Sunday, January 11, 2009

Section 63(1) of the Nigerian Constitution (1999) requires both houses of the National Assembly to 'sit' for at least 181 days. So, it was something of a surprise to discover that in 2008, the Nigerian Senate only showed up to work for 90 days. Additionally, it was an extreme disappointment to also learn that the Senate only managed to pass 8 out of the 120 bills that were put before them. In explaining why so few bills were passed, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Aloysius Etok, said that lawmaking was slow because it is a thorough process that involves numerous (3) steps. He claimed that this process ensured that the laws passed, all 8 of them will stand the grand test of time. While one can understand that Nigeria's 109 Senators are deeply concerned that the laws they create will stand the test of time, the fact that they ignored their Constitutional duty to show up for work and that they could not pass many more bills such as the much anticipated Freedom of Information Bill, is the ultimate insult to the Nigerian people.


Unfortunately, the Nigerian Constitution does not provide for the impeachment and dissolution of the Senate by the people. If it did, the fact that the Senate passed less than 10% of the bills before them and that they failed to show up to work for the minimum amount of time required would present the best opportunity to use such a Constitutional provision. The Constitution does, however, provide for the dissolution of the entire National Assembly by the President. But, Section 64(3) only allows for such in time of war. Thus, Yar'Adua, who promised to provide "a purposeful and result-oriented administration that will yield tangible and visible benefits for all Nigerians would have had an excellent opportunity to do something revolutionary for Nigerian democracy by dissolving the Senate. However, considering Yar'Adua's attitudes towards democracy as exemplified by his administration's draconian measures against Nigerian bloggers and journalists, such an expectation would be too high at this time.

The Nigeria people pay their Senators very well. In August of 2008, this same crop of Senators (with their peers in the House of Representatives) increased their pay by over 100%. Furthermore, these Senators also increased their already generous allowances, such as their newspaper and hardship allowances, in late 2007. These perks and considerable salary packages are granted to Nigeria's Senators even though over 9 out of 10 Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. In fact, the Senate's President, David Mark, has a total salary package of N16,395,800 a year, including allowances for N13,911,758. Considering how much David Mark and his colleagues are paid, the least these Senators can do is not only show up for work, but also stay past closing time to pass a lot more than 8 bills, in service of the people.

It is also saddening to note that the Senators celebrated their lack of performance by hosting a 6-day retreat in Kano during November 2008, in the aftermath of Uzoma Okere's assault by military officers. Etok, explained once again, that,
"[t]he retreat was aimed at energising senators with skills to enhance their legislative duties. Resource persons were drawn from across the academia, the business cycle and government functionaries. A number of resolutions were equally reached and would soon be debated by the senate in plenary to provide it with a force of law" [sic]
It would have been preferrable that the Senators, so concerned about their laws passing the test of time, have this retreat after hours, and, on the grounds of the National Assembly. Instead, the astute Senators created an opportunity to spend, and possibly waste, the public's money, particularly as the Nigerian economy is experiencing a squeeze due to the falling price of oil and the global economic depression.

Based on the current facts before the Nigerian public, this group of Senators have a lot of catching up to do. In this new year, it would behoove the esteemed members of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Executive branch and indeed every civil servant to go above and beyond what is expected in the performance of their important duties to the Republic and its citizens. That should be the most important resolution, if any, that they all commit to and achieve. After all, the Nigerian people, deserve excellent service. And, they most definitely should get what they paid for.

Hattip to Chxta, whose post 'Rats' inspired this one.

You can keep track of the legislation before both houses of the National Assembly, and 'see' democracy in 'action' at the National Assembly's website.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Should Yar'Adua Get A Pay Raise?
- How To Become A Millionaire
- Getting The House Of Representatives We Paid For
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14 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Denford said...

This is the curse of Africa, civil servants and political leaders who believe a government office is only theirs in order that can promote their business interests and those of their relatives.

Our generation will change all this.

Beauty said...

George Bernard Shaw wrote in his play Caesar and Cleopatra, “When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty” Thank you for the insight into how things work in our National Assembly.

Greener Pastures said...

The hair's are standing up on the back of my neck as I read about this gross abuse of power. I'd love to get inside the minds of some of these legislators - to understand how they can justify such atrocious behavior. I would guess they are very proud of themselves for "beating the system."

Saheed said...

Reminds me of AIG execs partying it up in some retreat after they received bailout money....
If Nigeria had an oversight committe over every government entity/agency, I think things might be different...

Mola OG said...

Those guys are just chilling and eating all day... N16,395,800 is just the recorded income, I am sure he makes almost 10 more that in undeclared income...

This is funny SSD, "but also stay past closing time to pass a lot more than 8 bills, in service of the people.
" Impossible!!! stay after hours? In naija, na yam? I really hope that the generation coming after these current senators (10 -15 years from now) are not as lazy or lackadaisical as these ones. I mean if they were working at a for profit organization, they would all have been fired a long time ago.

They get an F for Failure.

Anonymous said...

Wow, serious?!?!

No words can describe how negatively I feel about this. If you were to tell them to cut their pay in half because they only did half the work then we would see complaints. Its so unfair.

8/120?!?! Imagine if their child came home with that score I'm sure they wouldn't be happy after they paid that much for school fees. Same thing...

I'm so frustrated right now. I'll be back.

Thanks SSD!


@ denford: you hit the nail on the head. It would seem that the Senators were far too busy conducting personal business than the business of State. Hopefully, your prediction will come true and our generation will change this behavior. But, I would be lying if I did not confess that many in our generation are just as bad, if not worse, that those lovely senators. But time, and hope will tell!

Thanks so much for the comment. And will you be buying the Spiderman episode with Barack in it?

@ Beauty: "When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty”

oh, I love it! Thanks so much for sharing this! Its like Wise OlD Man said to me in the past, don't do business with illiterates. Bu reading the Shaw quotes I have to amend WOM's wisdom to include stupid folks. lol!

@ Lisa: So good to see you around these parts. I will have to admit, that when I first heard about this at Chxta's, I hardly reacted. But as I started writing, U became increasingly upset. In fact, I had to edit this post a number of times to dilute the venom that was seeping through it.

Nigeria's government knows how to talk the good talk (sometimes), but it is even more crucial to walk the good walk. As we can all see, the Senators failed to do enough good for the people in 2008. I can only hope they do better this year.

@ Saheed: Who will oversee the Senate if not some esteemed fellow Senators who will revel with their peers at annual retreats?

It comes down to Nigerians. If they don't oversee their legislators, demand results are question behavior, then we can expect to see a similarly dismal performance in '09. Sad, but true. How you dey?

@ Mola: if these cats worked for an efficiency conscious corporation, they would be in jail!!! Their freedom, and the freedom to talk about their laziness is a benefit of their position.

Thanks so much for coming by, my broda.

@ Anon: hahaha. Your comment is so well put.

In 2008, when legislators in the Ivory Coast took a paycut, I held them up as an example of what Nigerian legislators should do. So, for you to note how unfair Nigeria's Senator's actions are, in a way, makes me feel better about my stance on this issue.

And yes, if one of their kids came home with grades that bad, it would be a war in that house. Nigerian parents do not play around with education and doing well. Nigeria's Senate shouldn't play around either.

Thanks for leaving a comment and next time don't be shy. There is no need to be anonymous here, but we appreciate your input nonethelss.

Dami said...

with the falling price of oil, i think these guys should take a huge pay cut and bonus cut as well!
or tehre pay should be linked with their attendance and participation!!!

Happy New year, Thanx ;)

imnakoya said...

Thanks for bringing this subject to live again. Hat-tips to Akin, Chxta and you for effort.

I chuckled reading Denford comment above: "Our generation will change all this", he stated.

How will our generation change the mindset of the people getting fat on our money?

We all know what is wrong with the system; the big boys like Soyinka and co have shouted and have gone hoarse. Nothing has changed. Bloggers like you and I have ranted, we have not made a dent in impact. Our efforts are fast turning into academic exercises of negligible impact!

I think it is time we started thinking of how to make the 'oles' in Abuja and all the state houses accountable, individually and collectively.

If anyone has ideas of how this can happen, this is one venture I'm ready to contribute mentally and financially. Serious.

Sugabelly said...

You always make good points but let's be realistic here. We need to stop parroting this $2 a day crap that I don't know who came up with. Between the CIA and the United Nations I don't know whose idiotic statistic it is. Nigerian beggars not only have cell phones, but credit to put it them. That alone knocks this nonsense out of the $2 ballpark. I know and acknowledge that there are many poor Nigerians, but there are also just as many who are doing okay. Not luxuriating, but not suffering either, just doing OK. Honestly it's getting very irritating as I seem to be hearing it everywhere from everyone's mouth. I sincerely think it's just something these so called developed nations say to make themselves feel better about themselves... the way Seventeen magazine had the NERVE to do a feature in the back of their magazine about how YOU TOO (and by YOU they are referring to any blonde haired blue eyed girl out there) can save AFRICAN TEENAGERS BECAUSE THEY ALL LIVE ON LESS THAN A DOLLAR A DAY!. I have a subscription. I promptly took my magazines out and burned them.


princekay123 said...

My God! These idiots are feeding fat at the expense of poverty-striken Nigerians.

God will judge sha.


@ Dami: wow! na you be dis? Long time no see. happy new year!

Thank you for making the suggestion of pay cuts, or at least linking pay to attendance. If only...

I am still in shock that the Constitution does not allow the public to discard of their representatives for failure to perform. Anyway, hope all is well with you and so good to see you around these parts.

@ Imnakoya: Happy new year my brother. So, yes, it has definitely become time to put action to the words, no? So sad that as we have watched this administration which had the opportunity to take and make smart decisions, its been nothing but disappointment. I'll have to send you an email sometime soon.

Thanks so much for getting the ball rolling on this one.

@ Sugabelly: My sista, sorry to get you upset, but what is real is real. Your people are poor! Full stop. You and many of us who have the luxury to read this blog might not realize it, and it might seem as if wherever we go people are doing just fine (and in many cases they are - that is just how Nigerians roll), but unfortunately, the majority of Nigerians don't have it like that, just yet.

Because I can only rely on the factual numbers provided by organizations by the UN, I will have to stick to the figures, despite how frustrating it must be. If you have figures from the government (Iam yet to find them) or from some other source that contradicts those I used, please share them. You know I am always on a quest to learn. Again, it is never my intention to upset, but I've got to call it like I see it. Despite the oil wealth and the reality that Nigeria is a seriously rich country, the majority of its 140 million people are dirt poor.

Abeg, make you no vex. Make you beg Yardy and friends to share the wealth, instead.

@ Princekay123: My broda, are we really going to wait for God to 'judge' or will we in our little way make some statement and let it be known that we expect and deserve better?

We no fit outsource this kain wahala to God oh! God is too busy dealing with people who have real problems, not the ones they have caused themselves.

Just my 2 cents.

bath mateus said...

I loved your posting.

bath mateus said...

loved your posting.

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