That bizarre defence
Senator Ali Ndume, on October 23 sternly dismissed growing calls to slash National Assembly members’ pay.
In detailing that the National Assembly only got N128 billion allocation of the N13 trillion 2021 budget, he averred that lawmakers’ pay had no effect on the economy.
“For me, call out the National Assembly, cancel NASS. That means you have N128 billion reduction but does that make any difference? Because this thing (calls for reduction of National Assembly members’ pay) is getting too much for people like me that have come out to serve; not because I came out to be rich,” he stated.
Ndume’s defence sounds bizarre. His irritation and impatience with critics is indicative of someone worried stiff he may soon lose a major source of livelihood. But he is wrong to misjudge the mood of the nation.
What he fails to appreciate is that his countrymen are distraught that those they have elected into power are unwilling to make sacrifices as cost of governance soars. It would baffle many that Ndume considers a reduction in the N128 billion budget of the National Assembly as not significant enough to impact Nigeria’s economy.
It has been argued that Nigeria’s federal legislators are among the highest paid in the world. Thanks to former Senator Shehu Sani, and Rep member, Oluwole Oke, who damned all consequences and disclosed that their colleagues receive N13.5 million and N8.5m respectively as monthly running costs.
And, this is in the context of legislators being accused of poor productivity, as absenteeism rules plenaries. It is even more disturbing that the same set of people have turned a blind eye to Nigeria’s sharp revenue drop by 60% as well as calls for a radical review of the country’s governance structures.
There is, therefore, no better time for Ndume and his colleagues to make the necessary financial sacrifices by taking a heavy pay cut. It is indefensible and unconscionable that the jumbo pay is retained just as the country sits as the poverty capital of the world.
Even at the risk of committing political suicide, the lawmakers must be driven by the higher ideal of patriotism to consider part time work, lower pay and the enthronement of a unicameral arrangement instead of the unbearably expensive bicameral system.
The time to make the necessary sacrifices is now!
NASS MEMORY LANE
“These youths were only demanding that government lives up to its responsibilities of protecting their lives from Police brutality, and for a better future for the Nation. Sadly, the government which negotiated with Terrorists dispatched Soldiers and massacred defenceless youths, even while holding the Nigerian flag and singing the National Anthem.”
Answer: See end of post.
Two other stories
On October 20, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, placed a condition for signing off the 2021 budget. He said he would not sign off the document if it did not include compensations for victims of Police brutality, and reasonable demands by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to which government agreed.
He had said: “Let me say now for the records to reflect, and in the expectation that I would be held to account. I will not sign off on a 2021 Budget that does not include adequate provisions to compensate those who suffered violence and brutality at the hands of the police in Nigeria in the last two decades.”
Gbaja’s stance shows how well he connects with the emerging political crisis. His proposition indicates some practical steps to assuaging the rising tension in the land which had been triggered by #EndSARS protests. His move represents what is just and right at the moment.
His resolve reflects, not only a practical endorsement for the lofty demands of the #EndSARS protests but his discontent with the recurring ASUU strike plaguing higher institutions of learning in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari must take the Gbajabiamila challenge and do what is needful. To act otherwise is to deepen the growing mistrust for his presidency and all that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) stands for.
There are, however, a few pertinent questions to address. Will Gbaja be able to gain the support of his colleagues to make good his threat? Or, would he simply back off when the odds work against him? It would be interesting to see what becomes of his well-calculated threat.
On opposition politics
The Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, on October 23, condemned President Buhari’s national address which failed to empathize with the unarmed #EndSARS protesters reportedly shot by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
The condemnation was contained in a statement he issued on behalf of the minority caucus of the House. The statement noted that after reviewing Buhari’s speech, it failed to “come with some empathy for victims of the killings and other acts of brutality by unscrupulous security operatives, particularly at this time when soothing words from the President would have gone a long way to calm frayed nerves.”
The Elumelu-led caucus is only but one of the many voices raised in disapproval of Buhari’s failure to address pertinent issues in his speech. The fickle defense put up by Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, does little to remedy the reputation damage to the administration.
Beyond the issues raised by the Minority caucus, however, it will be more rewarding to see them rise above sentiments and partisan politics to demand transparency and accountability at all times.
The expectation, therefore, is that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must also hold its members in positions of authority to account for shoddy performance, and not cover their tracks for acts of impunity.
Answer: Senator Betty Apiafi
Betty Apiafi made the statement on October 21, 2020, in outright condemnation of the reported shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters by the Nigerian Army, at Lekki Toll Gate. Apiafi represents Rivers West Senatorial District at the Red Chambers of the National Assembly.
By John Chukwu…
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