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Senators’ Outrageous Monthly Running Costs

Written by Carl Umegboro 
Nigeria’s parliamentary arm has seemingly remained a drain pipe that impedes economic growth in the country since the ongoing democratic experiment commenced in 1999. Comparatively, a Nigerian senator or member of the House of the Representatives earns several times more than their counterparts across the world. 

Still, corruption sways in the chambers. In fact, during the previous administrations, ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags with megabucks were practically turned into lobbying and legislative tools for screening, confirmation of appointees and passage of budgets. 

As a result, reckless, profit-motivated and episodic impeachment motions became the order of the day on any president in power particularly during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration which all ended in pecuniary deals. Later, it became a routine in the successive governments until the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. In effect, do-or-die politics ruled the polity as belonging to the parliament became the fastest money-making venture.

Notwithstanding the gross aberrations, the lawmakers allocated outrageous allowances to themselves. The recently exposed monthly running cost of a whopping sum of N13.5million to each senator, by Senator Shehu Sani, which if allocated to visible developmental projects across all the constituencies will no doubt boost development across the nation, remains a nightmare. It is indeed iniquitous that such amount is self-allocated and collected monthly by each of the senators separately from consolidated salaries on inconsequentialities.

Meanwhile, the people in their constituencies remain in misery, joblessness and poverty. Then, an additional N200m for constituency projects is allotted annually, yet the polity keeps appearing pitiable and abandoned. Perhaps, it should be appropriately renamed paper-projects since they are non-existent anywhere. Irrefutably, the actions fall below the bar of civility.

This perhaps accounts for the unbending attempts to intimidate the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, out of office to pave the way for a companionable new helmsman. The fundamental question for the lawmakers is: How could the Public Procurement Act they passed into law specify how projects should be bid and executed but they indiscriminately allocated public funds to themselves when the council has yet to be constituted? Or is the country comparable to George Orwell’s Animal Farm where some animals are more equal than others? For example, Section 16(17) of the Public Procurement Act 2014 provides that “a contract shall be awarded to the lowest evaluated responsive bid from the bidders substantially responsive to the bid solicitation”. 

By the way, how could the legislature prepare and pass its budget and also clothe itself with powers to override the President? Indeed, this is a blinder.

The recent episodes are glaringly satirical. Lawmakers fantastically misappropriate public funds that could aid to improve the economy but always shed crocodile tears over the unemployment ratio in the society. If the plight of the youths truly moves them as portrayed in the controversial Peace Corps bill, the appropriate action should be to expand the budgetary allocation specifically as an employment interventionist policy which will enable the executive to expand its workforce including the existing security agencies thereby absorbing more youths into their respective personnel. 

Unfortunately, legislature’s budgets alone keep going up with outrageously masked allowances. Over the years, politicians often play on the sensibilities of the vulnerable citizens especially the youths during elections. Interestingly, the red chamber is presently populated by unique identities and many other titles who relentlessly criticise the executive every now and then. Yet, they overlooked, concealed and promoted for several years the fraudulent running costs and constituency projects sufficient to improve the society if prudently expended.

The 2018 Appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017 by the President to stimulate the economy that was critically hit by recession, sadly still hops up and down at the end of first quarter. The lawmakers work for their personal interests.The constituency projects astutely envisioned have constituted conduits to the treasury. The bicameral legislature itself is the grand drain pipe. As a developing democracy, Nigeria shouldn’t have clichéd the developed system verbatim but should modify progressively.

It therefore suggests that the anti-graft agencies have a lot of work to do. No amount of propaganda should dampen the spirit from moving into action towards recovering misappropriated public funds. It is absolutely ridiculous and totally unacceptable to enthrone mediocrity and expect development. 

From 1999 when the running costs and constituency projects came into existence, it is rare to find any such projects anywhere except a few that managed to complete a borehole in one community or repaint a community market with giant signposts. It is fittingly an act of man’s inhumanity to man that lawmakers freely loot public funds while the masses they use satisfactorily during elections are drying up in hunger and hardship. Egocentricity has clearly defeated the objects of constituency projects solicitously aimed at spreading rapid development to the grass roots through the representatives.

Probably, this is where Charley Boy’s “OurMumuDonDo” initiative will appropriately and effectually make sense than the defunct ‘resume or resign’ crusade. Until the legislative arm is reformed, things may hardly fall in shape.

- by Carl Umegboro