National Assembly Budget: Saraki Was Just Grandstanding

Saraki . President of the Senate

Let me describe a probable scenario for you. Just follow it casually. It's not complicated so you don't have to burst any vessels in your brains trying to make any sense of it.

Here it is:

I am a thief. I have been stealing you guys blind since the day you gave me access to your coffers. My ostentatious life style gave me away. You guys demanded an explanation to how I can justify my expenditures. I decided to set up a panel to investigate my actions. I selected members of the panel and I am in charge of paying them. I imagine you guys are not stupid enough to think my panel is going to come out with a guilty verdict are you?

As a matter of principle, because that is how rogues do things, this panel is going to recommend that my services to you are grossly under-appreciated. So please give me more money.

That is exactly the scenario that played out in 2015 at the national assembly. Nigerians were shouting, like they always do, about the budget of the National Assembly. The budget was so ridiculous that each member reportedly gets paid over half a million naira each year to buy clothes! So in the classic rogue style, the Senate President Saraki commissioned a body to look into allowances of the National Assembly.

Hmm..... I guess we knew how this was going to end.

That panel had no teeth to do anything of substance. It could only make recommendations. Favourable recommendations of course. The only body that can actually cut the budget of the National Assembly is the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). This is a commission created by an act of Parliament, which means nobody can tamper with the functions of the commission. This also means the commission is an independent body. But since the advent of democracy in 1999, the RMAFC meets to, mostly, increase the allowances of political office holders, albeit, prodded by the political office holders.

The RMAFC is made up of people who also benefit from this exercise of budgetary increment for politicians. How then do we expect them to significantly reduce their salaries and allowances. There is a little catch-22 situation here (or a 'chicken- and- the- egg- who-came-first’ situation). For instance, take the case of Senator Ben Bruce, who when told to walk the talk about his pledge to fight corruption in the National Assembly, suddenly realized nothing can be done without the RMAFC. And for the RMAFC, they cower behind some spurious ‘limitations’ in the Constitution to make changes, telling us we need to change the Constitution before they effect the desired changes.

While those in charge of changing the Constitution insist the RMAFC has to lead the way. Nobody wants to take responsibility because it is not in their own interest to do so. So what is Saraki doing creating his own commission to look into how much he earns?

  1. First of all, it gives people the impression he is doing something to address a grave concern;
  2. Secondly it is an opportunity to give high paying jobs to friends and associates; and
  3. Thirdly it is meant to buy time until the dust settles at least for now.