Senate panel kicks
REVELATIONS emerged yesterday that former presidents, including Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and others have not been paid their salaries and allowances by the federal government since January this year. The revelation, which came as a shock to senators in the Committee of Federal Character and Inter- Governmental Affairs led by Senator Tijjani Kaura (APC, Zamfara North), was unearthed during a visit by the lawmakers to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Thursday. It was also revealed that the non- payment of former presidents salaries was due non-approval by President Muhammadu Buhari. Payment schedules were said to have been sent to the president for approval to assess funds in the service-wide vote for the purpose. But giving his own version of explanation as to why former presidents were owed by the federal government, the SGF, Babachir Lawal attributed it to the unavailability of funds in service-wide votes for salaries of former presidents. Lawal said: “There is a department responsible for payment of former presidents. Presently, funds are not available in service-wide votes to do that. We are aware there was a protest in Bayelsa State that the former president was not paid, but we’ve explained that he’s not the only one affected. “Others affected are inter-religious council, traditional rulers council and so on. For some reason, we have been writing and writing but there has been no response. And there is presently no money to pay them,” Lawal said. “The budget for this year’s democracy day was N33million, and we had to do it on credit; we are yet to pay. There are lots of retreat which ought to be organised but there’s no money to do any. The last time we got any release was in August,” he added. However, the senators who were not swayed by the explanation kicked against the non-payment of the former presidents and also insisted that joint efforts be made between the office of the SGF and the committee towards finding a solution to the problem, which they described as unfortunate. The lawmakers also emphasised the need to draw the attention of the Budget Office and Federal Ministry of Finance to the development with a view to having it addressed immediately. Vice chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi described the situation as abnormal. “What we have seen here is an abnormality. Before referring any matter to the National Assembly, it is the function of the executive to appropriate funds. Therefore, the SGF should understand that there is something wrong in this office that must be addressed. “There is no way you can run the expenses of this office without cash- backing. We definitely have to draw the attention of the Budget Office and Ministry of Finance to the problems,” Hunkuyi said.