Tuesday, 10/12/2019 | 11:57 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Unemployment Benefit – Good Start By the APC Government (allAfrica.com)

The plan to provide a cushion of N5, 000 for unemployed graduates and the poorest citizens across the country is a good start for the All Progressives Congress-led federal government. But the action to mitigate poverty is, certainly, not commensurate with the capacity of the country given its rich resource endowment.

The vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, had disclosed the palliative measure recently at the 10th Anniversary Lecture of Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, titled “The Nigerian Economy and the Future.” Osinbajo acknowledged the ravaging effect of poverty in Nigeria and cited the World Bank report, which said about 112 million (66%) of Nigerians were extremely poor and living on less than $1.25 per day.

The monetary palliative resonates well as a nice police put together by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration that is barely two months old. But, sincerely, there is a lot more the government could do considering the enormous resources at the country’s disposal. If small countries that look up to Nigeria as a giant could provide for their citizens, why can’t Nigeria do even much more?

In Libya, for instance, before the ravages of the post-Muammar Gadhafi civil war, if any graduate is unable to get employment after graduation, the state pays the person the average salary of the profession, as if he or she is employed, pending the time the person secures employment. A mother who gives birth to a child receives $5,000 for upkeep, and there is no interest on loans; banks in Libya are state-owned and loans are given to citizens at zero per cent interest by law. A portion of every Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Educated Libyans are put at 83 per cent of the population.

During the latest rebasing of Nigeria’s economy, its Gross Domestic Product was put at $510 billion, ahead of South Africa, with $370 billion, and Egypt $257.29 billion. In the top 10 rating for Africa, Nigeria still tops the list in the ranking of South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Angola, Morocco, and Libya.

But the above mentioned countries are doing better than Nigeria both in human and physical development, though they do not have the country’s level of natural resource endowment. This is simply because their governments utilise their resources in ways that citizens can boast a fair share without being in power.

In Africa of today, South Africa still has a higher standard of living, with GDP per capita of $7,689 compared to Nigeria’s $2,689. The Nigerian government has promised to pay N5, 000 in social welfare package for the less privileged citizens at a time when members of the National Assembly, who are supposed to represent the masses, are given a whooping N8.64 billion as wardrobe allowance. This amount, which has been generally criticised as outrageous, is aside other allowances such as furniture, housing and vehicle, which the lawmakers are entitled to.

A breakdown of the wardrobe allowance brings the figure for each of the 360 members of the House of Representatives to N17.5 million, and N21.5 million for each of the 109 senators. While the wardrobe allowance, just like the furniture and vehicle allowances, will cover the entire four-year tenure of the 469 federal lawmakers, their housing allowances are paid on a yearly basis. Accordingly, each of the 107 senators, besides the senate president and his deputy, gets N4, 052,800 as housing allowance. The senate president and the deputy senate president are provided accommodation by the federal government.

Similarly, each member of the House of Representatives is paid N3, 970,425 as housing allowance upon assumption of office. Like the Senate, the speaker and deputy speaker of the House are given accommodation by the federal government.

On the furniture allowance, each of the senators will take away N6, 079,200 from the budget of the National Assembly, while the furniture for both the senate president and his deputy will be provided by the government. In the House of Representatives, each member will be paid N5, 955,637.50 as furniture allowance. This means that the 358 members will collect a total of N2, 132,118,225 for furniture.

On the vehicle loan, each of the senators is entitled to N8,105,600, while each House member is entitled to N7,940,850.50, meaning that the 107 senators will collectively take N867,299,200 as vehicle loans while the 358 House members will get N2,842,824,479 for their vehicles.

With these outrageous sums, it is hard to believe that the lawmakers are really representing the interest of Nigerians. And it is even harder to believe they are there to do the job of law-making for the benefit of the common man. There is an urgent need for a cut in the hefty allowances. In a country where many citizens go to bed with hunger, where economic conditions tend to favour only the rich, where discrimination is the order of the day, where corruption seems like a normal day life, such pay reduction is an absolute necessity. The APC administration must begin to effect the change it promised, and National Assembly is a good place to start.

The author, a photojournalist, writes from Lagos.