy Chairman of Nigeria’s National Assembly and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila by proxy.
Of course, the crux of the discussion was how best to pull back Nigeria that many believe is lingering precariously on the brink of national suicide. And this was where the second in command of the national legislature squared up with the erudite academic as the professor dared to point at the National Assembly as part of the areas that need adjustment in order to save the life of the nation.
In his presentation, Prof. Adedimeji chided the country for running the most expensive legislative arm in the world and expressed the view that a leaner and more concise National Assembly would reduce cost and conserve funds for other critical sectors of the economy that would be of more direct benefit to the generality of Nigerians.
He said, “With due respect to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nigeria spends the highest amount of money on legislators in the world and the National Assembly consumes more money than any other parliament in the world”.
According to the university don, it is superfluous to keep two legislative chambers, adding that it is as well bogus and extravagant to maintain the number of lawmakers when a single chamber and a much less number of persons could deliver the same service at a more tolerable cost.
“A unicameral legislature with two representatives from each state is sufficient. The National Assembly should have less than 100 members, including Abuja,” he emphasised.
This inclusion of the National Assembly among the areas to be pruned for better national productivity was what the Speaker of the House, who was also the chairman of the occasion, represented by Hon. Ibrahim Isiaka, House member representing Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency, could not let slide without an effort to put the records straight.
The speaker accused Nigerians of being seemly obsessed with the neglible portion of the national revenue spent on the federal lawmakers while closing their eyes to how the greater part is dispensed.
Gbajabiamila said, while only two per cent of the national budget is spent on the National Assembly, 98 per cent goes to service the rest of the country and wondered why the searchlight is scarcely turned on the greater part instead of beaming its rays always on the infinitesimal fraction.
“The money being spent on the National Assembly is less than two percent of the total budget of this country but nobody has ever looked at what is happening to the remaining 98 per cent”, he said, explaining that, “when you say National Assembly, you are not talking about legislators, who are the lawmakers only. You are also talking about the National Assembly Commission; you are talking about everything, all encompassing”.
While noting that Nigerians appear to lack adequate appreciation of the volume and value of the work of the lawmakers, he called for a change of perception that suggests that the country maintains the most expensive lawmaking arm in the world.
“No one, till today, has actually sat down to go into research and define the meaning of legislators,” he said.
The issue of the cost of maintenance of Nigeria’s legislature is always a touchy one, especially for the lawmakers. The total take home per month for federal lawmakers in the country is still largely a subject of speculation.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives are believed to be carting home double digit millions of Naira as monthly pay packets. While the lawmakers are usually edgy and dodgy whenever any discussion gets close to their emoluments, they also usually shy away from full disclosure.
However, the former Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji,troubled the waters when he revealed in 2018 that he and his colleagues received N13.5 million as “running cost” in addition to N700,000 consolidated salary and allowances on a monthly basis.
According to the outspoken former lawmaker, the average legislator in the upper chamber of the National Assembly pocketed N162 million yearly in allowances and N9 million in salaries.
Until 2015, statutory budget allocation to the National Assembly was N150 billion annually. The figure was adjusted to N125 billion subsequently, until 2021 when it was moved up to N134 billion.
Without a doubt, two per cent of N13.58 trillion is more than N200 billion. So, going by Gbajabiamila’s submission, money that is expected to go into the running of the National Assembly in 2021 is more than has been made public under the subhead in the appropriation document.
Instead of speaking in percentages, therefore, Nigerians would have loved the speaker to speak in terms of the quantum of money that is being spent on the maintenance of the 469 lawmakers and a service commission whose staff strength may not be more than a thousand persons.
This, actually, is the point of divergence between Prof. Adedimeji’s argument and the Honourable Speaker’s perspective. The import of the proof’s discourse is that the nation can do without spending this huge amount on an arm of government that does not generate money.
Indeed, not just a few Nigerians share the view that something needs to be done, and urgently too, to reduce the size of not only the legislative arm, but that of the executive as well. The belief is that such a measure will automatically cut the overall cost of governance and free up funds needed to finance the productive sector of the economy, provide jobs for the teeming unemployed able youths and douse the rising tension in the land.
The lawmakers should be worried that Nigerians think that the country is wasting money on them (legislators) and that the citizens are not getting value for money spent on their (legislators’) upkeep. They should be concerned that the people are getting more angry that while their (citizens’) lives and material circumstances have continued to depreciate, devalued and endangered by opportunistic social and economic devourers, the legislators live in obscene luxury at the expense of their (citizens’) welfare.
Nigerians would probably not bother much about how much of their collective resources go into servicing their representatives and leaders, if by the work they (representatives and leaders) do, their (citizens’) lives are made better, secure and are assured of a certain future.
However, as long as unemployment, poverty, insecurity, hunger and hopelessness continue to be the lot of the mass of the Nigerian people, they would never see any justification for any percentage of their resources being spent on their leaders. For now, the feeling is that the people are paying leaders who are overseeing their misery and underdevelopment instead of working for their (citizens’) socio-economic advancement.
The lawmakers and indeed the federal government should be deeply disturbed that for all their (government) efforts, the reality of the situation in the country is that more than one-third of the population is languishing in extreme poverty, children are out of school for no fault of theirs’ or their parents’, cost of food is rising above the reach of the common man, freedom to move around in search of livelihood is being curtailed, there is no guarantee for safety of lives and property, children can neither go nor safely sit in school to learn and everyone appears to be living on the edge.
Something needs to be done swiftly to change the growing perception that the federal government can no longer embark on any meaningful project, without borrowing money. Somebody needs to reassure Nigerians very quickly that the national assembly is actively engaged in some other beneficial assignments than merely approving loans whose impact they seem not to feel.
Inevitably, the controversy over federal lawmakers’ take home pay in particular, and what some have described as the unsustainable cost of governance in general in Nigeria, is not likely to abate until a corresponding significant improvement in the living condition of the people is achieved.
By: Opaka Dokubo
2023: Bayelsa PDP Delegates To Support Pro-Restructuring Aspirants – Diri
Governor Diri spoke on Friday when he received former Senate President and presidential aspirant, Senator Bukola Saraki, in Government House, Yenagoa.
According to the governor as an oil and gas producing state, which contributes huge revenue to the country’s economy, restructuring would ensure equity and fairness to the oil-producing Niger Delta region, the state and the Ijaw nation in particular.
The governor, while stating that the Federal Government, as presently constituted, does not encourage productivity and competitiveness, but has turned the federating units to beggars where states go cap in hand to Abuja on monthly basis for revenue sharing.
He said there is too much concentration of power at the centre, which has prevented the country from functioning effectively, adding that devolution of power would enable states to develop at their own pace.
The Bayelsa governor restated his call on aspirants to place the interest of the party and country above their ambition, saying that as an opposition party, what is required to wrest power from the ruling party and rescue the country from total collapse is unity among members.
“You talked about certain things that touch us as a state. You talked about the restructuring of this country. The Ijaws have always talked about justice and equity. As a state that produces oil and gas, which has been the mainstay of our economy, we subscribe to any aspirant that has included restructuring of this country in his manifesto, to ensure equity and justice.
“The Federal Government is too centralised and nothing will work. Certain powers have to be devolved to the states and let the Federal Government face only common issues that are central to all of us. So this blame game of the previous government will stop.
“Let us go back to the foundation of this country where we had regions that took responsibility for their economy and policies. Allow the states to carry some of the responsibility.
“The present structure does not make room for productivity and competition among our states. State governments go cap in hand to our Federal Capital Territory in the name of federal allocation.”, he said.
Earlier, Senator Saraki said Nigeria was moving towards becoming a failed state in terms of security and its poor economy and needs a competent person to reverse the drift.
2023: NNPP Vows To Spring Surprises
He said this Saturday during a media briefing held at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja.
Alkali said the party leadership had commenced the process of repositioning NNPP into the political landscape of the country by offering Nigerians an alternative platform to save democracy and rescue the nation from the stranglehold of the “two old, hegemonic and visionless political parties”.
On NNPP primary election, he said the party had begun the process of electing candidates for the 2023 general elections, stating that, “This will start on Monday 16th May 2022 with the screening of state Houses of Assembly aspirants culminating in the presidential primary in Abuja on June 2nd 2022.”
He said the party was equal to the task as it had put in place all measures to avoid rancour during the forthcoming primary election.
“Let me assure you, and through you the Nigerian public, that come 2023, NNPP will spring surprises in the polls.
“And when by the grace of God we come into government, we shall tackle all the issues of insecurity (by whatever name called), restore the value of the Naira, create job opportunities for millions of our youths, accord women their rightful place in government, revive moribund industries, including the textile, manufacturing and SMEs as well respect the rule of law and fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
“Let me once more assure Nigerians that unlike what is happening now, the NNPP administration would give every Nigerian a sense of belonging as nobody would be treated as a second class citizen or discriminated or marginalized on the basis of tribe, religion or sex.
“Given the massive support we have received and continue to receive so far from people across the country, we are very confident and optimistic that very soon and in no distant future it would move from its current ranking as the ‘third force’ to the top in Nigeria’s political space….I can assure you that NNPP will soon be the number one force in the country,” he added.
On zoning controversy, Alkali distanced NNPP from the arrangements, saying the party would not carry “excess baggage” of other political parties as it was not founded based on ethnicity and religion.
He, however, promised that the party would provide inclusive governance and ensure balancing along geo-political zones.
2023: NSA Puts Top Politicians On Watch List
Accordingly, the ONSA said heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been tasked to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors no matter how highly placed.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), disclosed this in his remarks at the meeting of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.
Monguno said that his office had noted with utmost concern, the growing uncertainty heralding the conduct of party primaries for the 2023 general elections.
“This is in addition to the unabated spate of violence that threatened the upcoming off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, arising from internal party wrangling, increasing acrimony and bickering among political actors as well as the inability of various contending political blocs to amicably resolve differences in line with democratic tenants,” he said.
Mungono who was represented by Sanusi Galadima, said the disturbing development had already culminated in intense power play capable of heightening unnecessary political tension across the country.
More worrisome according to him is the unguarded utterances by some highly respected individuals and groups which, more often than not, amplify divisive narratives to the detriment of national security and stability.
Accordingly, he said, “Heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been tasked to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors no matter highly placed who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process, even as thugs and their sponsors would equally be trailed for possible arrest and prosecution.”
He emphasised the need for INEC to enjoin political parties to consistently abide by prescribed rules as outlined in their respective manifestoes.
Earlier in his remarks, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, lamented the general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process which according to him is a source of concern to the commission.
Yakubu said the commission was however confident that with nine months to the 2023 general election, there was enough time to respond to the security challenges and secure the nation for elections to take place nationwide. He said the timetable for the election has also been released.
“Let us not wait until a few weeks to the election before we realise that time is not on our side and begin to seek for extension of timelines. The time to act is now.
We wish to reassure the security agencies that we will continue to work cooperatively with you to ensure the success of all forthcoming elections and electoral activities,” he said.
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