Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and human rights activist, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba has tasked president-elect on tackling some niggling issues which are keys to making the country better.
Agbakoba identified the bloated salaries and allowances of lawmakers as one of the things Buhari must take action on as a matter of urgency if he would bring about the change he promised.
“He should deal with the unconstitutional salaries of the National Assembly members. The Revenue Fiscal Mobilization and Allocation Commission (RFMAC) sets salaries, but the National Assembly refused to follow it. The money Nigerian lawmakers get constitutes about 25 percent of our national budget. Why won’t Nigerians want to go to the National Assembly if, as a member of the House of Representatives, I can get about N600 million, on the average, in a year? The lawmakers in the Senate get as much as N1 billion per annum; that’s why they kill themselves to go there. So, the lawmaker’s interest is not to go and make or pass laws, but because of the money that is there. That is also why they perform below average,” Agbakoba told Vanguard in an interview.
“I see this development as a corrupt practice and that is another most important thing Buhari must confront. The National Assembly must be brought to book. They must be made to conform with the constitution.
“It’s a big shame that the lawmakers are the ones that break the constitution and pay themselves the stupendous salaries they take home. I put this as a litmus test to Buhari. If he is able to tackle this issue of bringing the National Assembly within the lawful pay structure of Nigeria, I will clap for him. Then, of course, the profligate lifestyle of the average Nigerian politician has to go,” Agbakoba said.
The lawyer also condemned the ownership of ten aircraft by the federal government. He wondered why the presidential fleet had that much when the country does not even have a national carrier. He also wondered why the government will have a security vote as high as N2 trillion.
“The government has a security vote as high as N2 trillion, which is almost half of our entire national budget. So, we see that this situation has contributed to the need for politicians to fight-to-the-finish for political powers. If as a governor I have N2 billion every month and don’t account to anybody, you can imagine how people will line up to die for that job, not for the love of the country, but for the love of the pocket. So, this is the task for the president-elect. It’s not rocket science. It’s is very easy to achieve this in this country.
“Again, the Presidential Villa alone spends about N50 billion. Why must everybody who go there be entitled to a meal? All these have to stop. It’s unfortunate that we are practising a culture that doesn’t promote accountability. These are the important things Buhari must do differently, otherwise, it will be the same old story,” Agbakoba said.
He also said Nigerians were tired of election promises. With Buhari having won election on the back of a campaign slogan of incorruptibility and public accountability, the people of the country expects things to change.
However, he noted that “it’s our duty as citizens to speak out and for the media to hold him to account.”
“In the first 30 days, we want to see results.”