World Bulletin/News Desk
Authorities across Nigeria are bracing for a day of rage on Thursday as youths, organized by popular online activists and bloggers, plan nationwide rallies to protest against the excessive pay – the second highest worldwide - allocated to federal lawmakers.
A July report by the Economic magazine showed Nigerian lawmakers as the second highest earners worldwide after their Australian counterparts.
The report provoked national outrage, with citizens demanding instant cuts in the lawmakers’ pay and calling for a part-time legislature.
Both calls have gone unheeded.
Neither the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the body statutorily responsible for setting the salary of public servants, nor the parliament itself owned up to the exact pay of the lawmakers.
But it is believed that the lawmakers each collect N30m (roughly $187,590) monthly, including salaries and allowances.
Both chambers of parliament have 469 members in all: 109 Senators and 360 House of Representatives members.
EnoughIsEnough (EiE), the main organizer of the Thursday protest, told Anadolu Agency that the lawmakers' pay contradicts common sense when compared to the level of poverty, high unemployment and infrastructural decay across Nigeria.
Entry-level national minimum wage is set at just $112, and up to 71 percent of Nigerians are said to survive on less than two dollars a day, according to a recent UNDP report.
EiE, a coalition of young Nigerians promoting good governance and citizen engagement, said the parliament alone has gulped over a trillion naira (standard Nigerian monetary unit) since 2005 and should account for every kobo (a 100th of a naira) of it.
Co-organizers of the protest include the United Action for Democracy, Say No Campaign, and ReclaimNaija.
Sources at the police headquarters in Abuja say they have been briefed by the "appropriate authorities to ensure that protesters were allowed to express themselves but to also ensure no one takes the law into his hand."
The parliament spokesmen have remained quiet on the planned protest.
Both chambers are expected to have plenary sessions Thursday and a face-off may not be ruled out between the lawmakers - notorious for settling scores with their fists - and the protesters comprising mainly youths who hold most of the lawmakers in contempt.
Social media revolution
The rant over Thursday's protest, dubbed #OurNASS, is now the number one trend word on twitter across Nigeria.
Messages on social media say the march will commence at 10 a.m. local time from the Eagle Square, Abuja, to the National Assembly complex to display public displeasure at the bloated pay.
Nigerians who cannot make it to the Federal Capital Territory are also being encouraged to "occupy" the House of Assembly complexes in their various states, with coordinators being appointed nationwide.
In a direct message the EiE sent to AA through its @EiENigeria twitter handle, the organization said the protest seeks a "deep cut in the pay of the lawmakers and would as well push for the parliamentarians to work part-time and should earn based on the number of sittings they attend."
"We are challenging members of the National Assembly to give an account of how the N150bn allocated to it this year has so far been expended," the group said.
Japhet Omojuwa, a blogger and twitter celebrity with over 100,000 followers, said the earnings of the lawmakers could not be justified.
Omojuwa dismissed the pay as "callous and utterly inconsiderate…when Nigerians barely survive on peanuts daily."
Asked how Nigerian youths can be part of what organizers describe as "the Brazilian example," Omojuwa said, "If you want to be part of #OurNASS in your state, carry placards and go to your state's assembly. Take pictures and tweet."
Jude Egbas, another prominent social media activist, also told AA that the agenda behind the protest is "to redress a situation where a few earn fat allowances in a poor nation. Everybody must and should join us."
Ayisha Osori, a female activist, said Nigerians have no reason to stay at home.
Lamenting what she called the increasingly pathetic situation in the country, Osori told AA that the lawmakers’ pay is indefensible when "Nigeria ranks 136th out of the 136 countries surveyed by UNESCO on public spending on education as a proportion of GDP. This is why everyone should join #OurNASS."Last Mod: 26 Eylül 2013, 11:30