According to Oyebola, the recent criticism of the federal legislators by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), was just one of many criticisms that had trailed the lawmakers over the years but to which they had turned deaf ears.
He recalled that he had raised the same issue in a publication, tagged, “Grave Issues Nigeria Must Tackle,” which was publicly presented at a gathering that had in attendance eminent Nigerians such as a former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola(SAN); human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN); and Prof. Pat Utomi.
Oyebola had, in the presentation, decried what he described as the insensitivity of the lawmakers, who he said, were living large in the midst of widespread poverty in the country.
He noted then that the earnings of the United States of America’s President were far lower than what a Nigerian lawmaker took home.
He had said, “It is also strange, unthinkable and very disheartening that a senator, not minding the grinding poverty of Nigerians, earns $1.7m a year, which is far higher than the $400,000 yearly income of the United States’ President, whose stupendous country is the richest in the world. Even a member of the House of Representatives also earns more than the American President. What a tragic and pathetic situation!
“Worse still, each of our National Assembly members earns more than the British Prime Minister, while the pay of a member of Ghana’s unicameral legislature is a very small fraction of our House of Representatives’ member jumbo pay of more than N10m in a month, let alone the monumental quarterly allowances that have led to serious public outcry.
“The multi-million naira earned by the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives even worse, more outrageous and mind-boggling.”
Oyebola noted that despite their modest pay, compared to the Nigerian federal lawmakers, the legislators in Ghana worked harder and “have minimal absenteeism,” while they had also done much to sustain their country’s democracy, “which is a model for many African countries.”
He said the Ghanaian lawmakers were also more sensitive to the realities in their country, recalling that an attempt by them to have a raise in earnings in 2009 was immediately jettisoned following a public outcry.
Oyebola called for a 90 per cent cut in the earnings of Nigerian elected public officials, saying with that they would still be richer than their counterparts in the US and the UK.
He said, “As suggested below, for the National Assembly, the President, ministers, state governors, state legislators, chairmen of local governments and councillors should have their pay and allowances reduced to 10 per cent of their present earnings. If effected, each senator’s present earnings of N15m a month will be reduced to N1.5m or N18m a year. A similar 90 per cent reduction should be effected from the pay of members of the House of Representatives.”
According to him, this is the only way to ensure that politics would no longer be a matter of do-or-die.