Recall the National Assembly, You Have The Power To #RecallNASS

LEWIS OBI 08173446632 sms only [email protected]

THE bad news of last week was that members of the National Assembly were unwilling to reconsider their “out-of-this-world” emoluments, and had each collect­ed slightly less than N30 million before proceeding on their third vacation in three months.

Those out-sized emoluments they awarded to themselves and closed the books and sealed their lips. No one knows how they arrived at those figures. They collect a salary and 14 different al­lowances which chalk up a monthly pay­check of N29,470,749. In addition, every quarter they also collect roughly N51 mil­lion. In contrast, the average salary of a Nigerian worker in generous circumstanc­es is N80,000 a month. The minimum wage is N18,000 a month. This minimum wage is not even available to everyone on that entry level grade. Many state govern­ments are still unable to pay their workers the minimum wage. It is even worse in the private sector where non-union work­ers are paid as little as N15,000 a month and sometimes less. Some cleaners, messengers, assistants get paid N8,000 a month. And everyone buys from the same market.

On the day the members of the Na­tional Assembly went home with nearly N30 million apiece, oil price (Brent) went slightly lower than $48 a barrel. It was $142 not long ago. The crash of the oil price apparently means nothing to mem­bers of the National Assembly, who are, of course, honorable and wise and patri­otic citizens. But at least 18 state gov­ernments are owing their civil servants salaries and pensions ranging from 6 (six) months to one month. They are owing because the revenue from oil from which such wage bills are paid has plummeted, quite apart from the prodigality of many state governments. In Osun State, the governor is said to ride a private jet and spends N520 million security vote per month. Osun State workers are owed for 6 months.

All this is bearable if there is no noise verging on a kind of national crusade for a fight against corruption. And leading this charge is our new President, Muhammadu Buhari. To be fair to him, he began with his own earnings of which he surrendered half. The Vice President Femi Osinbajo did the same. But that is just about the easiest part. The President is convention­ally the leader of the governing party. He is constitutionally the leader of the gov­ernment and the people. He is also the Commander-In-Chief, the protector and defender of the Constitution. But above all these, he has the obligation to provide moral leadership.

Now, the universal litmus test is: if you are leading or if you think or claim you are leading, look at your back. At a time the President is scrounging everywhere for money, trying to plug loop-holes, daily threatening the corrupt with pros­ecution, and being pressured to find the bail-out money to help states pay civil servants and pensioners, his colleagues in the National Assembly just pocketed N30 million which no one in good conscience can justify.

The President cannot fight the war against corruption alone. The entire lead­ership of Nigeria must be enlisted in the fight. If he cannot do that, if he fails to do that, nothing else that he does will matter in this area. He will have the same re­sult as he recorded 30 years ago. The first camp he must lead the charge into is the National Assembly, the real fountainhead of corruption in Nigeria. The National Assembly has become Buhari’s burden.

The National Assembly is not tangen­tial to the issue, it is the key. If the av­erage Nigerian views the assembly men as unjustly enriching themselves, what is the moral lesson? What is corruption if not unjust enrichment? The output of the National Assembly in terms of productiv­ity is probably the worst in the world. If you doubt this, spend just one evening on the C-SPAN network. And to add insult to the injury is the bizarre reality of Na­tional Assembly members awarding to themselves eight (8) times the earnings of United States Congress.

First, the United States economy is a $17 trillion economy. The Nigerian economy is therefore less than three (3) per cent of the US economy. Even if the world oil price did not crash, how does a Nigerian support paying Nigerian leg­islators eight times more than American legislators and three times more than the President of the United States?

The degree of inequality in Nigeria is approaching a revolution-provoking di­mension. Their calculation is that Nige­rians don’t fight against tyranny, don’t protest greed and corruption and don’t fire a shot in anger. But if the National Assembly is not replaced by mass recall, the possibility of a Nigerian spring is not far from the horizon. The average worker in the United States earns about $42,000 a year. The total earning of a US Congress man or woman is clearly and publicly re­ported at about $187,000 a year, which is 4.5 (four and a half times) the pay of the average worker.

It is about the same proportion in Eu­rope, even less so in other Third World countries, except Kenya. Thus, the aver­age European or American worker would work for four and half years to earn the pay of a Congress man or woman. At N960,000 a year, the average Nigerian worker would need to work for 190 years to earn the pay of a member of the Na­tional Assembly.

The assembly has become the drain pipe in the democracy chain. It has failed as a national institution. It does not rep­resent Nigeria but a small clique of pluto­crats who grew fat looting public treasury. President Obasanjo has said that no one in good conscience would expect the Na­tional Assembly to do any oversight func­tion. Every attempt in the past ended in a scandal with members collecting bribes as in the petrol import scandal where they demanded and were paid $600,000 bribe.