When Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor-cum-Emir of Kano, told us some years back that a quarter of our annual budget was spent on the National Assembly, many did not believe him and tagged him a rabble rouser and an attention seeker. But the recent revelation about senators salaries and allowances by Senator Shehu Sani have proven Sanusi right. He revealed that a senator earns N13 million naira monthly for running costs which must receipted, N700,000 for personal salary and allowances and N200 million naira worth of constituency projects annually. However, the disclosure by the senator does not cover allowances for cars, housing, wardrobe, furniture, e.t.c which runs into several millions of naira. Unconfirmed reports a few years ago, indicated that our lawmakers budgeted N100,000 naira per head for their daily feeding allowance.
It is a tragic irony that while we have the largest concentration of poor people in the world, our lawmakers are arguably the highest paid in the world. Why can’t they borrow a leaf from their counterparts in Britain, the House of Lords, where each lawmaker earns only 150 pounds (about N250,000) per sitting? How can we be paying corrupt politicians and thieving bureaucrats millions of naira as salaries and allowances in a country where no doctor, lawyer, engineer, university lecturer or any professional of any hue earns anything close to that amount monthly? How can we expect to become a great power when for so many years till date, the Nigerian budget has been overwhelmingly tilted in favour of recurrent expenditure rather than capital expenditure? In most advanced climes, the private sector pays more than the public sector because remuneration is based on productivity and the public sector is seen as a place to serve and make an impact not as a channel to become rich. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Public service is a do or die thing because it is viewed by many as a cheap avenue to enrich self.
Judging based on productivity, i sincerely do not think that our lawmakers deserve to earn such humongous sums as salaries and allowances. Firstly, most of these senators do not have constituency offices. They do not hold town hall meetings and some rarely visit their home states. Secondly, the quality of debate in the senate is very poor and often characterized by absentee and sleeping senators during plenary. Thirdly, we have poor quality of senators. If it is not the dancing senator, or the singing senator, then it is the use of vulgar language on the floor of the senate or one malfeasance or the other. It is shameful that despite their lavish salaries, members of the senate are often accused of soliciting and collecting bribes to pass bills and from agencies that they oversee.
One knotty issue that baffles me and defies logic is the issue of constituency projects for lawmakers. Just like their name implies, lawmakers all over the world make laws, carry out oversight functions, and are vested with the power of appropriation while it is the role of the executive to implement projects. The earlier we do away with this democratic aberration, the better for our treasury.
I commend the courage of Senator Shehu Sani in making this disclosure unlike his counterpart, the Twitter Senator, who is adept at playing the ostrich and epitomizes the phrase “all talk and no action”.
The way forward is to make lawmaking a part time job that pays allowances per sitting just as we had it in the First Republic. We should also do away with our current bi-camera legislature in favour of a unicameral legislature so as to save costs and reduce our recurrent expenditure.