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What Nigeria can do with the billions pocketed by lawmakers as ‘running cost’

Reps on war path with Senate over bills sent to Buhari, budget public hearing

The 8th Senate presided over by Abubakar Bukola Saraki may go down in history as the Senate that eventually blew the lid of Nigeria’s most guarded secret; the take home of lawmakers, especially senators of the federal republic.

While Senator Ben Murray-Bruce talks common sense and points the way to a better Nigeria, it took the courage of Sen Shehu Sani to tell Nigerians how much of their country’s resources is spent feeding just 109 men and women.

Sen. Sani disclosed in a recent interview that each senator takes home some N13.3million monthly as ‘running cost’ and another N700,000 in wages. Implication of Sani’s expose is that each senator takes home about N14 million ever month, asides their salaries. For 109 senators,this comes to about N1.529 billion every month. This also translates to about N18.312 billion every year. By the end of a four year circle it would have amounted to N73.248 billion.

The meaning here is that by June 2018 when senators would have served three years each, Nigeria would have blown N54,936,000,000 on the salaries and ‘running cost’ of only 109 men and women whose service impact is rarely felt in the lives of over 180 million who according to World Bank projections survive on less than $1 (N360) per day.

In the 2017 federal budget, the National Assembly got, on first line charge, a total of N125 billion. This was said to be a reduction from N150 billion the previous year. National Assembly 2017 budget was broken down to show that National Assembly Management got N6,714,696,986 for personnel cost, N6,193,052,825 for overhead cost and N2,011,315,202 for capital vote. This amounted to a total of N14,919,065,013.

Senate itself got a total of N31,398,765,886 broken down to N1,856,510,517 for personnel cost, N25,111,332,147 for overhead cost and N4,430,923,222 for capital vote. On the other hand, the House of Representatives received N4,923,743,127 for personnel cost, N39,635,756,179 for overhead cost and N4,493,244,677 for capital vote amounting to a total of N49,052,743,983.

The breakdown further showed that the National Assembly Service Commission received N961,257,912 for personnel cost, N1,144,662,999 for overhead cost and N309,791,962 for capital cost amounting to N2,415,712,873 in total.

For legislative aides, a total of N9,602,095,928 was approved with a breakdown of N8,917,127,214 for personnel cost, N534,968,714 for overhead cost and curiously, N150,000,000 for capital cost. While the PAC of the senate got a total of N118,970,215 from the 2017 budget, the PAC of the House of Representatives received N142,764,258. (PAC was not explained but it is believed to mean Public Accounts Committee).

Also from that budget, ‘General Services’ got a total of N12,584,672,072 with N11,767,743,268 going for overhead and N816,928,811 going in for capital votes. National Legislative Institute got a total of N4,373,813,596 of which N416,452,124 was for personnel cost, N1,229,369,283 was for overhead and N2,727,992,189 was for capital expenditure. Service Wide Vote of the National Assembly was put at N391,396,169. With these details, a total budget of N125,000,000,000 was written off.
With a 2017 budget of N31,398,765,886 the senate obviously has a lot of money to play with. That is why it is possible to payout N14 million to each senator monthly which amounts to about N18,312,000,000.

However, the impact of N31,398,765,886 makes more meaning when applied against tangibles. For instance, experts say that asides the cost of land, N2million can construct a primary health center that comprises of a general sitting area, one consulting room and a dispensing room. If that be truth, it means that a fraction of senators’ ‘running cost’ and wages, could build 774 primary health centres for each of the 774 local government areas.

That would amount to a total of about N1,548,000,000 in each fiscal year. In a four year circle, each local government in Nigeria would have had four primary health centers built out of a fraction of the ‘running cost’ and salary of Nigerian senators. A similar surgical on the running cost and wages of House of Representatives members would make up for equipment and staffing of such PHCs.

If on the other hand provision of borehole for each of the 774 local government areas is to be funded from the running cost of senators, the breakdown would show that at N1million per borehole, each of the 774 local governments would get four boreholes sunk out of the senators ‘running cost’, and they still have enough to satiate their greed. N1million per borehole per local government will translate to N774million per year. In four years it would come to N3,096,000,000 and the senators would still have about N14.9 billion to share annually.

Sadly, many federal lawmakers, who mouthed the huge pay made to senators and used same as campaign issue, have kept mum over the issue. They neither critique what is paid them nor do they frown at it. None of them have shaken the Senate with an open call for an end to what they are paid against existential realities of life in Nigeria. None has so far brought a private members bill seeking for a law to reduce what senators are paid. This indicates that there is so much hypocrisy about fixing wage differentials in Nigeria.

While Nigeria funds senators’ greed, the masses of those who stood under the sun to vote, reel in abject poverty while many scavenge waste bins for food and without potable water, healthcare and security.

In other words, the masses of the people labour everyday under heavy yolk to fund the insatiable greed and penchant to grab more, of a few elite who in all, do not constitute one percent of the Nigerian population. With N14million every month, every senator can afford overseas treatment. They could build any sort of house that meets their fancy. They could also afford the best of education for their wards. But in the end, they spread poverty and widen the gulf between the haves and the have not. This breeds insecurity and fuels the call for cancellation of a bi-cameral legislature in preference for a unicameral one that would operate on part time basis.
By Femi Qudus….

 

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Edirin Etaghene

Editor @Ripples Nigeria
Writer, Journalist, Activist. Interested in government policies that have direct impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.