In recent times, financial scandals in both the National Assembly (NASS) and in the nation’s female football team, the Super Falcons have been in the news. The NASS scandal concerns the morally and ethically unjustifiable funds lodged into legislators’ accounts for them to holiday with. The Super Falcons scandal relates to their earnings and bonuses, which have not been lodged into their accounts!
The irony is that while Nigerian legislators are unpopular and their financial scandals, failed oversight functions and slavishness to the Executive bring the nation into disrepute, the Super Falcons are popular and their achievements earn worldwide respect; they bring both the nation and themselves into the limelight.
The latest NASS scandal became public knowledge when Senate President Godswill Akpabio, inadvertently exposed the money they shared to themselves to “holiday” with. He alerted senators that a “token” had been sent to their accounts by the Clerk to the National Assembly for them to enjoy their holidays despite the unconscionable suffering in the land. This revelation embarrassed ‘’Honourable Members” and outraged the public.
Akpabio made matters worse by jokingly withdrawing the statement, and replacing it inappropriately with “prayers had been sent to their mail-boxes to assist them in going on a safe journey and return”. The senator representing Bauchi Central, Abdul Ahmed Ningi, expressed surprise over the purported allowance because to his knowledge never before has such “allowance” been paid to senators. He says only the Senate president can explain where the money came from! An explanation is necessary because there are widespread speculations that the token is related to some sort of gratification.
Putting the amount legislators describe as a “token” into perspective, it’s 10 times the approved amount for recess and equivalent to six years of minimum wage! This money-sharing comes at a time when both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives have been dragged to Court by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) over what they consider to be an unlawful plan to spend N40 billion on exotic cars for members and principal officers, and an additional N70 billion as palliatives for new members.
SERAP correctly asserts that Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful legislators and condemns the current bunch wondering how, having just been inaugurated, the first order of business was to immediately approve additional loans and pay themselves handsomely to proceed on paid vacation!
At a time when the economy is in free-fall, a nationwide strike may be on the horizon, and Nigeria is being dragged into an unnecessary foreign conflict, which it can ill afford, surely all hands must be on deck?
Ironically, even as they urge Nigerians to tighten their belts and pray for the nation, senators fully expect that upon return, they will be paid salary, take delivery of brand new imported 2023 SUV jeeps, and collect palliatives, all paid for with borrowed money! Nigerians lament how their lawmakers who are amongst the highest paid in the world can, without conscience, collect N70 billion for “palliatives” and still feel entitled to holiday allowance?
The excessive cost of governance in Nigeria is predicated upon the antics of the Nigerian legislators ,which are fast turning the nation into a joke. By paying themselves unconstitutional “vacation allowances” despite the nation’s economic difficulties in which pensions remain unpaid, and civil servants’ salaries are unpaid, legislators have made it clear that they are not prepared to make any personal sacrifice for the nation.
The unjustifiable cost of governance is further highlighted by the fact that Nigeria has twice as many ministers as Germany, and 20 or more ministers than even the USA, South Africa and India. Overly expensive, inefficient and uncompassionate governance is the reason why, despite notable achievements in education, entertainment and sports, Nigerians are ridiculed and disrespected all over the world.
As for the Super Falcons, Nigerians are far more interested in successful sports than failed politics. Yet, despite bringing honour to the nation, their being owed money is nothing new. It’s an open secret that Nigeria’s female footballers routinely suffer unpaid wages, poor travel arrangements, cancellation of pre-tournament camps and a myriad of complaints by the coaches and technical team.
During the recent Women’s World Cup 2023, the Secretary-General of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) promised Nigerian players that because of what they go through, their prize money would be paid directly to their accounts! After the Super Falcons were eliminated, recriminations and rows over bonus payments revealed that the team performed creditably despite shoddy arrangements. It came to light that the NFF is owing bonus payments, camp allowances and expenses dating back to 2021!
Indeed, most Nigerian sportsmen and women who earned laurels for the nation never received their just reward. Governance isn’t simply about politics and economics, developing society is also a paramount obligation.
Youths are increasingly earning accolades representing Nigeria in the field of sports, and showing the nation in a good light. An increasing number of Diaspora Nigerians are eager to represent Nigeria and earn laurels for the nation. Government should not allow scandals of non-payment, poor logistics and inadequate training facilities to discourage them.
While it may be legal and constitutional for legislators to generously reward themselves for doing so little to enhance the nation’s image, failure to honour financial obligations to sportsmen and women who do so much for the nation’s image is morally and ethically wrong.