A Nigerian lawmaker, Bamidele Salam, has called for a massive cut in the cost of running the Nigerian government.
Part of his recommendation is that federal lawmakers, who are currently about 469, be reduced by about two-thirds.
Mr Salam, who represents Ede North/Ede South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency, said this can be achieved by reducing the number of senators per state to one from three, while the House of Representatives should be reduced to one-third of its current 360 members. He said the senators should also work on part-time basis.
“In practical terms, the Senate should be made up of one senator per state, meeting on part-time basis (to confirm appointments, approve loans, emergency powers etc.) while the House of representatives should have only one-third of its present number sitting as a full time parliament,” Mr Salam said.
To further cut cost, among the executive arm, states should not have more than seven commissioners while the federal government should have a maximum of 15 ministers.
“Truth is that we can not afford what we currently operate but we are living in denial,” he said.
Mr Salam made these observations while in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
“I support all measures necessary to reduce our cost of governance and have more money for real development. This may include a downward review of emoluments of public office holders, not just lawmakers but everyone holding a public office from the local to the federal level,” Mr Salam said.
“I have always been an advocate of leaner government at all levels. I believe our present structure is not only bogus, it is also inefficient. I am of the view that a constitutional amendment should be undertaken to restructure the Nigerian federation to bring our institutions of governance in tune with our social, political and more importantly, economic realities.
“A country with over 200 million population and terrible social and infrastructure deficit as ours should not be spending more than 70 per cent of its annual budget on recurrent expenditure. It is simply not sustainable and the place to start is from the size of our government.”
Mr Salam’s view has added another echo to the call for restructuring of governance in Nigeria. One of his colleagues in the Senate, Rochas Okorocha of Imo West Senatorial District, made similar remarks last October.
Like Mr Salam, Mr Okorocha argued that the total number of federal lawmakers should be reviewed to 146, from the current 469 — 109 senators and 360 Rep members.
“What (are) three senators doing that one senator cannot do?” Mr Okorocha asked, amidst murmur in the House.
“Here, we have three senators per state. In that National Assembly (House of Representatives) over there, we have 360 eligible human beings. This country must begin to make sacrifices and cut down the cost of governance.”
Barely a week after Mr Okorocha’s mooted this stance, Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, broadened the debate.
Mr Fayemi called for a unicameral legislature by the scrapping of the Senate, saying what is needed is the House of Representatives.
“You have three senators from little Ekiti and you have three senators from Lagos State. It’s a no-brainer that it’s unequal, I guess the principle is not proportionality but that if you are a state, you get it automatically.
“But I think that we can do away with that. There are several things that we can do away within the government,” he said.
Section 48 of the constitution provides for three senators from each of the 36 states of the federation and one from the FCT (totalling 110). Also, section 49 provides for 360 members of the House of Representatives elected from the constituencies in each state of the federation.
Therefore, only a constitutional amendment can lead to the kind of reform sought by the aforementioned proponents.
Aware that the debate was gaining traction, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, countered the call for a unicameral legislature.
He said the improvement in the productivity of lawmakers is what should be sought, not a single parliamentary house, which could impinge the representation of ethnic minorities in the country.
“Nigeria has consciously adopted to have a bicameral National Assembly. It is because of who and what we are. The diversity of Nigeria and ethnic composition of the country requires that we have a system that provides Justice, Equity and Fair play.
“It is a conscious decision and design to ensure that everybody is represented in the country. We need bi-cameral legislature in Nigeria.” Mr Lawan explained.
The senate president did not, however, counter the call for a reduction in the number of senators per state.