The Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, last week, expressly defended the National Assembly (NASS), against the growing perception that it is the most expensive in the world.
His defence is coming at a time when several calls for a review of the reported jumbo pay, and office running cost, of the Federal lawmakers have reached a crescendo.
This has been a subject of talks for most Nigerians who have their eyes fixed on developments at the NASS.
Two other stories from the legislative chamber also interested us.
Gbajabiamila’s frantic defence
On September 11, Hon. Gbajabiamila argued that Nigeria’s National Assembly is not the most expensive in the world as it receives less than 2% of annual budget.
His defence came when the Vice-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Pategi, Kwara State, Prof. Mahfouz Adedimeji, at an event in Abeokuta, asserted: “…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.”
Gbajabiamila, represented by Hon. Ibrahim Isiaka, had argued: “When you say National Assembly, you are not talking about legislators, who are the lawmakers. You are talking about the National Assembly Commission: you are talking about everything, all encompassing. Money budgeted for all this is less than two per cent of total budget of this country. But nobody has ever looked at what is happening to the 98 per cent.”
Isiaka’s argument is not new. Senator Ali Ndume, and other lawmakers had presented similar points in the past. What is at stake, however, is that most Nigerians remain unimpressed about their arguments.
The October 1, 2020 confessions of Hon. Simon Karu, that each member of the House earns N9.3 million monthly, and former Senator Shehu Sani’s revelations of 2018, that Senators earn N13.5 million as running cost each month, would go down as never-to-be-forgotten bitter pills.
The expectations of many citizens is that Gbajabiamila, and the rest of his colleagues in the National Assembly, should show patriotism and acknowledge that the country can ill-afford the money expended on them.
Extreme poverty, corruption and the urgent need to reconsider the cost of governance have made this call very imperative.
Perhaps, a good way to start is to pursue the path of a unicameral legislature.
NASS MEMORY LANE
“I am not having that kind of ambition (to become Nigeria’s President), but if I am given, why not? I can take it. I am a Catholic. In the Catholic church, we don’t see visions. Well, if visions are being seen, and people say this and that, if it is the will of God that I will become President, why not? I am capable mentally and otherwise to do whatever Nigerian people want me to do but not through prophecy. I believe if Nigerians and the Nigerian people want to be fair, a Southeast President from Igbo extraction will be the next thing to do?”
Answer: See end of post
Two other stories
Hon. Kwamoti Laori, on September 11, blamed Nigeria’s stunted economic growth on poor budget implementation.
“This country has never achieved more than 40 per cent budget performance. You can quote me anywhere. You have budgets enacted year-in and year-out, being repeated and bloated and yet not being achieved. Because of our projections we don’t follow them. We bloat the system and we don’t prioritise,” he noted while addressing journalists in Yola.
Laori’s wailings are noted but he almost gave himself away when he tangentially alleged that constituency allowances to lawmakers are hardly ever met.
No doubt, his concerns speak to the rot in the system. However, Nigerians have long taken cognizance of the fact that most Nigerian lawmakers have perfected the art of inflating the annual budgets for their selfish ends.
It is just as well that Laori acknowledged this by referencing ’bloated’ budgets. He should not just lament but act.
The bloodletting in Shiroro
On September 7, Senator Sani Musa condemned the massacre of no fewer than 20 villagers by bandits in some communities in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
In a statement issued in Minna, the Niger State capital, Musa described the killing as “not only wicked and callous” but “a gross act of man’s inhumanity to man.”
He said: “To slaughter innocent villagers like goats taken to the altar for sacrifice is totally unacceptable. We should therefore do everything possible to bring these criminals to justice.”
It is not out of place to assert that both the Federal and State Governments have failed, and appear helpless in the fulfilment of their constitutional duty of protecting lives and property. This is amidst several promises made by the government to flush out bandits, and make them face the law for their crimes.
Indeed, the Shiroro massacre only typifies the failure of governance and raises further concerns over sustainability of the Nigerian project .
It is about time that Musa rose to the challenge by joining his colleagues to apply tougher pressures on the Executive to redouble its efforts in protecting Nigerians. The time for condemnation, and endless promises should be over.
Answer: Senator Orji Uzor Kalu
Kalu made the statement on April 25, 2021, while speaking in an interview with Channels Television. Kalu is the Chief Whip in the Nigerian Senate, and represents Abia North Senatorial District. He served as the Governor of Abia State from 1999-2007.
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