• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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Questioning NASS jumbo remuneration


Michael Omofuma

A national newspaper reeled out a very interesting revelation on Tuesday, 15th June, 2010. The newspaper revealed the actual take home pay of our senators.

For example, Senate President, David Mark rakes in a total of N250 million per quarter – that is, every four months. The Deputy Senate President garners in a total of N150million every quarter. Eight principal officers take home each a total of N78 million per quarter and then the other senators each take home N45 million per quarter.

My reaction was, first, to look around and be sure I was not living in another planet. I was not even in the USA or Britain or Japan: I was in Nigeria… And these incidents are taking place in my country. My second reaction was to ask myself: “How did we get here?” “How have we arrived at foisting on ourselves this unsightly burden?” And then I realized: This is the same David Mark, who years ago (and, obviously, he has not changed) told us that the telephone was not for the poor.

Since that discovery, I have been asking myself some questions: What gives our senators and other law makers the illusion that they must receive more money than the rest of us? What, in the name of Truth and Justice, gives public office holders the impression that they are superior to the Nigerian people? Is it morally right to pay these people so much money? What does a senator or a member of the house of representatives do more than a policeman, a lawyer, a judge, a military officer (or even a medical doctor or a nurse) etc.? For heaven’s sake, one makes the law; the other interprets it; and then the other enforces it. Yet another keeps the law (the citizen). If the laws are not kept by a people, then those laws are useless. The law is made for people and not people for the law.

If the population is wiped out by poverty, disease, hunger and violence, who will the laws be for? For example, if you prepare medicine for a dead man, what will he do with the drug? Is it not better to keep a man alive with good food, good water, good living conditions, good wages (a living wage) social security and other necessary things than to prepare medicament for the dead?

What then is the way out of this malaise? Should we rather increase the salaries of the law enforcement officers, the judiciary, the medical doctors, the lecturers – everybody – to N45 million per quarter, and N250 million for the heads of those institutions? And why not? But then, should we spend all our earnings on salaries? What is the way out? What is the answer to David Mark’s purple illusion? I guess the only way out is to tell ourselves the truth: We cannot increase everybody’s salary to N45 million. We must simply be prepared to obey a law of nature: The only way to fill a valley is to quarry a mountain. So when the mountain has been levelled down, there can be a level ground. That is what we call equity and justice. That is what we call fairness.

For far too long, we have played down the great need for this virtue. We have continued to let the gap between the rich and the poor increase. And now, our law makers have realized that the only way to plunder Nigeria and play clean of the EFCC is to legitimize looting in the name of salaries and emoluments.

And this is the root cause of all the anger and bitterness in the minds of many Nigerians – and particularly, the source of the unrest in the Niger Delta. And I must warn that not all the billions being wasted on rebranding will heal the wound that is at the heart of the suffering Nigerians who are daily faced with the prospect of annihilation at the instance of such social plagues as hunger, disease, undernourishment and unemployment. We must, therefore, as a people come out (en masse) and demand explanations from the Salaries and Wages Commission on this demonic state of affairs. We must also, as Nigerians, demand that the Presidency, the Senate and House of Representatives explain to the people of this country why they have decided to preside over the liquidation of our father land.

And now, here is a vital issue: the reason for the do-or-die politics (and now the life chairmanship status of some particular political positions) in Nigeria is this senseless wastage of our meager resources on a few individuals. For example, if people realize that it fetches an upwards of N250 million (and probably more) in every four months to be the senate president, and at least N45 million a quarter to be a senator, they would make a go at rigging the election. Why are we unnecessarily trying to make things difficult for poor Jega? Is there any wonder why Maurice Iwu was effectively paralysed and incapacitated by the super-power might of these political desperados.

Let’s send out the warning signal: whosoever is not ready to take a reduced wage for senators and public officers, should, in the name of peace and good judgement, realize that there are other vocations they can pursue other than party politics. As somebody has said somewhere: “If you cannot stand the heat, leave the kitchen.”