- Sagay, Junaid, Okorie, Suleiman, others kick against huge pay
- It’s nothing new, says Senate
Fred Itua (Abuja), Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo
More than one week after Senator Shehu Sani revealed the monthly remunerations lawmakers receive as running cost, Nigerians and other stakeholders are calling for the immediate review of what they described as outrageous payments.
In an interview with an online newspaper, Sani, who represents Kaduna Central in the Senate, claimed that a senator receives N13.5 million as running cost every month.
“I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month.
“But what I am saying is that money (N13.5 million per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without any accountability is N750,000.
“The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200 million, but it is not the cash that is given to you.
“You will be told that you have N200 million with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will go and do those projects for you.
“Now, the corruption comes when the projects are not done and the money is taken. But right now, it is difficult to do that because NGOs and transparency groups have come into it. They track every allocation made to you and where they are being used.
“So, it’s becoming difficult for what used to happen in the past to happen now. But I can tell you that I would love a situation where we do away with running costs, constituency projects and leave senators and members of House of Reps with salaries,” Sani had said.
In separate interviews with Sunday Sun, former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman; former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed; Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay; former Presidential candidate and National Chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie; and national coordinator, Advocate for Peoples Justice, Mr. Giwa Victor, decried the lawmakers’ huge emoluments.
Suleiman urged relevant government agencies to take urgent steps to reduce the remunerations and bring it in tandem with the current realities.
He said: “I will agree that it is not the decision of the National Assembly to decide what they earn. But in the spirit of fairness and considering the situation in the country, senators and members of the House of Representatives should passionately meet the executive to review their remunerations.
“Considering the situation in the country and the fact that the price of oil in the international market has gone down, I think they should reduce it. That money is too outrageous. It’s too killing and it does not make sense. During my days as a minister, I didn’t go home with up to N1 million every month.
“If a minister does not earn that in one month, I don’t think lawmakers should earn it. The N1 million I am talking about, my housing allowance was included. Something should be done about the pay and done urgently too.”
Mohammed, on his part, described the lawmakers as “rogues and bunch of thieves who have failed to represent Nigerians.”
He thundered: “They (lawmakers) have failed to represent the people. They have only succeeded in representing themselves and their interest. If Nigeria is becoming a failed state, members of the National Assembly are directly responsible. Most lawmakers are bunch of thieves. They pocket N14 million every month in the name of serving in the National Assembly.
“They must be real scammers. This is the first time since 1999 that we have some nonsense they call legislative projects. There is no parliament anywhere in the world lawmakers embark on constituency projects. These people are rogues.”
Sagay, on his part, stated that the remunerations of the lawmakers is out of tune with the economic reality in the country, stressing that they could not continue to feed fat at the expense of Nigerians.
“I was the first person to draw attention to these outrageous salaries and allowances. When I did, they were extremely angry and said all sorts of things, knowing in truth that I was right. They over reacted instead of being apologetic and having some sense of remorse for what they are doing. Obviously, what they are earning is out of tune with the economic reality in the country. These people cannot continue to consume the resources of this country while millions of others are scratching and looking for tiny morsel to eat. It is not sustainable. Something has to be done. We can’t allow it to continue,” he said.
Sagay added: “What they are earning exceeds the minimum wage by 1,666 times and their productivity is almost nil. All they are doing is to fight the president and bring government down to a standstill. They have no sense of service at all. They are not thinking of the country. They are all ‘come-and-chop’ characters. Service is the last thing in their minds. They are just on a feeding frenzy. They are stripping this country of all our resources. They don’t care what happens to the country, rather they are causing crisis in government. They are irrelevant people; they are just dragging us down. The cost of maintaining them is too much.”
The professor of law further explained that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) granted the lawmakers N750,000 as official salary, but noted that “since they (the lawmakers) are the ones that approve budgets, they went round the RMAFC and cut out another large percentage or proportion of the budget for themselves, calling it allowances. This is self-awarded salary; it has nothing to do with the RMAFC at all. They are acting outside the law, making themselves wealthy at the expense of the country.”
To Okorie, it’s time for the relevant authorities to reveal the emoluments of public officers including that of state governors.
“It is indeed very scandalous for each senator to earn that kind of money in a country as poor as Nigeria at this time and age. And there is no output from the National Assembly that is commensurate to this payout to them. This revelation shouldn’t end with the National Assembly because it simply gives a window into the questionable characters of our public holders. It is also important for agencies of government concerned with salaries of public officers to tell us what governors too are earning. Peter Obi has dropped the hint that what the National Assembly members are earning may be a tip of the ice berg compared to what governors are earning,” Okorie said.
Giwa, in his reaction, noted that the lawmakers as representatives of the people should consider the current economic downturn and undertake an immediate review of the remunerations.
“It is bogus and unnecessary considering the economic crisis the country is currently facing. The pay of the senators should reflect the situation on ground. They are there on their own. They represent the people. Every attempt to increase or extort or take any salary above the minimum is bad.
“They are supposed to be representing the people. This is unnecessary and irresponsible. The agencies in charge should review it. This is causing unnecessary hardship to the ordinary Nigerian on the street,” he said.
However, spokesman of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, argued that Sani did not disclose anything new, saying the figure he gave out about the running cost of the offices of senators were contained in various line items and expenditure heads of the budget of the National Assembly, which has been made public.
“If people had looked critically at the budget of the National Assembly which has since been made public, they would have seen that various line items like traveling, medicals, consultancy and the rest were captured in the budget and they were the funds divided for each senator’s use.
“Almost all holders of elective and appointive offices have running costs allocated to their offices and that cannot be said to be part of their salaries,” Abdullahi argued in a statement.
Also speaking, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North in the upper legislative chamber said the outcry over jumbo pay for senators was uncalled for.
Nwaoboshi who met with some senior journalists in Lagos said the senators have a lot of responsibilities to take care of in their various constituencies.
He said that anytime he returned home his contituents usually confront him with various demands most of them personal needs such as offsetting hospital bills and payment of school fees.
Nwaoboshi noted that in advanced democracies their contemporary earn highly equally, but added that the need for and how they spend their own money may differ from the one here.