In this report, Damilola Oyedele raises pertinent questions on Senator Shehu Saniâ€™s â€˜revelationâ€™ that N13.5 million is received monthly by senators as running costs
Senator Shehu Sani made his name and mark from his days of activism. It is, however, well known that most radical activists are hardly able to attain political power, even as a majority of them are unable to explain the source of their wealth. Often, activists fail at attaining political power in this part of the world usually because they cannot or would not indulge in the shenanigans of Nigerian politics and politicking. But that was before some of them started committing â€˜class suicideâ€™. Ask the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who tried many times to harness his human rights activism records into garnering electoral votes.
To, therefore, not acknowledge that Sani achieved a feat, albeit it was through the sweeping tsunami of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which also empowered persons without the appropriate skills for representation, would be an aberration. It is not clear if he indulged in the electoral practices antithetical to his activist posturing and beliefs, but many agreed that his victory is one that would be good for the people of Kaduna Central.
At inception of this Eighth Senate, he towed the path of activism, by publicly declaring his assets. Thus, while his action was applauded, it was expected of a man like Sani to live true to type.
In a statement he issued September 4, 2015, Sani declared he has N22 million in three bank accounts, some cars, alongside houses in Abuja, Kaduna, Katsina and Niger State.
â€œThere are no saints and angels in politics, but the citizenry deserve to know the moral truth behind the facade of uprightness. A clean broom is needed to clean a dirty space. I chose to publicly declare and be pelted than to walk with the stain of suspicion and mistrust splashed on all public office holders by a generation of curious citizenry,â€ he said then.
His action was applauded by a majority, but several also dismissed it as one playing to the gallery (at the time anyway, when the APC government anti-corruption fight still seemed genuine).
As a senator, Sani has been up and doing. His manner of handling the investigations into the grass cutting contracts of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, earned him further applause. His summary of the â€˜deodorant and insecticideâ€™ approach of the Buhari government towards corruption has been deployed by others.
That Shehu Sani has earned his name, which has made it bland to use one without the other, is not in doubt.
However, his latest action, which has generated controversy in the polity is a curious one. He recently â€˜revealedâ€™ that senators receive N13.5 million monthly as running costs, in addition to their N700,000 salary.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Sani said it was necessary to stop the N13.5 million monthly running costs, to make the National Assembly attractive to only people who have ideas. He also accused the National Assembly of being one of the most non-transparent organs of the government.
â€œI decided to burst it open. It was a moral issue. The National Assembly is one of the most non-transparent organs of government. It pricked my conscience and I decided to burst the bubble and open the National Assembly to public scrutiny. If the expenses payment system was ended then parliament would only be attractive to people who contribute ideas,â€ the senator had said.
Admittedly, in a country where about 64 per cent live below poverty line, the revelation is bound to cause outrage. The earnings are part of what make governance expensive in Nigeria, and make political offices attractive to all manner of desperados, who would do whatever to attain position.
But that is not the crux of this piece.
While the accolades are pouring in for him, it is necessary to interrogate this messenger and his motives? Sani would, therefore, do well do provide answers to these questions.
What informed the epiphany after almost three years of having been a beneficiary of the same running costs expense system?
As at February 2018, Sani had been in the Senate for 33 months, which means he had collected N445.5 million (N13.5 million x 33) for running costs, in addition to N23.1 million (N700, 000 x 33) as salary. Did he collect these monies or not? Or did he just take his due salary and run his office from his pocket? Did he donate the funds to charity?
Will he collect the next due allowance at the end of March, 2018? Or since he has now been pricked by his conscience, decline the allowance? How steadfast has he been in retiring his expenses, after all there are expense forms to be filled out?
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Sani would still be in the Senate for the next 15 months; that is another N202.5 million in running costs. Will he take it or decline? He should also tell Nigerians whether he is a beneficiary of the Toyota Land Cruiser 2015 VXR official vehicles given to senators?
As at the last count, all senators had received theirs and none, including him turned theirs down. Did he collect his, or choose to deploy some of his personal cars listed in his public asset declaration? At the end of his tenure in May 2019, will he return the car, or leave with it, as is the practice?
Is he just pushing to appeal to the sentiments of the voting masses of Kaduna in his re-election bid being countered already by his state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai?
It would be absurd if Sani assumes he still adorns the â€˜comradeshipâ€™ toga. Having been part of the system, benefitting from it, without plans to relinquish the perks of being a senator, his epiphany is Janus faced, to say the least. He cannot absolve himself of whatever sins he has inadvertently accused his colleagues of, no matter how much deodorant he uses.