They don't get it – our Senators and our health


Anyone following Nigerian politics will have seen the uproar in the press when the the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Lamido Sanusi made public, and stood his ground despite public hounding by our “distinguished” senators that the National Assembly consumed 25 per cent of Federal Government’s total overhead budget.

You might ask…but what has that got to do with health? And we will explain. According to the website of our Ministry of Finance, available to all Nigerians with Internet access, the recurrent budget of the NASS (National Assembly) is about N138b, their capital budget is N16b. (Available via the Federal Ministry of Finance). Check it yourself. If we take these figures, they still receive more recurrent funds than either of Health, Housing, Power, Transport, Agriculture and Water Resources, Interior and Justice Ministries!

But still you might ask….but that’s not enough…that is not health specific. Well it is! All over the country there have been strikes by doctors demanding what might appear to be large increases in their salaries. All the state Universities in South Eastern Nigeria have been closed for 5 months (yes – 5 months!), because their State governors say they cannot pay the new salary structure agreed by their counterparts working for Federal Universities. So you might ask – why are Nigerians that are lucky to have jobs in these desperate times, especially doctors holding society to hostage. 

We submit that the major reason is not that they cannot manage on what they earn, or indeed that they are unwilling to manage. But people are rebelling against the astronomical amounts of money we are paying our “distinguished” senators, for what in most other countries is considered largely altruistic public service. The most painful part, for anyone that still bothers to watch NTA network news is that on a good day, just a handful of these our distinguished senators bother to turn up. 

How can we possibly afford to pay Senators in Nigeria N15.18m in salaries and allowances monthly ($100,000.00), when we cannot pay our doctors, teachers, nurses, a fraction of that. That is the absurdity of our country. Their allowances include the most ridiculous items such as “hardship allowances”, “newspaper allowances”, “domestic staff allowances” and let us not forget “a wardrobe allowance”.

But as this blog is titled – Our senators do not get it. They just do not! We have lived in a perverse society for so long. But due to the Internet, access to information, and Nigerians inspired by Julian Assange of Wikileaks, we will see changes in the landscape of Nigerian politics. 

Find below an exert from an interview granted by Professor Jubriul Aminu, one of our longest serving senators, and a former Minister of our Federal Republic about the anger felt by people due to the N15 million he “earns” monthly. Read and decide on what you can do. For one come January – Register to vote. Maybe we can take our country back….just maybe. But do not expect these guys to give up their N15 million lightly.

“Who are the Nigerians that are worried? It is you media people who are worried. I can take you to my village in Song, you will see that they are not worried. So, people should stop this nonsense of talking about allowances and how much the members are getting.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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