By Onyedika Okafor
The CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi was quoted in the media as saying that the situation whereby 25 per cent of the country’s revenue spending yearly goes to the National Assembly is unhealthy for the country and its economy. The statement rekindled the attack on the National Assembly by Nigerians and irked the parliamentarians. To wipe its face of Sanusi’s spit, the Senate came out as always in self defence.
The Senate’s loudspeaker, Ayogu Eze began his case on a wrong foundation. Addressing the press, he called Sanusi’s outburst ‘an orchestrated campaign to tarnish the image of the National Assembly’. But the unanswered question is: what is the image of Nigerian National Assembly among Nigerians and non-Nigerians? One cannot tarnish what does not exist. The National Assembly has no image and as such Sanusi cannot stain the sick. Members of National Assembly who refuse to promulgate the Freedom of Information bill, what image are they protecting? Those who receive millions of Naira with nothing to show for it, what image are they protecting? Those who have built a safe haven for themselves in Abuja with their children in foreign schools whereas the rest of us are dying, what image do they have?
Mr. Ayogu, acting like the military junta of those dreadful days for whom intimidation is fashionable, went further to say that the CBN Governor might be summoned to provide further clarification on the statement attributed to him. Instead of stating his facts he began with intimidation- summoning! Who is afraid of summons? Are they policemen or what? Why is it that whenever they hear such truths, they become jittery and panicky and begin to look for distractions. The lawmakers should rather be summoned by Nigerians to give account of their stewardship.
The senate shot itself again in the foot by agreeing that it is actual 3.5% of the total budget that comes to NASS not the purported 25%. Does this not amount to shamelessness for them to have the gut to come out and say only 3.5% of national budget goes to the National Assembly in a country where more than half the population lives in less than a dollar a day? How many are they in that parliament? Less than 1000 lawmakers and staff and the other 96.5% of the budget is for the remaining over 140 million Nigerians. Incredible! So 3.5% of annual budget goes to NASS, and they don’t see anything wrong in it? Where have these men left their consciences? Unfortunately, Ayogu Eze never talked about the recurrent expenditure. He plainly and clearly ducked away from the truth. He has agreed that it is 3.5% of total budget, which could as well mean 25% of its overhead. I am quite sure that the banking wizard Sanusi could not have miscalculated his arithmetic. Recurrent expenditure is not the entire budget, it include salaries and allowances and other regular spending. This means that of the millions on the federal payroll, the NASS made up of 109 senators, 360 representatives and assumed 1,027 staff and aides; take about 25% of the recurrent expenditure and 3.5% of the total budget. What a country!
Whether it is 3.5% of the national budget or 25% of the national recurrent expenditure, the fact is that our national assembly is too expensive. The National Assembly is depleting our economy in salaries and contributing little or nothing in the process. This amounts to injustice and I think that in any serious country, something must have been done to check this aberration.
Onyedika Okafor writes from University of Nigeria, Nsukka