SENATORS AND REPS SALARIES (SARS): ANOTHER VERSION OF SARS

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It’s a good thing that Nigerian youths have finally woken up from their slumbers, and have begun changing the age-long narrative which holds that, “Nigerian youths are docile”. They have risen against the endless injustice and misrule by the hawks, buccaneers, and barbarians that had held sway in the leadership of Nigeria over the years! Indeed, this is evident in the widespread protests and online activism christened #ENDSARS which has spread to every nook and cranny of the nation like a wildfire in the harmattan.

It should be noted that the precursor to these protests was a footage that began trending on Twitter social media platforms on Saturday, October 3, 2020, where a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police officer was shown to have shot a Nigerian youth in front of Wetland hotel located in Ughelli, Delta state, and allegedly took away his victim’s car – A Lexus SUV. The video sparked-off public outrage on Twitter and several other social media platforms with the #ENDSARS hashtag trending.

On Thursday, October 8, 2020, country-wide protest tagged #ENDSARS# ensued after days of annoyance and uproar orchestrated by more and more videos and pictures that emerged on Twitter revealing wanton police brutality, extortion and harassment in Nigeria. The government, in an effort to quell the protest, promptly disbanded SARS – a unit of the Nigerian Police Force which happened to be the centrepiece of the protest. No sooner had the government disbanded SARS than the protest metamorphosed into spontaneous endless protests and online activism with various tags such as #ENDBADGOVERNANCEINNIGERIA#, #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY#, #BUHARIMUSTGO#, #REBUIDNIGERIA#, et al.

For all intents and purposes, it is imperative to state that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) menace cum police misdemeanour in Nigeria is just a microcosm of the greater menace bedevilling Nigeria. It is safe to say that various limiting factors in the civil and political leadership of the nation could be held responsible for the several failed institutions (SARS inclusive) in the nation today. In virtually all the institutions in Nigeria such as Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nigerian Police Force, NPF, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, National Assembly, NASS, National Judicial Council, NJC, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, the armed forces, and so on; the stories have been the same. It has been stories of woes: bribery and corruption, embezzlement of funds, incompetence, gerrymandering, systemic failure, mediocrity, nepotism, crass response to national exigencies and the likes. In one of my previous articles entitled: “Redefining Nigeria’s political and socio-economic problems and remedies: Part 1”, which was published in The News Chronicle of September 5, 2020, I had tenaciously argued that the existence of an efficient and professional police organization in Nigeria would most likely bring to an end most of the country’s political and socio-economic problems as they ( Nigerian Police Force) would be at the center of the fight against crimes such as bribery and corruption, money laundering, rape, kidnapping, murder, fraud, terrorism, electoral fraud and violence, political violence, domestic violence, indiscipline, civil unrest, armed robbery, examination malpractice, moral decadence, child trafficking and labour, systemic inefficiency, among others. They would as well provide quick response to matters of emergency and other threats to public safety; protect certain public facilities and infrastructures as well as maintain public order. Thus, reforming the Nigerian Police Force should be the first step to tackling the myriad of problems bedevilling the nation, and this step must be taken as fast as possible before the country totally collapses.

Another critical institution that should have also aided in this fight against perennial bad governance and other multifarious evils in the nation today is the National Assembly. Succinctly, they are the mouthpiece of the masses and the people’s representatives. Regrettably, the people’s representatives at the National Assembly have turned to the proverbial dog sent on an errand to the gods by a pack of dogs to dialogue with the gods on ways to advance the course of the dogs, but the errand dog got there only to jollify, wine and dine with the gods, as well as sort ways to advance its personal course, thereby jettisoning its main mission to the gods. To put the records straight, the onus is on the people’s representatives (senators and rep members) to straighten out all these myriad of problems bedevilling the nation. Sadly, they tend to be a major part of the national problem as they appear to represent their pockets instead of the people.

Recall that the 2021 budget presented by the executive recently earmarked a whopping N128 billion for running the National Assembly alone – an increase of N3 billion when compared to budgetary allocation in past years. Alas, the amount allocated for National Assembly is approximately one-third of the amount earmarked for the entire health ministry that is allegedly battling COVID 19 pandemic ravaging country. Far above that, this increase in National Assembly budget by N3 billion is coming on the heels of dwindling revenue generation occasioned by COVID 19 global pandemic. Moreover, while the salaries and allowances earned by lawmakers in other climes are publicly published, the salaries and allowances of Nigerian lawmakers tend to be shrouded in mystery. It has been reported by various sources that the monthly aggregate salary of a senator in Nigeria is N29,479,749 or thereabout; this amount is equivalent to $77,788 at the current exchange rate. If the aforesaid amount earned by a Nigerian senator is anything to go by, one can then explain why elections for this public office over time have always been a tug of war. This same picture also applies to other public offices in Nigeria. In my treatise entitled, “Redefining Nigeria’s political and socio-economic problems and remedies-Part 2”, which was published in The News Chronicle of September 18, 2020, I did mention the need to make public offices less enticing and virtuous by reducing the bogus emoluments of public office holders, as well as enacting harsh laws against corruption by public officeholders. Need I add here that Nigerian lawmakers should also be placed on the national minimum wage.

A comparative analysis of salaries of lawmakers across the world would reveal that Nigerian lawmakers earn far above their counterparts in other climes. This finding corroborates an earlier report by The Economist Magazine (2013) that Nigerian legislators are the highest paid in the world. Perhaps, the annual salary of a Member of Parliament (MP) in the UK House of Commons is £81,932 (or approximately £6828 per month). In the USA, on the other hand, a lawmaker earns $174,000 per annum (or $14,500 per month).

Going further, the National Assembly ought to be a watchdog in the economy and the nation through their oversight function. Just like the proverbial dog that ate the bones kept in its custody for safeguard, they (National assembly) have also failed woefully in this aspect as revealed by several allegations of bribery and corruption hanging on their necks in the course of performing their oversight functions both in past and present times.

Today, the ultimate price we have to pay for the actions and inactions of our leaders at all levels, both past and present, is being manifested in the state of our nation; a nation that has lost its bearing; a bleeding nation; a nation that is on a brink of collapse; what a pity!

Hence, as this epic match to freedom continues, the slogan should henceforth read: “End Senators and Reps Salaries (#ENDSARS#)” or “End Senators and Reps Savagery (#ENDSARS#)”.

God bless our gallant youths in the struggle frontline.

May the souls of all those who lost their lives in the course of this historic struggle rest in perfect peace.

The writer of this article, Duruibe Stanley Chigozie, is an author, researcher and an economic and financial analyst. Email: duruibestan82@yahoo.co.uk

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