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IF SANUSI OFFENDED LAWMAKERS…

PHOTO: CBN GOVERNOR LAMIDO SANUSI.
PHOTO: CBN GOVERNOR LAMIDO SANUSI.
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The Nigeria cow may die soon. Watch the Senate Finance and Appropriation Committees’ hearing, remember what the Central Bank Governor said at the hearing lately, follow what U.S president is doing about deficit spending in his country, then the picture becomes clear. Now CBN’s Sanusi Lamido Sanusi offended the National Assembly members the other time. They said he offended them. The man gave a lecture somewhere. He told the nation who gets what slice of the national budget. News hunters reported it. Then it was time to exercise the oversight power of legislators. Constitutional power will not turn some people into principalities in this system. Imagine with what trepidation every office holder who needs another term in office comes to such hearings, then the point becomes clear. Sanusi said that of the total overhead of the government, lawmakers take 25 percent. Lawmakers argued the figure is not so high. How high is the figure, and in the light of the current situation of the country, does such a figure (whatever it is) make sense? And yet there is another matter: Senators should legally earn just a few thousands less than One Million naira per month, and the Reps should earn something over Seven Hundred thousand naira. Everyone knows they take home more than that. The passion at that latest Senate hearing would not let anyone ask questions about this, not to mention addressing it, just as no one would address a fundamental issue that the Governor raised. In a situation where the nation borrows to pay salaries, where the bulk of annual budget goes for recurrent expenditure rather than capital, it is not healthy that one arm of government takes what it takes, was Sanusi’s argument. Every Nigerian got that point. Every Nigerian also knows their politicians take away too much, bleeding the nation white. It is good to place this scenario side by side with what happens in nations where politicians know what it means to be accountable to their people, to side with things that are morally and legally right. Recent happenings in the United States of America is a first reference. “President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits,” was a news report. “The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government,” Obama himself said of the matter. He called federal workers “patriots who love their country” but added, “I’m asking civil servants to do what they’ve always done” for the nation. Not long ago, lawmakers in the British House of Commons were made to refund monies as low as 150 pounds sterling to the treasury. Even the then Prime Minister refunded something. Taking a little more than they should in allowances was their offence. Some of them even resigned as a result of the ‘scandal.’ Others lost their seats in the last general election. Out there, voters take no nonsense from irresponsible politicians. At the moment, workers in Nigeria want pay raise. Everyone wants pay raise, including lawmakers who already that more than what the law permits. As that is in the news, so is the news that the nation is borrowing, a major concern for everyone. Loans taken here don’t service capital expenditure, as Nigerians know, they go into pockets as salaries and allowances - mostly pockets of politicians. Something bizarre happened at the Senate hearing though. Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation said, “This money is not from your home, it belongs to the country,” with reference to the CBN governor, meaning that anyone can take and take and hurt the nation, while experts the brains that do the thinking, engage in policy formulation, and watch out for the nation’s financial health - look on. One can suspect where the brain is when the CBN governor said, “overhead cost” and the chairman of the appropriation committee asked: “what is overhead cost?” It was a show of shame that time. Let no one bamboozle Nigerians that the CBN governor who should know, fed them with the wrong figures. Any figure at all quoted against the name of any arm of government as things stand, shows that politicians rip off Nigerians who should be the first beneficiaries of whatever milk the nation’s cow provides. The lawmakers also said Sanusi should not comment on the budget, that it is a job for someone else. But everyone knows there is a connection between a nation’s budget, the policies of its central bank as well as the sound health of the nation’s economy. If a Sanusi could say what he knows so well and some lawmakers want to hang him, this nation is in trouble. But the CBN governor whom many Nigerian have come to know for his candour should fear no lawmaker on account of future approval for another term in office. “I confirm that 25 per cent of the total overhead of the nation goes to the National Assembly,” Sanusi had insisted at the hearing. It is a good thing. He has the support of Nigerians and he should continue to do what he has to do in his capacity to help save the nation from itself. That way, Nigerians will have him written in their heart, to be remembered and rewarded when the time comes, long after some politicians have been packed into history’s rubbish bin. Ajibade is a consultant writer and lives in Abuja. Email: [email protected]

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