Monday, 8 August 2016
#MustRead: Serving and Stealing
Just like many Nigerians I know, in my daily commune with the Creator, I have not hesitated to pray for Nigeria. My petitions for the country are many because many are also her afflictions and challenges. In my quiet time, I focus my attention on men and women who have been placed in positions of leadership by whatsoever means. That is the charge of the Holy Book. I pray that their hearts will eschew evil and embrace good. I ask that their minds will not be on self but on the well-being and welfare of those they were called to serve. And I request that those among them who boldly and blatantly steal from the people will steal no more. I hope that these prayers will be answered in my lifetime.
Men are not asked to serve in order to make other men serfs. Government service is more than gluttonous and grabby aggrandisement. It is more than stacking up on treasures of gold and farther from diversion of monetary resources to fields and farms. Service to country was not crafted to be an avenue for looting, or fashioned as a weapon for leaching on the languid. Service is selfless. Many times, thankless. As men serve, a train track of legacy is being built one stretch after another. These are tracks upon which the helpless commute; and upon which men who have no hopes trace their trips to fulfillment in life. Divinity puts men in charge of lives of other men to challenge them to be in charge of their lives, and empower them to become men of fulfilled dreams.
When men are elected into public offices, the people do not expect their leaders to dip and dive into reckless gropes in pursuit of slush funds or engage in heinous heisting of tax-payers’ allocation. Government rules and regulations have provided an environment of comfort for those who work for the government and its agencies. Nigeria patterned its mode of governance after the United States of America. That style makes a way for those who serve for example, in the legislative arm of government, to be liberally remunerated with mind-boggling allowances. In spite of the plush platform created for these legislators to be financially comfy and cushy, the legislative grabby groupies are yet not satisfied. What else do men want from God?
Nigerian legislators, without a shred of doubt, are having the best of time serving. While they serve men, many of them are also serving mammon. I tried to dig up their monthly remuneration; and expectedly, there is a firewall of stealthiness built around public servants’ take-home pay in Nigeria. Yesterday, I asked a frustrated anonymous voice in Nigeria’s Presidency about our legislators’ remuneration. I got this response: “The salaries and emoluments are shrouded in so much secrecy. I am not able to confirm.” Wow!
Fellow Nigerians, those you hire don’t want you to know how bad they are bleeding you. There is something wrong with that picture.
My journalistic credo however drove me to stumble on some figures detailing what an average Nigerian senator hauls home each month while serving a starving nation. They are as follows:
A basic monthly salary of about N2.5m. Hardship allowance is 50 per cent of basic salary.
Constituency allowance is 200 per cent of basic salary. Newspapers allowance is 50 per cent of basic salary.
Wardrobe allowance 25 per cent of basic salary.
Recess allowance 10 per cent of basic salary
Accommodation 200 per cent of basic salary.
Utilities 30 per cent of basic salary. Domestic staff 70 per cent of basic salary. Entertainment 30 per cent of basic salary. Personal Assistants 25 per cent of basic salary.
Vehicle maintenance allowance 75 per cent of basic salary. Leave allowance 10 per cent of basic salary.
Severance gratuity 300 per cent of basic salary.
Car allowance 400 per cent of basic salary.
Total monthly cash haul = N29,479,749.00.
A renowned lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, once submitted that Nigerian legislators make a little less than the above figure. Sagay once informed that a senator in Nigeria earns N240m in salaries and allowances and a member of the House of Representatives earns N204m per annum. If any of these figures is incorrect, I challenge any of these groupies to make a public announcement of their salaries and emoluments. I hope they will heed this call. As horrendous as those figures sound, legislators’ salaries are not really the focus of this treatise. If the law allows the jumbo and blockbustre pay, since the law is an ass, we will deal with the ass some other day. The people’s greatest concern is that in spite of the humongous pay, Nigerian legislators still collude in a cohort to insert falsity in the nation’s annual budget. Call it padding or cushioning, the evil intention of the perpetrators is for one thing and one thing alone: CORRUPTION! The drive is to divert funds into their personal pet projects through their already chubby, portly and obese personal bank accounts.
I will not mention any name in this treatise because nothing has yet been proved that amounts to a wrongdoing. But the babbles and chatters around a few greedy and gluttonous legislative big-wigs in Nigeria’s House of Representatives have already caught the hearing attention of the deaf. These fellows in legislative authority allegedly went gavel-in-hand from behind other legislators who are now as mad as hell and hauled in some hefty figures into the annual budget upon which our President eventually appended his signature. The tracks were exposed by a furious whistle-blowing colleague who is still showing us the itinerary of the diverted funds. The accuser is not backing down; and the accused are not publicly denying the accuser’s accusations.
Dear Nigerians, very few people are serving you; very many are stealing from you!
The devious political chess game called padding in Nigeria is what Americans call perks. While Americans sneak in funds for roads, bridges, libraries and important projects that benefit their constituencies, Nigerians divert such funds to their personal farms, marry second and third wives, purchase mansions in Dubai and Delaware, and stash up for the next election which they have already predetermined to rig by paying off men in charge of elections. They also have some set-asides for judges with no sense of judgment. In Nigeria, very many get into government to get rich and become emperors unbridled. There is no shred of accountability in the Nigerian government system from top to bottom.
Facing a record-high unemployment, Finland, for example, has devised a new approach to saving its economy. The nation is moving closer towards offering its citizens a tax-free payout of 800 euros, equivalent to $868 per month. In some parts of The Netherlands, the government gives out to the people an extra €1,100 monthly. Canada, Japan and Switzerland are already proposing doing the same. I am not hung up on a nation’s preferred economic system like capitalism, socialism or communism. The regular guy on the street does not give a bother about words. Whoever puts food on his table and guarantees his future is his Messiah after whom he screams an endless Hosanna. I celebrate these men whose hearts are in the right place for the people. Men who will rather put some of the people’s money back into their pockets, and in turn into the economy, are men after God’s heart. They are men who will not pocket public funds for themselves as is the norm in Nigeria.
While many nations of the world are planning for a greater future, Nigerian leaders are plotting to exploit. While many leaders are building, many Nigerian leaders are destroying. Hearty leaders are about the people; heartless ones are about self. Very few Nigerian legislators are serving; very many are stealing. When will Nigeria’s public servants begin to think about the people? I hope they will in my lifetime.