National Assembly of cankerworms


With daring derision and haranguing humiliation, Muhammadu Sanusi II was heave-hoed from the stool of his forefathers as the Emir of Kano. Immediately after the deracination, his voice careened into hibernation.
In high and low places, Nigerians did not hear much from Sanusi. But a couple of weeks ago, the deposed Emir unmuted his own voice. It was at a virtual colloquy. I have watched many of Sanusi’s videos and listened to his talks splitting up the guts of the ruts that swallowed up Nigeria in the crude oil sector. I have heard him challenge the northern elite who have been accused of submerging the North into protracted penury; and subjecting millions of children of the underprivileged into squalour.


At this recent virtual get-together, Sanusi did not discuss the man who deposed him as Emir. He did not make a reference to Governor Umar Ganduje and contractors’ funny money. Sanusi talked about bigger issues.  He spoke about the drainpipe funnelling Nigeria’s hard-earned funds into a multitude of bottomless pits and private pockets of politicians in cahoots with their colluding businessmen. He addressed a process etched in our democratic system namely: a bloated government, padded budgets, and government folk who daily grease their palms with cumshaw. And with other Nigerians of note, he discussed the evil of corruption and waste smothering precious blood pint by pint out of the Giant of Africa. Among other highlighted points that struck my interest, Sanusi spoke about a National Assembly full of human cankerworms.


“…if you have a company and you have extremely high overheads and you need a high contribution margin to break even, you would be looking at how to reduce cost. So, we have a constitution that says we should have 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives….With these, you are already set up to be bankrupt… Do we need a bicameral legislature; do we need close to 500 legislators in Abuja; do we need the hundreds of state legislators; what are they doing…?”


I reecho Sanusi’s query: What exactly are they doing? Without any doubt, Nigeria is inundated with virulent footprints of corruption. The grimmest act may be the undercurrent goings-on in our National Assembly. What is going on inside the smirched chambers of the National Assembly is garroting corruption of the most acerbic order. Nigerian lawmakers are Nigeria’s elite locusts and cankerworms. At the crack of every dawn, they legislate Nigeria into extinction without knowing it. I agree with Sanusi that Nigeria will one day go bankrupt; and there may be many reasons. But what remains a global absurdity and a slap in the faces of the people are these lawbreakers’ salaries and allowances. The behemoth is already day-by-day sinking the titanic called the Giant of Africa.


Vice President Yemi Osinbajo seconded Sanusi’s voice. He thundered: “There is no question that we are dealing with a large and expensive government. But as you know, given the current constitutional structure, those who would have to vote to reduce government, especially to become part-time legislators, are the very legislators themselves. So, you can imagine that we may not get very much traction if they are asked to vote themselves, as it were, out of their current relatively decent circumstances”.

The VP’s statement sounded like we are giving up on the lawless lawmakers who have successfully built a firewall of stealth around their take-home pays. The salaries and emoluments were shrouded in so much secrecy until Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District blew the covers. Sani, before he was ousted at the 2019 polls, revealed that each Nigerian senator received N13.5 million monthly for unspecified expenses tagged ‘running cost’ in addition to the N750,000 official consolidated salaries and allowances of the lawmakers as approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Allocations Commission.

The 109 senators coast home this whopping sum monthly for doing not much. They slumber off and fool around in the chamber, they pass no legislation that brings succour to the suffering masses, and many times, they don’t show up at work as often as Nigerian workers do because of the rules of the house written by all and abused by not a few.

 For Pete’s sakes, what is a lawmaker doing with N70 billion running costs? What is he doing with a hardship allowance which is 50% of basic salary; Constituency Allowance 200% of basic salary; Newspapers Allowance 50% of Basic Salary; and Wardrobe Allowance 25% of his basic salary? What in the world is a Recess Allowance which amounts to 10% of Basic Salary; Accommodation 200% of Basic salary; Utilities 30% of Basic Salary; Domestic Staff 70% of Basic salary; and Entertainment 30% of Basic salary? What lawmaker with conscience will justify a monetary benefit for hiring Personal Assistants that are scheduled to earn 25% of a hiring lawmaker’s basic salary; Vehicle Maintenance Allowance 75% of Basic salary; Leave Allowance 10% of Basic salary; Severance Gratuity 300% of Basic salary; and Car Allowance 400% of Basic salary? I continue to wonder how we can sincerely fight corruption without fighting these corrupt people.

Nigerian senators’ stay in office costs the Nigerian taxpayers over N70billion in monthly ‘running costs’ alone. And that was all Sani told us. There are other hidden costs that have not been revealed. We do not have an insight into what goes on in the House of Representatives with 360 members and a horde of aides. Nigeria’s adopted democratic system, by default, has groomed and nurtured chairmen of cumshaw; commanders-in-chief of Nigeria’s gravy-train; and cockeyed capo dei capi of corruption.  I will not compare these charades to what obtains in other nations; I will compare Nigeria to Nigeria. In a Cimmerian economy such as Nigeria’s, this is flat-out insensitive!

Many people have warned me over these many years that the more we point out these ailments sieging on Nigeria, the more the ailments get worse among these culprits serving and stealing. What are the identified acts mis-governance Nigerians have ever shouted about and leaders have addressed or changed? Not much! The more the people cry, the worse the nation’s condition. Sometimes, I ask myself, Why cry if at the end of the day the people will not laugh? But we will continue to do our part. We owe it to posterity and the oppressed people of Nigeria.

PUNCH

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