Friday, 20 September 2013
The National Assembly [NASS]: A Metaphor For National [Elite] Profligacy! By Jaye Gaskia
Increasingly as an integral part of the heightened national discourse on the skyrocketing and unsustainable cost of governance in the country; more and more lights of scrutiny are being beamed on the National Assembly [NASS] at the national/federal level in particular, and legislative assemblies across all tiers of government in general.
So for instance we now know that our federal legislators at the National Assembly are some of the highest paid in the world [first in Africa, and only 3rd behind US and Australia globally], even though they continue to deny that they are so highly paid, while refusing in flagrant violation of provisions of federal legislation passed into law by the same assembly and accented to by the President of the Federal Republic – the Freedom of Information [FOI] Act!
It is scandalous enough that in a nation where 70% of the population live in poverty, that is over 110 million persons; where general unemployment is 24% [that is one in four persons of working age are out of job]and youth unemployment between 45% and 50% [that is one in two youths of working age are out of job]; and where there is, all by official account, well over 18 million housing deficit; that the elected representatives of the people of such a country could be the 3rd highest paid in world! It is even more unbelievably scandalous, that their average remuneration is more than 116 times the average per capital income of citizens! Whereas in the US and Australia cases, the earnings of their legislators is 2 and 4 times the average national per capita income respectively!
So both in quantitative and qualitative terms the earnings of our legislators are unjustifiable as they are criminally indefensible! And on this account of their unconscionable and inhuman earnings [contrast this with the miserable 18,000 Naira minimum wage that is not even being paid and that different state and federal MDAs are complaining they are unable to pay; or contrast with the earned allowances of University Lecturers at N87bn that is being owed to ASUU members, etc]; on the account of these unearned payments to our legislators, none of the arguments that they have come up with makes any sense in a sane society, or to any sane person!
Some of them have said the demands on legislators by their constituents is immense, hence the need for resources that will enable them meet those demands! What fallacy? What nonsense! Create the enabling environment for the economy to grow, be productive and create sustainable jobs and livelihoods; and block all leakages and waste in public expenditure, including putting an end to corruption; and there will be not just drastic reduction in poverty levels and jobless rates; but as well as there will be no more demands made on politicians by the electorates to cushion the effect of poverty!
Let us go a bit further; in the last 8 years, over N1tn has been appropriated by the NASS [this works out to N100bn annually over four years; and N150bn annually over the subsequent four years]!
Furthermore, over the last ten  years, more than N900bn, just slightly less than N1tn has been spent on constituency projects of members of the National assembly alone! In 2013 for instance, there are listed in the Federal Budget breakdown, 2,399 constituency projects for the National Assembly! If we assume a flat rate of 1,500 constituency projects per annum, over the last 10 years, this will come to over 15,000 constituency projects in total. If we assume a more or less equitable distribution per LGAs, this should leave us with an average of more than 17 constituency projects per LGA!
The question to ask is that where are these constituency projects? What has been their impact on constituency development, on community development, or on national development? With nearly N1tn investment on constituency development over ten years, and about 17 such projects per LGA, why has poverty rate grown from 54% in 2004 to 70% in 2012? Why did the unemployment rate increase from 8% in 1999 to 24% in 2011? Why did the Housing Deficit skyrocket from less than 10 million housing units before the present democratic dispensation, to the over 18 million housing units currently?
It is important that we pose these questions and pose them stringently, and now? It is even more important the national discourse around the absurdly high cost of governance be undertaken in the context of cost efficiency, value for money, and impact of governance on our economy as a people, and on our lives as citizens!
For we must factor in the fact that this nearly N1tn investment on constituency development over a 10 year period, is in addition to the more than tens, if not hundreds [in total] of combined public investment [including regular and special intervention funds] in national development since 1999 by all the three tiers of government! In the period since 2007 for instance, more than N2tn in special intervention funds have been injected into the economy by the Federal Government alone!
Where has all these moneys/funds/resources gone into? Into what use have they been put? What have been the tangible and or intangible impacts?
Is the impact to be measured in the more than N5tn lost to corruption in the two years between July 2010 and June 2012? At a shocking monthly Treasury Looting Rate of nearly N220bn? Or is it to be found in the nearly 12,000 abandoned Federal projects at a whopping cost of over N7.7tn [for which N2.2tn has already been paid in mobilisation fees] that litters the national territory? Or are we to discover the impact in the obscene, sudden, ill-gotten wealth of the new-rich?
Under these circumstances, the cost of maintaining these treasury looting political elites and their business elite cohorts can only be described as monument to waste and the embodiment of national profligacy.
In these context, with a thieving and gluttonous ruling class interested only in lining its own pockets [along with the pockets of their most senior prebendal clientele]; it is up to us ordinary citizens, victims of their profligacy, gross ineptitude, and crass incompetence, to pick up the gauntlet, take our destiny back into our own hands; and take urgent and concrete steps to Take Back Nigeria; and in our own live time!
When we abandon politics to riffraff’s, and governance to selfish pilferers, the result is mass poverty, mass homelessness, mass joblessness, and a level of insecurity which directly reflects the degree of alienation of citizens from society.
And against the background of the growing ferment in society, among the victims of their misrule; against the background of the increasing deepening implosion among the thieving elites; we can only reiterate that ‘this is the time to reflect, to rethink, and to ACT’; and in our own interests, for once!