It’s Time To Stop Constituency Allowance For National Assembly Members BY ADEWALE ADEOYE
Nigeria is facing extremely tough times. The people are no longer tough enough to trudge. Insecurity is messing up every good thing once on sight. Flying, creeping and walking beings are distressed. Violence is making the earth scorched. The land caves from the weight of iniquities. There can be nothing more important than human lives, now as worthless as cockroaches on the sidewalk.
This is the time for statesmen. This is the time for creativity so that we all don’t drown. One major problem is poverty and corruption and then the burning zeal for self determination, we ignore to our peril. We may not have answers to all the problems, but we can take some striking steps to create more wealth for the people hoping this may reduce the potential slide into anarchy. How can we raise funds for jobs and wealth creation with immediate effect?
My answer is simple: Let the National Assembly SHRINK so that it will not SINK. One practical step is to put a stop to Constituency Allowance to secure huge sums to help alleviate poverty and probably tame the raging lions on our streets.
It’s time to stop Constituency Allowance
Taken on its face value, Constituency Allowance is to help Senators and House of Rep Members address socio-economic challenges in their immediate constituencies. It is also meant to support local development efforts. Let us face it, lawmakers confront a lot of challenges and pressure from voters mostly seeking personal and collective needs. There is justifiable over assumptions on their wealth. The society, therefore, exerts so much pressure on them almost to their breaking point. However, I do not think the solution is Constituency Allowance. This is not a creative solution.
Let us calculate the Economic implication on Nigerians. I understand a Senator goes home with some 13m in each month as salary. That makes N156m in one year and N624m in a single term of 4 years for one person. Two terms come to N1.248b from tax payers’ sweat. This is probably more than what the entire civil servants in Bayelsa, Plateau or Bornu States can safe in four years. A House of Rep member rakes in N9m per month as salary. It comes to N108m in one year, N432m in a single term of four years and N864m in eight years for one person, almost the entire budget of a state at a point, going to one person for making laws for us.
The entire 109 Senators take N17, 004,000,000 -Seventeen Billion and four million naira- in just one year. That is enough to build a refinery. If you take into consideration 109 Senators in four years, you arrive at N68,016,000,000- Sixty Eight Billion and sixteen million naira. If I have that, I will almost build railways from Lagos to Jos. The House of Rep total N155,520,000 -One Hundred and Fifty Five Billion, Five Hundred and Twenty million naira in four years. Don’t multiply by eight years, so that you don’t cause hypertension.
Now the Constituency Allowance !!!
A Senator is entitled to some N200million Constituency Allowance while House of Rep is entitled to 100m Constituency allowance. It means in each year, 109 Senators collect N21,800,000,000-Twenty One Billion and Eight Hundred Million Naira while House of Rep members collect Constituency Allowance of N36,000,000,000.00-N36billion naira in just one year. This is crazy, in a country where Professors and medical doctors are not well paid. They even earn more than state governors.
Now, if each Senator collects N200m in one year-I hope it is once in four years- it means each Senator is at will to spend N800m of public funds in four years and N1.6b in eight years without resort to public scrutiny and each House of Rep member to spent N400m in four years and N800m in eight years without any consultation with the people. This is madness. Little wonder Nigerians are reacting sometimes in a “mad” manner against the tyrannical system.
The sociology of Constituency Allowance and Pedagogy of the Oppressed With constituency allowance, Nigeria is shifting state responsibilities to individuals. Lawmakers are being made to provide water, schools, roads, drainage, security for Nigerians. They are performing state functions. Where these services are provided, the politicians advertise their posters as if it is their private effort, yet, this same money belongs to the people. The danger is that the people are beginning to shift loyalty from the STATE to individuals. Individuals are becoming laws instead of the STATE.
This is one way to delegitimise the state. It tramples on the status of the state as the protector of the citizens by shifting the obligation of the state to individuals. It erodes the influence and power of the state as an eternal institution and substitutes with the prowess of the individual. It creates dual authority for the citizens thereby dividing their commitment to the state. When individuals become custodians of state functions, rights and obligations, they often demystify the state and subdue her authority over the people. When the state no longer has authority over the people, the state is indirectly promoting disorder and public resentment against an institution that should shield the public from their tribulations. There is a big danger when individuals and communities are made to lose faith in the state, it destroys the social fabric necessary for the state to mobilize the people for collective responsibility in any sphere. It removes the prospect of people making sacrifices for their country in the field of science, art and philosophy, since the state to them is less impactful in their lives. It also destroys public perception on the meaning of STATE.
Instead of being faithful to the STATE, the people are becoming faithful to public servants making such individuals to become laws. Instead of obeying the STATE and her Rules, the citizens tend to pander to the Rule of individuals that provide their needs. The state becomes more fragile, lacking authority and weakened by its lack of influence to enforce her own laws on people that no longer see or feel her impact. The other problem is that Constituency Projects have further polarized traditional communities against each other.
Problem of Accountability
The truth is that there is no evidence that half of these funds get to the end users and not in private pockets of the lawmakers. The projects also evade the Philosophy of Due process in procurement, fund disbursement and professional, third-party auditing giving room for institutional corruption. There is the problem of accountability. The lawmakers are not under any STRONG obligation to account for the Constituency Allowances they collect. There is no effective monitoring mechanism. In my own community for instance, there are some 28 commune. My Senator and House of Rep members, by virtue of what they collect should have at least a project worth not less than 4 million in each of the 28 communities. That will only cost the two of them N56 million naira which is just half of what the House of Rep in my community collects as Constituency Allowance. But these projects are not anywhere to be found. In many affected communities across Nigeria, there are no projects to our striking knowledge. Who is fooling who?
What is to be done?
1. If the National Assembly wants to continue with Constituency Projects, the funds should be given in trust to each of the constituencies that elected the lawmakers on needs and population assessment basis. The communities can set up a Trust Fund to receive and implement projects at local communities.
2. The second option is to pass on the funds to each Local Government in the states.
3. The third option is what I call the EKITI MODEL. This is to give the funds to each State Government to implement projects in partnership with affected communities. I call this the Ekiti State or Dr Kayode Fayemi MODEL because between 2010 and 2014, the APC government in Ekiti State instituted a unique project which involved each community presenting at least three most important projects to be financed by the State Government in partnership with the local communities who would provide the work force and the contractor in most cases. It turned out that where previous governments had spent some N10million on a project for instance, the community would spend only N3million due to community diligence, communal monitoring and protection from sleaze. The state Government also introduced a system whereby the STATE Budgets were prepared with community involvement. The State Budget ceased from being a yearly ritual to becoming a democratic watershed owned by the people from conception to implementation. This is an excellent example of Institutional Building.
4. In all, the National Assembly members should ask themselves: What sacrifices are they making to help Nigeria out of the present quagmire? We have asked them to create State Police, they refused. We asked for restructuring, they are picking their teeth. Now, we have so much violence and hate that no one immune. The lawmakers have to do something urgent about the Constituency Allowance if Nigeria is to move from stupor, waste, stagnant status and to reduce the spiraling flame of hate, killing, murder and looming anarchy arising from deprivations. This has to be backed with a minimum programme of restructuring of the Country to protect the fears and aspirations of threatened communities and human species.