Godswill Akpabio, Senate President, has drawn widespread criticism following his statement that lawmakers have been sent money to enable them to enjoy their holiday.
In a video that went viral on Wednesday, Akpabio was heard saying the clerk of the National Assembly has disbursed funds to all senators to enable them to enjoy their holiday.
“In order to enable all of us to enjoy our holidays, a token has been sent to our various accounts by the clerk of the National Assembly,” he said.
The statement generated some reactions from some of his colleagues, and he withdrew it.
“I withdraw that statement. To allow you to enjoy your holiday, the Senate President has sent prayers to your mailboxes to assist you to go on a safe journey and return,” Akpabio said.
Many Nigerians on social media and those who spoke to BusinessDay knocked Akpabio and the leadership of the country.
Many accused the lawmakers of putting their personal interests above the nation, saying that despite the prevailing harsh economy and rising poverty in Nigeria, they had allocated huge amounts to themselves as allowances among other benefits.
Tope Musowo, a public affairs analyst, condemned the attitude of the senators, while calling for holistic electoral reform in Nigeria to aid the emergence of credible public office holders.
He said: “Nigerians should not be surprised; sharing of money is not new among the lawmakers. The current Senate’s posture in the last few weeks should tell Nigerians that they will not be different from their predecessors. They may be worse.
“Our system is encouraging corruption and in this system, the interest of the masses is secondary. It is a systemic problem; it is apparent in the recently conducted general election that these guys would always find a way to get themselves into power even when they are rejected by the people.
“What we need is a holistic electoral reform, to make our elections credible for the right people to be elected into office. The senators think they have spent so much to get to where they are and should recoup their money. All the agitations for a cut in the cost of governance do not concern them.”
Kunle Okunade, political analyst, said the revelation by the Senate President on the ‘holiday allowance’ for 109 senators shows how the political class does not reflect on the precarious economic conditions facing the masses.
He said: “It is never a wrong thing for the senators to go on recess without pay as virtually everyone in Nigeria is drastically reducing both luxury and running cost. Akpabio’s unconscious revelation justified the rumoured N70 billion palliatives, which was reported to have been budgeted for them.
“The NASS should know that it is time to reduce allowances so that more money would be available for sustainable infrastructure development. For once, it is expected that the ruling elite should have empathy and govern with sincerity but the reverse is the case in Nigeria”.
Uyi Samuel said on Twitter that the leadership of the Senate was insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
“They keep sharing money while Nigerians are suffering. This is an act of wickedness,” he said.
Samuel Okon said the problem of Nigeria was leadership, noting that there was a need for a change of the current crop of political leaders for the country to move forward.
He said: “Akpabio’s comment was a confirmation that we do not have leaders in Nigeria, but politicians who are only after their selfish interests. Look at how people are suffering and they still allocate huge allowances and other benefits to themselves.
“The earliest we recognise that these men are parasites to this blessed nation, the better we have a chance in moving ahead. But maybe it is what we deserve because if the election comes today, we would put sentiment, ethnic and religious colouration to it.”
Uwa Chukwudi believes there is no need for the current bicameral legislature, describing it as a waste “as most of the lawmakers are not contributing anything meaningful to the country”.
He advised that Nigeria should revert to the parliamentary system used in the First Republic.
Chukwudi said: “We don’t need a bicameral legislature, one house is okay. I think the current system is too expensive; I really don’t see what these guys are doing that we are paying them such a huge amount.
“The senators are just sitting in the hall doing nothing, year in and year out, and still share taxpayers’ money at every given opportunity. I would suggest we revert back to the First Republic system.”
Eno Luke, another Nigerian, said Nigerians should learn from the mistake of voting wrong people into public office, saying that he was not surprised by their conduct.
He said: “Nigerians have refused to learn from their mistakes. We continue voting these guys into power and see what we are getting; it is shameful to be sharing money when people can’t even afford to eat once.
“The electorate is more than the elected, yet the elected eat better than the electorate. Nigeria is unreal.”
Another Twitter user who simply goes by the name Peace described the senators’ action as shameful.
“Just look at these shameless Nigerian senators. Meanwhile, people can’t even afford to put on a generator from 7-10 pm again. A shame,” she tweeted.