Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,
First, permit me to bring you good tidings and commiserate with you on the effect of the novel Coronavirus on our dear country.
That said, we wish to bring to your attention — if you are not yet aware — that our dear country is on the throes of economic woes and that the threat of another recession is looming over us like a Sword of Damocles. Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves of the dire and precarious situation we find ourselves at the moment.
Just a few days ago, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told the whole world that the Nigerian Government will, for the second time, further revise the year’s budget oil benchmark to $20 per barrel. This was in response to the dwindling oil prices and the glut in the international market. As Africa’s top oil exporter, we rely on crude sales for around 90% of foreign exchange earnings and more than half of government revenue. The economy has been battered by low oil prices following a dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We are in the process of an amendment that is bringing down the revenue indicator to $20 per barrel,” she said at the web conference.
Similarly, the Finance Minister also stated that Nigerian oil and gas projects will be “delivered much later than originally planned” due to upstream budget cuts.
The revenue projection for the 2020 budget had earlier been reduced by N3.3 trillion (about 39 percent) from the initially approved amount of N8.41 trillion to N5.08 trillion. Based on the new proposed budget, statutory transfers (a category into which the National Assembly budget falls), were cut by N152.67 billion from N560.47 billion to N407.8 billion. With the review of the 2020 budget, it is hoped that the government will be able to finance the budget without the economy plunging into recession.
As if that was not frightening enough, just a few weeks ago, the IMF, in its latest World Economic Outlook report, projected shrinkage of -1.6 per cent, having Nigeria on top of the chart with a dark -3.4 percent contraction, suggesting a recession is fast approaching for a country that is just recovering from one. This is for the whole sub-Saharan African region.
In the light of that, the Finance Minister of Nigeria, Zainab Ahmed, had warned that Nigeria could tumble into another recession if extreme and selfless actions are not taken to mitigate this impending economic breakdown. She projected that the economy could shrink as much as 3.4 percent this year if there was no massive stimulus plan that includes billions in Central Bank, Federal Government, and international support.
Let us bring it closer home. According to the latest report from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), four (4) out of ten (10) individuals in Nigeria have an actual yearly per capita expenditure that is below N137,430 which translates to N376.5 per day. This is less than a US dollar/day.
“About 40 percent of Nigerians (or 82.9 million people) live in abject poverty”, the NBS report further added. Sixteen states out of the thirty-six state of Nigeria have more than 50% Poverty headcount in Nigeria. Summarily, the report shows that 52.1% of rural dwellers in Nigeria are poor, while 18.04% of Urban dwellers are tagged as poor.
In all these, Nigeria’s bicameral National Assembly appears unperturbed, unfazed and unconcerned. In fact, it is safe to say they are playing ostrich. Or, how does one explain that N125bn was proposed for the federal parliament under statutory transfers in the bill President Muhammadu Buhari laid before a joint session of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives in October 8, 2019? Conversely, on the 5th of December, 2019, the National Assembly raised its budget for 2020 by a whopping N3bn from the initial N125bn to N128bn, this increment forms part of the increase in the size of the national budget, which has been raised from the proposed N10.33tn to about N10.6tn. It is on records that Nigeria’s bicameral National Assembly. The Senate and the House of Representatives, as at the moment of this note, are the highest paid lawmakers in the world. This matter is once again on the front burner of public discourse as recently affirmed by Economic Confidential that Nigerian lawmakers, with a basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6million) yearly, excluding allowances, are indeed the highest paid lawmakers in the world. It is no longer news that Nigerian senators receive N13.5 million monthly and their Reps counterparts receive N11.5million monthly, apart from their salaries – tagged ‘running costs’.
Following these numerous outcrops and economic forecasts, it is necessary to note that everyone must give out something to keep our great country moving. As a people, we wish to state clearly that we are by this note, officially, calling for a ‘50% cut of our NASS’ overheads, personal allowances, and salaries and also cut down the running cost of the Executive arm of government. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, you (President Muhammadu Buhari), must show that you are serious about the welfare of the people you promise to protect. We call on you to use your good offices to mandate the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation And Fiscal Commission to start the process of reviewing salaries and allowances of elected public servants and by extension the adoption of the 2015 RMAFC’s report, which you have refused to absorb and present to the National assembly formally. All pointers show that the will and powers to initiate the process of cutting down the running cost of all arms of government rest in your hands.
Hitherto, compatriots have called for the reduction of our federal legislators’ budgets in unanimity. It is on the backdrop of this, that we are re-echoing the same sincere demands. For 5 weeks, Nigerians have sacrificed their businesses, beliefs, pleasure, education, movement, and salaries/wages during the lockdown, it is time for those elected to represent us to do the same. Even with protests against the National Assembly for transparency, legislators have refused to allow any. The Nigerian Senate has a lot of power to make laws to suit special interests. Where the executive does not collaborate according to Section 58 (5), the constitution permits lawmakers to re-pass a bill rejected by the President and upon achieving a two-thirds majority, the Senate can pass such bill into law. Thank God, one of them – Senator Shehu Sani who reinforced almost all speculations and even gave more insights on what and what is paid, Nigerians would have been in perpetual darkness of how much their elected representatives accurately earn.
Why should 469 Citizens earn more than over 150million Nigerians? These are people with a 3 working days per week status with long recesses that cumulate into months – they hardly work for 6 months a year.
Let them also reduce their costs based on their ‘3 working days per week status’ and give more to their constituents. Some of them seldom visit the people they represent. Our politicians are not bothered by the cost they incur on public service disregarding the fact that about 120 million of the 200 million citizens live in extreme poverty. We can only push, agitate, and fight for the cutting of the salaries and allowances of our federal legislators and influence salary cuts for the state, too. If this happens, it will help Nigeria in the fight against corruption; and the money saved from excessive pay can be diverted to other sectors. This must happen!
We are making this demand on behalf of our representatives in Nigeria’s bicameral National Assembly – the Senate and the House of representatives. The House of Representatives has 360 members and the Senate consists of 109 senators. This little and patriotic gesture of 469 citizens will go a long way in making our country a better place for all. Since it has gone unchallenged for long, representatives in both chambers are notorious for displaying a penchant for superficialities and insensitivities, which has become injurious to our existence as a nation-state.
We hereby urge the federal government of Nigeria to consider the issues we are raising concerning the state of the nation, and by extension, to cut NASS’ pay to save Nigeria – as a matter of necessity, as it threatens the welfare of all Nigerians. This campaign is in the interests of Nigerians and is all about Nigeria.
In the words of Mitch Albom: ‘Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to.’
Sometimes, when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. Rather, you’re just passing it on to someone else.
In Conclusion, we wish to strongly reaffirm our demand that our hapless and hopeless majority must be seen as human, not just an instrument for accessing political power. We reiterate that the conceptual campaign #CutNassPaySaveNG will continue until our public servants start acting as servant-leaders. Rest assured of our commitment to this project called Nigeria, and the assurance of our highest regards.
Signed: Dare Glintstone-Akinniyi
For: Concerned Citizens of Nigeria