Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu recently suggested that the country should consider dropping the current bicameral structure of the National Assembly and adopt a unicameral legislature.
Akeredolu made the call at the Akure Centre of the Southwest Zonal Public Hearing, organised by the House of Representatives Special Committee on Constitution Review.
The governor, represented by his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa,also said that the membership of the Assembly should be part time, adding that no member should earn allowances not known to the Revenue Mobilisation and Allocation Committee, and the people they claim to serve.
According to him, Legislators should earn a uniform salary structure. Allowance peculiarities must not be about obscenity, he also noted. If this is adopted, the legislature at the federal level will have only one Chamber as against the present arrangement where there are two chambers- Senate and House of Representatives.
Indeed, this suggestion by the Ondo State governor is gaining traction and resonating with a lot of Nigerians who are lending their support. There is this general belief that the Nigerian lawmakers are underworked and overpaid .The lawmakers incessant breaks and jumbo salaries have drawn stricture from Nigerians.
We recall that in 2018, Senator Shehu Sani revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”Sani said that the running cost does not include a N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive. In a country where some states are struggling to pay N18,000 minimum wage, this is completely absurd.
Besides, in the United States for example, senators, representatives, delegates and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico make a salary of $174,000 per year. Higher-level positions in Congress make a higher income. For example, the speaker of the House makes $223,500 per year, and the president pro tempore of the Senate, majority leaders and minority leaders in the House and Senate make $193,400 per year. Yet, Nigeria’s economy is no where near that of the United States.
To be sure, a unicameral system is a government with one legislative house or chamber system. Countries with unicameral governments include Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Monaco, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, and Sweden. Unicameral systems became more popular during the 20th century and some countries, including Greece, New Zealand, and Peru, switched from a bicameral to a unicameral system.
This Newspaper believes that it’s time Nigeria adopted a system of government that is peculiar to our environment. The habit of copying western system of government wholesale without consideration for the nation’s peculiarities has been grossly disadvantageous to the country.
We insist that the current legislature is wieldy,bogus and must give way for the nation to make the desired progress.
Sadly, in our view, Nigeria doesn’t have strong institutions to make western systems of government succeed in the country hence the constant abuse and weakening of the institutions with their attendant consequences, including an over- burdened economy and festering corruption.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic and the fluctuations of crude oil prices in the international market have had an adverse effect on the Nigerian economy. The dwindling revenue has also necessitated calls for the drastic reduction in the cost of governance.
We recall that recently Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze in a paper titled: ‘Reducing the Cost of Governance in Nigeria,’ while describing the country’s current system of democratic governance as very expansive and expensive, noted that in 2016, personnel cost was N1.87trillion while at the moment the same cost has spiralled to over N3 trillion. Needless to say that we cannot continue like this.
We, therefore, make bold to say that we don’t need two chambers in the National Assembly. We simply do not have the resources presently to sustain both chambers of the National Assembly. While we may not completely agree with the assertions of the Ondo State governor that it should be part- time because of the peculiarities of our environment, however, we are convinced that unicameral legislature is the way to go.
While fingers are pointing at the legislature to shed weight, this Newspaper also strongly suggests that the same courtesy should be extended to the executive. Like we have said previously on this page, the executive is also guilty of the flamboyance that the legislature is being accused of . The practice of hiring a retinue of aides and buying of expensive cars frequently are major causes of the high cost of governance.
It is instructive to note that the N120billion budgeted for the National Assembly which includes budgets of the National Assembly Service Commission, Nigeria Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies, Public Complaints Commission in most instance are not up to the budget of some ministries.
In view of the foregoing, we call on the National Assembly in the ongoing constitution review to heed the calls of Nigerians for a unicameral legislature. Nigerians demand reduction in the cost of governance in all the arms of government. In democracy, the voice and wish of the people are paramount. The country should not miss this opportunity.