Recruitment scandal at the Senate 

[FILES] NASS

The hallowed chambers of the Nigerian Senate were rocked the other day by what reporters daubed ‘‘recruitment scandal’’ when some senators allegedly shared 100 jobs that had been allocated to the legislators by some federal agencies. Apparently, as part of their national pastime of selfishly feathering their nests, the senators cornered some employment slots from agencies of the government. Rather than opening up the process to the general public, a group of senators allocated the jobs to themselves and their cronies. The senators who cried foul did not do so because they love the Nigerian people. They were angry that only a few legislators, notably the presiding officers benefited from the deceitful exercise. Certainly, the matter would not have come to the public domain if the proverbial thieves had shown some honour among themselves!

Although this dishonourable deed has not come as a surprise, especially because our legislators are notorious for serving their selfish interest first, the recruitment scandal is a new low in public perception of the so-called representatives of the people. In most states, the legislative arm is in the pocket of governors. Hardly do we encounter any legislative House that shows a modicum of independence, thereby negating the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution. No wonder the street name ‘‘legislooters’’ coined by disenchanted Nigerians aptly describes the peoples’ view of the legislators!

Sadly, the National Assembly has become an embarrassing symbol of how not to be representatives of the people. In funds allocation and perks of office they have shown how distant they are from the ugly realities of life in Nigeria. During the Eight Senate, it came into public knowledge that the monthly take-home pay (including running cost) of a senator is about N15 million and a whopping N171 million per annum.  Whereas an American senator earns $174, 000 per year, the Nigerian senator earns the equivalent of $475,000 per annum. In a well-organised country, this would have been enough to turn the people against legislators in massive protests.

This is besides the much-abused constituency projects, which fetch legislators hundreds of millions of naira. In a country where the government is at pains to pay a N30,000 national minimum wage, this amounts to criminality and misuse of public funds! What most legislators do when they go on oversight functions to government parastatals is an open secret.  Apart from the flamboyant display of gaudy wealth, they (senators alone) have approved a whopping N5.5 billion to buy SUVs for themselves. Indeed, the National Assembly has become so expensive for the commonwealth that questions are now being asked whether we need both chambers. They have no moral standing to make decent laws for the country!

Across the world, job creation through appropriate legislation is well recognised. In times of crisis, governments intervene through specific laws, both short term and long term, to deal with unemployment. If the executive branch fails or refuses to initiate a bill in that regard, the legislative arm could and should enact laws that would facilitate job creation. Perhaps our legislators lying supine like the proverbial fat cats lack the knowledge or will to address the needs of the people. It is perhaps for this reason that they jostled over one hundred jobs. What is the significance of 100 jobs when millions are not gainfully employed? Thousands of university graduates are out there looking for jobs. Some who graduated 10 years ago are yet to stabilise their lives. Yet, senators, men and women who ought to be above board in word and deed made a mess of 100 jobs to the chagrin of citizens. When will the legislative arm of government grow up in Nigeria? When will our legislators rise in defence of the people? Why are the federal legislators not asking the right questions about job creation?

Governments are created for the purpose of securing life and property and the wellbeing of citizens. Elected officials are entrusted with the mandate of monitoring the executive arm to ensure compliance. Where both slide into a laissez faire attitude to governance it is the people that suffer. We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to enact laws that can stimulate growth. In times of massive unemployment, governments invest heavily on infrastructure as a way of pumping funds into the economy. Its multiplier effects are enormous. The state of infrastructure across the country is appalling. Roads are in a terrible shape. Social services are epileptic. Hospitals are sick and in need of resuscitation. Power supply which governments had invested billions in is epileptic and almost non-existent in most parts of the country.

Nigerians are going through rough times compounded by a biting inflation, low wages and social tension. This is the time to embark on a massive job creation programme. The government is doing well in its entrepreneurship drive. But documented records show that it is through massive spending on infrastructure that we can create millions of jobs. The trillions being borrowed to fund overhead costs should be deployed to capital expenditure. Any country or government, which borrows money to pay salaries is digging itself into a deeper ditch. There is need therefore to redirect government expenditure.

Lest we forget, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) that filed the job offers to the senators deserves a strong condemnation. The implications of the FIRS’s action are grave: they have thus deprived some more qualified candidates chances of getting the job opportunities. Besides, the beneficiaries from the Senate’s unhallowed chambers never sat for any competitive examinations. This is how we lay foundation for celebration of mediocrity and unfairness in the polity. This too is unfortunate.

Finally, we totally condemn the scandalous behaviour of the senators who hustled 100 jobs to themselves. It is against the spirit of decent behaviour. Legislators should put on their thinking caps about job creation and ease the tension over unemployment in the land. If they are not ready to do this, if their interest is mainly to satisfy their selfish interests, they should vacate the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly.

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