The new National Assembly and cost of governance
Three senators-elect, namely Ben Murray-Bruce, Samuel Anyanwu and Dino Melaye have already indicated their desire to mobilise their colleagues to drastically reduce the allowances payable to legislators after the inauguration of the eighth assembly due soon.
Also, the point was made that it would no longer be business as usual and that corruptive compromises such as the collaboration between legislature and the executive arm in which sundry logistic supports are provided to legislators as inducements during oversight functions would have to be stopped. This is quite encouraging and the prime movers should be supported by their colleagues and all Nigerians.
The fact that the cost of governance in Nigeria is too high is no longer debatable. To be sure, this phenomenon has been the subject of criticisms from civil society groups, well-meaning Nigerians, the international community and even some conscientious public officials.
Apart from the general misapplication and misappropriation of public funds, endemic corruption has also upped the ante to the extent that it is a miracle any singular infrastructural development can take place in the country.
Indeed, with the biggest slice of the nation’s resources devoted to the consumption and sumptuous lifestyles of the top personnel, the huge cost of governance has not only become a central question in the truncated growth of Nigeria but also a parameter by which the pace of the nation’s decline is measured by the international community and its institutions.
Sometime in 2012, the former Central Bank Governor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi appropriately questioned the sense in which over 75 per cent of the national income would be expended on the salaries and perks of public officials, especially those in the executive and the legislative arms.
He went further to emphasise the need to cut cost to free resources for national development, a position which, of course, did not go well with the lawmakers.
Ensconced in their comfort, fed fat on the citizens’ sweat and their pockets busting with unearned income, they could not be bothered by issues of national development and Sanusi’s submission was, to them, an irritation.
With a new government in the wings, the time for change is now. And, it is indeed good that the renewed move for responsibility in governance is coming from a set of in-coming legislators.
The profligacy in government and the lavish life-style of state actors amount to a drain on the common wealth and a desecration of the state as well as a betrayal of the people’s trust.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has made a half-hearted attempt at disclosing to Nigerians exactly what is due to the Nigerian legislator rated as the highest paid in the world while the lawmakers themselves have been too happy to keep mum. When they disclose anything, it is only half of the story.
It is, therefore, good that the in-coming lawmakers have taken note of the murmurings of the public, on the need to cut back the cost of governance.
It is imperative that they make open their pay package, reduce the number of aides and from that moral high ground, they can also legislate on issues such as the number of aides that other officials in the executive arms are allowed to have as well as the number of permanent secretaries per ministry.
Nevertheless, the real starting point would be for the legislators to begin the demonstration of some of these cost-cutting measures with themselves. The indications are good, it would appear, that the new legislators intend to make a difference and lead by example. It would be good for their image and good for the country to free the much needed resources for development.
Nigeria certainly cannot afford the current cost of governance. With the current overheads, the nation cannot drive growth and development. Therefore, cost-saving measures must also cover infrastructure, aides, official perks, estacodes, flight tickets among many other trifles that ought to be borne by individuals.
The presidential fleet should not have more than three planes and the convoy of anybody in government at any levels entitled to any such thing should reflect the austerity of the times.
With regard to the cost of maintaining the legislators, it must be borne in mind just as was recommended by the National Conference that the ultimate destination is part-time legislature, which would reflect the true need of Nigeria and which would make law-making the business of true servants not parasites.
With reduction in the cost of governance, freed resources can be ploughed back into productive ventures that would be beneficial to the general well-being of the people.