Thursday, 7 May 2015

Open Letter to Our New Legislators; Cut Down your Salaries

By Prof. A.B.C Nworah

Excessive recurrent expenditure

Nowadays Nigerians seem to have lost the meaning of N1Billion. It sounds like N1million or even less. We have so much lost the orientation, that when someone is accused of mismanaging or stealing one million naira, people wonder if he should not be sent a psychiatric clinic. People nowadays no longer talk of millions, except for the very low income groups, but of billions. 

This has badly affected the psyche and the cost of governance, at all stages of administration in the country, the worst being that of the National Assembly, which is virtually seen as no-man’s land, everyone going there to carry away his or her own chunk of the national booty, hence a monthly intake of N20Million to N45million being associated with the salaries and constituency funds of our federal legislators. In short in one year the lowest allocated a legislator is about N1/4 Billion naira.

Let us come down to mathematical specifics. If the Nigerian jobless graduate is paid N20,000 monthly whilst pursuing jobs, or skills for self employment, N1million would take care of 50 graduates monthly, N20million would take care of 1000 graduates. N100 million would cater for 5000 graduates, and 1billion, would settle 50,000 graduates. At an allocation of N1billion each month, N12billion would take care of 600,000, i.e 50,000x12 graduates, over a year.
There are about 500 legislators in the center, and about N115billion is being voted for them each year. This surely includes funds for constituency projects. If N1billion could provide succor for 50,000 graduates, N115billion would provide for about 6million graduates. In other words, the National Assembly annually sends about 6million graduates to penury, avoidable illness and premature deaths, apart from their dependants: old poor parents, sisters and brothers, simply because they want to ride superjeeps, Rolls Royce’s, private helicopters and private jets, a sort of “Is it life that I am seeing today!”. In short they simply want to feel and live big whilst those they represent go about street-begging or at best home-to-home borrowing. If we also added the emoluments of those from the states, the figures would be hitting the skies.

One then asks, what is the cause of these over bloated allocations, the highest in the world, black and white, where a federal legislator earns multiple the sums of heads of states all over the world including even USA and Germany, not to mention their legislators, and we are the people going, cap-in-hand, begging for one form of financial help or the other? How would they be looking at us? one can just imagine a street beggar driving a Mercedez to one’s house to beg for alms? This is what we are doing to our benefactors overseas.

Surely, our legislators spent some money particularly that of stomach infrastructure for their poor electorates, but with N12 million as their yearly salary, and an additional N12 million for their election expenses, anyone who has gone there to render service to his nation should feel satisfied. The Constituency Allowance of the billions of naira should be scrapped, or reduced to N2million monthly not N20 million and that money sent under strict monitoring, and for spelt-out projects, to the states and local governments where it could be better used to a much larger extent, and abused to a much lesser extent, rather than where it serves only as Chinese take-away for the legislator whom one cannot  put to accountability tests, worse still when the overwhelming number of constituencies hardly ever hear or know of the allocated funds. Their representatives hardly ever summon town hall meetings with constituency their stakeholders, to know their needs and estimate the costs. The legislators only rush down towards the election periods to buy one or two things for the poorest of the poor who would start singing their praises, not knowing that these legislators have hardly spent 1/10 (one tenth) of the money allocated to the constituency.

It must be realised that at a salary of N1million yearly it would take at least 30 years for a senior civil servant to earn what is given to a legislator each month and most senior civil servants, particularly in the states, do not earn up to N1million each year let alone each month. What is the moral or economic basis for this? It it not outright exploitation of the masses, outright plunder of the nation’s coffers. Are we creating a plutocratic class of its own, or we are paying members to represent our interest our interest in the legislatures? Has the parliament become a haven for aristocrats and megalomaniacs, in the name of constituency projects? This is why elections would remain a do-or-die affair in Nigeria, as people kill themselves to get that fund.

The governors also are not exempt from this scam, but unfortunately the “Immunity Clause” builds a giant castle exposing them, otherwise, what happens to the balance of Security Funds of almost N3billion to N5billion yearly. It is only of recent that the nation started seeing some governors like the Anambra State Governor, who really spend palpably on securities and these governors are well known. For the rest it is just another take-away, or a disengagement bonus. Just see the mess in the North East where every governor kept his security funds tight to himself, waiting for the center to bring out first, whilst his state is in flames.
It is an inexcusable contradiction that in the present budget, Capital Expenditure was slashed down to 30% whilst Recurrent Expenditure remains sacrosanct. This simply means that the masses who could benefit from capital expenditure are made to make all the sacrifice whereas the legislators who consume about 75% of our national budget are shielded from the sacrifice, when the principal sacrifice should actually come from them. This could give a wrong impression of protective compromise between the legislators and the executives.

It is high time the nation came down to the realities of its economies particularly now with the collapse of oil market, and with the decline of the Naira. The Abuja group must cut its recurrent expenditure down to 30% and return 70% to the nation for its multifarious developments including the social securities for the almost 60million unemployed graduates. Recently the Zambian parliament cut down their salaries by 50%. They are not stupid. A reduction would surely cut down on crimes and insurgencies, as they are directly related to the disparities in pays between the legislators, the workers, and the penniless unemployed. Alternatively the legislatures should be placed on part-time basis with part-time sitting allowances. Financial prudence is long overdue. It would strengthen the Naira and help us reappraise its value. Sacrifices must be made all through and now too.

We plead with this new legislature to have mercy on the nation and drop these excessive allowances, including principally the constituency funds. You will save millions of families from perpetual penury and premature deaths. It shall surely not be well with anyone who destroys lives just to serve his pleasures. Please do not ruin this nation the more.

Today legislators are killing themselves, poisoning themselves, vilifying themselves, arranging kidnapping against themselves just to get into the house where the money is, not for legislation, as with the rate of joblessness in the country they are at a loss on what to fall upon after the House, and they created this joblessness, this stunting of merchandise through their avidity for immediate unearned wealth. The masses are stranded, money is not circulating. Yes, Abuja is no man’s land; none of them can display such avarice in their own zones or towns, or he or she would be dealt with instantly, or shortly thereafter.


Prof. A.B.C Nworah

This insert is from a Swedish




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