By Deji Elumoye
Former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, has flayed the present presidential system of government being practiced in Nigeria ‘in which a few privileged public officials, including federal legislators, earn bogus salaries’.
He is also canvassing for the conduct of a referendum for Nigeria to switch from presidential to parliamentary system of government, as a means of cutting down the high cost of governance in the country.
Ndume, who stated this yesterday, wondered why a few selected public officials, including federal legislators, will be paid fantastic salaries as against the pittance being paid an average public worker.
He said: “In the current system, workers are not being paid living wages, whereas a privileged few are earning luxury wages. The National Assembly members, including me for instance, are paid luxury wages.
“How can we live comfortably when only a few of us are living a life of luxury when the majority is living in abject poverty? The N30, 000 minimum wage is too small; it can make workers engage in corruption in order to survive.
“We have a budget of over N10 trillion and only 30 per cent is going to the majority whereas 70 per cent would be spent on a few minority. The system we presently practice is not fair in terms of moral, religious or socially.
The ranking Borno South senator said the change from presidential democracy to parliamentary system might be difficult for the current National Assembly to undertake because the present system is also in favour of the federal parliamentarians, saying it will be difficult for the system to be changed now because the National Assembly is solely responsible for lawmaking in the country and the amendments to the constitution.
According to Ndume, “The National Assembly may not provide the necessary support needed to amend the constitution to accommodate the proposal that the cost of governance should be critically examined.
“The excess power bestowed on an individual in the presidential system of government can be abused and had even been abused by many occupants of the office. Therefore, it is high time for Nigeria to look at the original system of government that we inherited.”
On how to effect a change in the current system of government, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Army opined that legal luminaries should come together and fashion out an acceptable arrangement that can lead to a constitution amendment through referendum.
He said: “Legal luminaries should look at the way the parliamentary system could be implemented, like coming up with a national debate which should compel the National Assembly to either make it as part of the constitution amendment or a resolution that emanated from the debate.
“After the debate, there should be a referendum to look at the system of government we are practising now and the alternative we are proposing because we cannot, as a nation, sustain the current arrangement.
“So, Nigerians should demand a referendum to effect the type of system that would improve their wellbeing through drastic reduction in the cost of governance. The system we are running now, which I’m part of, is not fair to majority of Nigerians.
“Since Nigeria was a British colony, we started with the parliamentary system. All over the world today, parliamentary system of government is more popular than the presidential system.
“It is also more effective in the sense that the head of government is more or less one among equals of the parliamentarians. Therefore, accountability is achieved in the chamber in the sense that the prime minister has to be in the parliament every day, and he must give account of government to his colleagues.
“Also, ministers are selected among the elected parliamentarians. The idea is to reduce the cost of governance and make it more effective.”
Ndume also reiterated his position on high cost of governance in the country, saying the recent stand of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido, have vindicated his position on the high cost of running a presidential democracy, which he insisted was no longer realistic.