Today the 7th Session of Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS) will be inaugurated. The Senate (as upper chamber) made up of 109 members and the House of Representatives (as the lower chamber) made up of 360 members, constitute the apex of our legislature and supposedly a reflection of our aspirations as a nation.
Typically, the polity has been heated with the politicking and horse-trading as to who should be elected presiding officers of the legislative houses and why. But just last night, the speaker of the just ended House of Representatives (Dimeji Bankole) was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), allegedly for a loan collected by the House of Representatives under his watch to the tune of N10bn. The details and purport of the loan had become a source of embarrassment in the twilights of the 6th Session of NASS.
The recent happenings must set the tone for today’s pomp in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. The members to be sworn in, in both chambers must have a thought as to how to or how not to conduct business as usual, if they want to make a difference. But that may be asking for too much.
It seems, from the reports in the media, that from January 2010, the Reps of the now extinct 6th Session approved/accepted an increase of their quarterly ‘allowance’ for ‘running cost’ from N22m to N42m for each ‘ordinary’ member. This was made to at least close the yawning gap between what they collected and what their principal officers got, which was much more and a source of discontent by majority of the members.
In a manner of speaking, the ‘genesis’ that led to this ‘revelation’ was the enhanced allowance approved by the Reps for themselves. Rep Tambuwal reportedly told the House in one of its now notorious ‘Executive’ Sessions of the “restiveness of members and the possible crisis that may erupt in the House because of the issue of enhanced allowances that members have been clamoring for”. As I said a few weeks ago, it was this effort to sustain ambrosia for our Reps that led to this burst bubble.
That enhanced allowance is still running as new members are sworn in today and will continue to run. I don’t see these new members, as beneficiaries’ voting to reverse this quarterly windfall. In fact, if they have their way, they would love to sweeten the honey or money pot, as their predecessors did, unless they are a new breed of Nigerians with a different thinking.
I daresay that some of these new members were drawn to the National Assembly in the first place by the evidence of stupendous transformation in the personal circumstances of their predecessors by merely attaining the position of ‘honourable’ members and ‘distinguished’ senators. If in doubt, ask those who failed to retain their seats and find out why some of them are so bitter at their losses.
In plain words, are we merely inaugurating the 7th Session of Nigeria’s National Assembly or this is the making of our 7th mega-millionaire politicians’ club?