- Sets for legal war
Despite the festering leadership crisis rocking the National Assembly, the legislative arm of Nigeria’s central government, a Port Harcourt lawyer, Chuks Lester Uguru, is heading to court over the vexed issue of the lawmakers jumbo pay.
AkanimoReports gathered on Monday in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital in Southern Nigeria, that Uguru has already served the Chair of the National Assembly and Senate President, Bukola Sraki, notice of his intent on the controversial matter.
In a letter dated June 30, 2015 to the senate president, the lawyer said he knows that the legislators are not unaware of the gallimaufry of problems besetting their country. ”However let me take the liberty of setting out here even though in a condensed form a chronicle of the pains of Nigerians for more than a decade”, he said.
According to him, ”there is no gain saying the fact that our economy currently is on life support. At the last check, the Naira was exchanging at the rate of about N198 to a Dollar.
Social services have suffered shipwreck as all Institutions that provide the services have been comatose owing to lack of funds.
”Unemployment figures particularly that of the youths have reached such scandalous and embarrassing proportions. The consequence of this is that we are now exposed to all forms of criminal activities with kidnapping and armed robbery almost becoming a pastime for the unemployed.
”All kinds of social vices now pervade our land. Fathers who cannot meet the expense of their children have now lost parental authority over them resulting in the delinquent behavior of the children. Regrettably the girls have been forced into prostitution with the attendant sexually transmitted diseases while the boys have taken to cultism and other vices.
”Our health care services are in shambles. Poor citizens of this country who are unfortunate to suffer from such ailments as cancer, renal disorders, HIV etc are marooned in ill-equipped hospitals where they beg for alms until they relocate to eternity.
”Owing to the absence of well-equipped and affordable hospitals Nigerians have resorted to drinking concoctions prepared with illicit gin ‘ogogoro’ in the name of herbal treatment and are now dying in their numbers as in the recent case of Rivers State. Those who can afford it jet out to India only to return in body bags. Maternal and infant mortality rates have blossomed”.
Continuing, Uguru said in the letter, ”the power situation is at its lowest ebb with the giant of Africa generating and distributing less than 2000 mega watts of electricity to over 170 million citizens in the 21st century.
”Nigerian workers earn the miserly sum of N18, 000.00 per month as their pay and even at that some States owe their workers’ salaries for up to six months or more.
Nigerians who are employed by private employers earn as little as N5, 000.00 per month. A recent world bank report has it that the poor of Nigeria lives on less than one dollar a day.
”In global reckoning the giant of Africa has become a recluse nation notorious for the importation of keke Napep and second hand goods whereas South Korea which in 1974 had no car now exports all kinds of exotic cars and high profile and heavy duty construction equipments with Nigeria being one of their receptacles. Indians, Lebanese, Egyptians etc have bought up our mismanaged and comatose industries such as textiles and steel.
”In recent times we now have millions of Nigerians who have acquired the status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are scattered in refugee camps without shelter, nutrition or medical care.
”Yet over the years beginning from 1999, Nigerians have watched in horror as our elected leaders and representatives have brazenly pillaged our God given commonwealth. We have watched elected leaders revel in squander mania and engage in gross waste and mismanagement of our National resources”.
The rest of the letter to the senate president which was also copied to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice went thus:
‘Nigerians suffered in silence in the period when the seventh Assembly held sway. That Assembly was characterized with impunity, secrecy and cupidity. Therefore, when their tenure fizzled out, and the eight Assembly was ushered in we heaved a sigh of relief believing that the evil days were over.
”We believed that the era of progressives when we shall be rescued from man-made purgatory we had been consigned has come. Shockingly, unbelievably and to the discomfiture of Nigerians we are told that less than a fortnight into office our distinguished and Honourable Legislators are going to receive N9.00 billion as wardrobe allowance.
”It is inconceivable that less than two weeks into the inauguration of the 8th Assembly, members are going to receive N9 Billion as wardrobe allowance in a country where several states workers are owed their paltry salaries for up to six months. Instead of receiving bread from the eight Assembly, we are receiving stone.
”I am aware that the National Assembly particularly the Senate has as members ex-governors who cannot be described as poor by any stretch of imagination. It is inconceivable that of the legion of problems confronting our dear nation now, the first preoccupation of the distinguished and honourable members is to withdraw the sum of N9.00 billion from the lean treasury for members’ wardrobe allowance.
”Permit me to observe that it is indeed unethical and immoral for elected representatives of the citizens to pocket N9 Billion while the ordinary Nigerian worker cannot receive his meager pittance of N18, 000. 00
”The information in the public domain is that Nigerian Legislators of the National Assembly stock are the highest paid in the world. Reports have it that a Nigerian Senator takes home about N29, 000,000.00 per month whiles his counterpart in the House of Representatives takes home about N27, 000,000.00.
”A recent survey puts the earning of a Nigerian Lawmaker at over $2,000,000.00 per annum. Neither the National Assembly nor the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission have come out to deny this or tell Nigerians the exact remuneration that the members receive. It is therefore safe to work with the information we have.
”Permit me at this juncture to recall the immortal words of the famous French leader and Second World War veteran, General Charles De Gaulle that: “Politics, when it is an art and a service, not an exploitation, is about acting for an ideal through realities”
”Sir, Nigeria is a country operating under constitutional democracy. All authorities in Nigeria including the National Assembly derive their authority and impetus from the 1999 Constitution which is the supreme organic law of our legal system.
”I have examined the said constitution with the microscopic thoroughness of a scientist searching for an invisible germ and I find no provision enabling the members of the National Assembly to earn extra-large pay while the rest of us perish in the wilderness of lack. If anything the constitution provides otherwise. A few examples will suffice.
”Section 4(2) of the constitution provides that the National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof…… The emphasis of course is on good government.
”Let me also refer you to Chapter 11 of the Constitution which contains the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Sections 14(1) and 14(2) a & b is to the following effect:
- The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
- Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority.
- The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
By the same token, sections 17(1) and 17 (2) a & b is to the following effect:
- The State social order is founded on ideals of freedom, Equity and Justice.
- Every citizen hall have equality of rights, obligation and opportunities before the law
- Governmental actions shall be humane;
”With all due deference sir, it will appear that the actions of the National Assembly on the issue of the remuneration of members negate or detract from all the noble principles enshrined in the provisions above.
”I am aware that by section 70 of the Constitution, a member of the National Assembly shall receive such salary and other allowances as the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine. Some members of the National Assembly have sought to blame this profligacy of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
”Firstly, I do not want to believe that the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission have determined that the members of the National Assembly should earn the gargantuan amount of money in issue as their salaries.
”Secondly, even if it was so, any amount determined by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission as salary must first be passed into law by the National Assembly before it becomes legal. The inescapable conclusion therefore will be that it is the members of the National Assembly that have determined their own remuneration. Reasonable men will judge me guilty if I gleefully receive a car gift from my son which I know he cannot afford only to turn around and blame my son when questions are asked.
”Sir, we cannot deny the fact that things have gone abysmally wrong in our dear country. The problems as we see it are the handiwork of greedy and selfish politicians who have appropriated the abundant heritage that the almighty God has generously bestowed on our country for the benefit of every Nigerian. But the time has come to stop the drift.
”Mr. Senate President, even without having the privilege of making your acquaintance I have followed up your antecedents as a politician and I have no doubt that you have the will, doggedness and sagacity to make a difference. God has placed you in a place of responsibility in a country that has been serially abused and traumatized by forces of stagnation and retrogression. Posterity will hold you in high esteem if you justify the confidence reposed in you by man and by God as the Senate President.
”But like Charles Kingsley said in his book, The Heroes, “all strength and virtue come from God but when men misuse there fair gifts they fall pitifully”. I pray that this will not be your testimony.
”It will appear that Adolf Hitler was right when he said “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer do not think”.
”Nigerians not thinking was in the past. We are now ready to take our collective destiny into our hands. I am constrained by the events in Nigeria to agree entirely with General De Gaulle when he said “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians”. The time has come for all patriotic Nigerians to brace up and rescue our country from the stranglehold of predators whoever they may be. Let it start under your watch.
”The purpose of this letter is to demand and I hereby demand as a matter of grave urgency that the distinguished and honourable members of the National Assembly do the needful by rejecting the gargantuan salaries and directing the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to determine fair and reasonable salaries which shall be commensurate with the economic realities of the time. In determining what is fair and reasonable let them consider that the minimum wage is N18, 000.00 per month and that Nigerian debt profile is $63 Billion.
”TAKE NOTICE that if I do not receive assurance that something radically positive will be done to correct this anomaly of Jumbo pay for members of the National Assembly within a reasonable time of the receipt of this letter, I shall explore and exploit every legal means to challenge the propriety and legality of same.
”Be rest assured that I shall start by invoking the firepower of the Courts against the membership of the National Assembly. Let me repeat that a situation where our elected representatives live in opulence from our commonwealth while the rest of us suffer in pain and penury constitute a desperate social malady and a desperate malady requires desperate solution”.