by Ifedayo Adeleye
Every month, each Nigerian senator receives about N750,000 as a basic salary, according to the current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
But that salary pales in comparison to the many other extra-ordinary allowances (Hardship, 50%; Constituency, 200%; Furniture, 300%; Recess, 10%) and a long list of other emoluments that, for Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, reaches N13.5 million monthly.
Since the Federal High Court in Lagos dismissed Senator Orji’s request for bail, pending his appeal of a 12-year prison sentence, the Nigerian Senate, the highest law-making body in a democratic republic, has announced that it would not declare his seat open. According to the Senate’s spokesperson, the senator will continue to receive his salary and other benefits while in prison until the convicted senator has exhausted all avenues to overturn his conviction.
So while he continues to appeal his case, tax-paying Nigerians will fork over N174,000,000 over twelve months and spread over four years, Senator Orji Kalu’s salary and allowances will be N696,000,000. This does not even include what the Senator gets upon leaving the office. And during this period, the residents of Abia North Senatorial District will have no voice, no representation in the Senate.
Kalu was found guilty of a N7.56 billion fraud and abuse of power by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Lagos Federal High Court on December 5, 2019, and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in imprisonment. Even if the senator finally gets acquitted, are Nigerians supposed to wait for politicians to solve their criminal cases before they start working to deliver the dividends of representation?
In June 1999, the then-speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari, formally resigned following press allegations of forgery and perjury. In an emotional speech to assembly members, Mr Buhari said: “I apologise to you. I apologise to the nation. I apologise to my family and friends for all the distress I have caused them. I was misled in error by the zeal to serve the nation.
Even Nigerians are to ignore the shame and blatant disregard for order totally, Senator Kalu’s seat should have been declared vacant once he was convicted of fraud, grounds for disqualification of a senator as stipulated by the country’s constitution. But for the Senate spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, Mr Kalu remains a sitting senator and will be paid all of his entitlements in full despite his conviction.
The National Assembly is occupied by second-highest-paid lawmakers globally, even though the country ranks as one of the poorest. With Nigeria now ranking as the poverty capital of the world, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission announced this week that “it has commenced the review of the salaries and emoluments of political office holders to reflect current economic realities.”
Twenty-one years after Salisu Buhari resigned in tears as the speaker of the House of Representatives, and fifty-seven days since the former governor, former presidential candidate, and current “Senator” has been in prison, the level of impunity in the country that we continue to accommodate as citizens shows that the Nigerian democracy is now fully on life support.