The governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, once defined armed robbery as “small work with big pay”. Armed robbers, in their laziness, lounge around as
others toil for a living, and then, they emanate from their shadowy hideouts and criminal dens to rob and brutalize the people. They operate with stealth and, sometimes, impunity in the eerie hours of the night and, sometimes, in broad day light.
Irrespective of their method and timing of operation, they, with minimal work, dispossess their victims of money and valuables that they labored so hard and so long to acquire. Thus, with little work, these slothful sociopaths acquire so much. Wow! Mimiko’s definition of armed robbery is uncannily apt.
By this pertinent definition of armed robbery, the Nigerian National Assembly is studded with armed robbers. Despite its gilded opulence and dignified reserve, it is a bastion of armed robbery because its members expropriate big pay – unconscionably excessive pay – for very little work.
For example, since the inauguration of the 8th Assembly on June 9th, 2015, the National Assembly have sat for only 15 days, passed no bill, and gone on recess for 60 days. Lamentably, for their insignificant labor, they collectively earned N13 billion, which translates to N36.4 million for each of the 109 Senators and N25 million for each of the 360 members of the House of Representatives.
To work for 15 days (without passing even one bill) and rest for 60 days is inexcusable, indefensible and unpardonable indolence. And only a horde of sociopaths– those that lack moral restrain and any sense of moral responsibility towards society – can sequester so much money for themselves, for such little work, without a tweak of the conscience.
After all, Nigeria has the social indexes of the world’s poorest countries and a disproportionate number of her citizens waste away in desperate, shackling poverty. Evidently, our pretentious honorable representatives share similar traits with the lowlifes of the underworld. They are indolent, unscrupulous and sociopathic.
The Nigerian legislators are the highest paid legislators in the world. They earn 10 times as much as American legislators and 4 times as much as the President of the United States of America. The income per capita in the United States of America is 20 times that of Nigeria. It puzzles and boggles the mind that Nigerian representatives can, under any circumstance, earn more than American representatives.
And that they are paid 10 times as much as their US counterparts is dreadful, outrageous, atrocious, and even, ghoulish!
This has been possible because, apart from the Nigerian lawmakers’ complete lack of social conscience, Nigerians are extremely passive and have a limitless tolerance for social injustice. It is most unrealistic to expect that the legislators, will, on their own, drastically reduce their own salaries and allowances. The solution to this depredation of our commonwealth is in our hands. Do we not reserve the moral, civic and democratic rights to regulate the actions of those we have elected to serve us in the legislature?
For protection from armed robbers, Nigerians entrust their fate on the Nigerian Police Force. To augment the work of a police force not renowned for its efficiency or commitment to the public good, they adopt other measures that include employment of vigilante groups, shutting themselves up in dwellings immured by high walls and iron gates, etc.
Armed robbers that get apprehended are usually lynched by the mob. Those handed over to the police or arrested by the police are equally ill-fated. In the past, the Nigerian police tried, within the limits of the Nigerian factor, to adhere to habeas corpus, and alleged armed robbers in police custody were presumed innocent until proven guilty. They were charged to court and the legal system determined their fate.
However, these days, with the Nigerian police more trigger-happy and increasingly impatient with the protracted and circuitous judiciary process of the not totally incorruptible Nigerian courts, less armed robbery suspects get charged to court because more of them are executed in police custody.
On the other hand, the antidote to the armed robbery perpetrated in the National Assembly is not in employing vigilantes, securing homes with fences and security alarm or relying on the police. Members of the House and the senators cannot be arrested by the police and charged to court for their robbery because they carry it out with finesse and air of authority. It is armed robbery with a façade of legitimacy.
To put an end to this legitimized armed robbery, Nigerians must snap out of their passivity and timidity. For it demands that we descend, in tens of thousands, on the National Assembly and occupy it.
We will surround it and block all entrances and exits; and refuse the exit of any lawmaker and the entrance of any individual, food, medication, clothing and all other victuals into it.
We will demand that the lawmakers sign into law a reduction – at least 90 percent reduction – of their salaries and allowances.
We will remain there for days, weeks, and if necessary, months, refusing to budge until our demand is met.
After all, the people are the ultimate repository of power and those we have delegated to serve us must be subject to our authority.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria; firstname.lastname@example.org, 0803 529 2908