RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: On Lawmakers’ N9 Billion Wardrobe

Posted by News Express | 18 June 2015 | 3,377 times

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Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria, is abuzz with intense debates on the very costly and, indeed, rare wardrobe of the less than 500 Nigerians elected, supposedly, to constitute the eight session of the National Assembly, which by some official estimates will dig serious holes in the central treasury of Nigeria to the tune of - wait a minute - N9 billion.

Each member of the Federal House of Representatives (Green chamber) will pocket from the tax payers’ sweat, N17.5 million whereas their bigger boys in the Red chamber of the National Assembly (Senate), will pocket a princely sum of N21 million each. This scandalous story reminds me of the debate in a beer parlour by some ‘money-miss-roads’ on the topic of whose Mercedes is bigger than the other. With the abundance of  facts that  emerged on Monday that members of the Senate and House of Representatives may receive nothing less than N9 billion as wardrobe allowance next week, it has become clearer that the wardrobe of less than 500 Nigerians is costlier than those of the over 90 million absolutely impoverished Nigerians put together.

Pray! Why should our hard-earned federally-generated financial resources be blown away in the winds of frivolity, to purchase articles of clothing for this extremely privileged class who only few weeks back were on their kneels begging poor villagers for their votes, so as to come to Abuja and sit as legislators to legislate for the rest of the society? It’s surely only in a prodigal nation like Nigeria that a certain political class would be so much pampered and spoilt with official pecks and the other paraphernalia that bleeds the commonwealth of all Nigerians to a near death.

Only in a banana republic like Nigeria, where survival is for and by the brutes, that such official perfidy is tolerated by the rest of the starving millions of citizens. You may be muttering some funny words to yourself apparently asking to know what I had expected the rest of the hungry Nigerian populations should do. Permit me to tell you that it’s because we the common people of Nigeria have failed to exercise the power of our common sense to loudly reject these atrocious official indiscretions of this extremely few elitist class that they have perdured in their infamy and vicious crime of unpardonable rape of the national wealth of Nigeria.

The amount is paid once in four years, and these cabal that rape Nigeria of these huge sums will simply quaff cups of tea and eat meatpies relentlessly with their retinue of mistresses and serve out their tenure without meaningfully and constructively legislating on concrete issues that would make good governance and national sense of discipline as parts of our national life. Four years back, these same lawmakers collected these huge sums and additionally cashed over N4 billion to enable them amend the Nigerian Constitution, but blew away the humongous amounts without practically achieving the objective for which the big budget was released to them.

We must weep for Nigeria for facing incessant rape of her dignity by a negligible percentage that constitute the political class and after wiping out the tears of sorrow we must put on the garment of courage and patriotic fervour and demand accountability from the elected politicians. Our docility and silence won’t take us far and our collective hysteria and hypocrisy gloating in the make-belief that we are God-fearing won't take us far. Already one of the beneficiaries of this sinful wardrobe allowance in the person of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogari from Bauchi State in the North-East of Nigeria, has again started playing the so-called ‘God factor’ by sensationally making empty and false claims that God made him Speaker, as if God was involved in the shenanigans and bribery that allegedly passed under the legislative bridge in Abuja that pushed his victory through. Can we also conclude with Yakubu Dogara that God has richly endowed him and his co-travellers with the N9 billion worth of wardrobes?

It is a moral sin that while 50 per cent of Nigerians, as I write, have no means of sustaining themselves in the now fashionable poverty induced feeding formula of 0-1-0 (zero one zero), meaning only a square meal per day, each member of the House of Representatives will receive N17.5 million as wardrobe allowance, while senators will pocket N21.5 million for the same purpose. It's indeed worse than mere moral sin, because it's fatally irresponsible and irrational that less than one per cent of the populace live in absolute opulence while the rest of us survive from hand-to-mouth.

Reports even disclosed that aside these obscene allowances allocated to each federal lawmaker, this privileged class will‎ also receive furniture allowance, housing allowance and official vehicle: each of the senators would be paid N4,052,800 million as housing allowance. These are persons who live in big houses, but would still be paid housing allowances.  Any wonder our nation is bleeding financially to death? Mind you, virtually 45 per cent of Nigerians are homeless, even as destitution has become a way of life for most youthful Nigerians facing mass poverty and excruciating unemployment.

To make matters worse, journalists covering the National Assembly said these legislators will be paid the same amount every year, because the housing allowance is on annual basis. This means that the 107 senators who are entitled to it will be paid N433,649,600 million as housing allowance annually. As gathered by the reporters, the Senate president and the deputy Senate president are not entitled to this allowance because their own accommodation is to be provided by the Federal Government. Similarly, each member of the House of Representatives will be paid N3,970,425 million as housing allowance on assumption of office. This means that the 358 representatives will be collecting a total of N1,421,412,150 as housing allowance. Again, the Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are excluded from this allowance as the Federal Government is to provide their own accommodation, according to news report which most local tabloids carried.

As was widely reported, the Federal Government had sold public housing assets to legislators, and the principal officers of the National Assembly also benefited from the sale of the houses. As a result, it was learnt that the Federal Capital Territory Administration is at present building new houses for the Senate president, the deputy Senate president; the Speaker and the deputy Speaker. Mind you, the erstwhile deputy Senate president is back on his seat. So, if he gets another house, that will make him a proud occupier of two mansions at our collective expense. This outrageous anomalies can only happen in a dysfunctional society like ours, and the people simply walk around looking for daily bread while their sensibilities is continuously abused by their religious leaders who hypnotise them into believing that leaders come from God, even when it's clear that most of these public office occupants stole the mandate of the people through a cocktail of bribery and coercion and are behaving like locusts out to decimate the commonwealth of Nigeria.

For furniture, each of the senators is to get N6,079,200 million. Tell me – if this does not rankle and worry your conscience – what else will?

The furniture for both the Senate president and his deputy are to be fully provided by the government, so the report goes, just as this means that the 107 senators will get a total of N650,474,400 million as furniture allowance. Furniture allowance is paid once in four years. Each member of the House of Representatives will be paid N5,955,637.50 as furniture allowance. This means that 358 representatives, excluding the Speaker and his deputy, will collect a total of N2,132,118,225 billion as furniture allowance.

For vehicle, each of the senators is entitled to N8,105,600 million, while each representative is entitled to N7,940,850.50 million. This means that 107 senators will collect N867,299,200 million for vehicle, while 358 representatives will collect N2,842,824,479 billion for the same purpose. Speaker Dogara has hurriedly set up what he called Welfare Committee, to oversee the sharing of this national cake to this privileged class of Nigerians, in a nation facing scarcity of cash to fix our dilapidated infrastructures.

We must resolutely challenge these financial infractions and checkmate the National Assembly financial rapists before they liquidate Nigeria.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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