- Labour threatens civil disobedience
- RMAFC to cut lawmakers’ salaries – Saraki
Eminent Nigerians, trade unions, activists and other groups have expressed anger over the jumbo salaries and allowances for members of the National Assembly which was made public by the media on Monday.
Apart from deploring the secrecy in which the lawmakers’ salaries and allowances is shrouded, the critics of the measure, asserted that it was unhealthy for the economy, which has been on the downward trend since the international oil market collapsed late last year.
Among those who deplored the pay package for the Senators and House of Representatives are the Trade Union Congress, TUC, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav and a security expert, Mr. Emeka Okeke.
In a statement it issued yesterday, the TUC threatened to resort to civil disobedience to protest the move to pay a whopping N9billion to the new National Assembly members as accommodation, wardrobe, car and furniture allowances.
The union said it is also considering other means such as legal measures to compel a reduction of same if nothing was done about it soon by the authorities.
TUC National President, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Secretary, Comrade Musa Lawal, who signed the statement, described the jumbo pay as outrageous, especially at a time when workers in over 23 states were yet to be paid their salaries for over six months.
Kaigama said: “If the change we expect must come, this administration must review the provisions of the constitution that expressly stipulate such privileges for political office-holders. Also, the cost of governance in our country is outrageously high and unsustainable, and we may resort to civil disobedience or other legal measures to compel a reduction of same if nothing is done about it in the nearest future.
“The enormous cost of governance contributes immensely to the economic crisis rocking the Nigerian boat. What justification is this huge expenditure in the light of the current financial dilemma the nation is overwhelmed with?
“What do the legislators who often turn down proposals for wage increase for workers do to deserve these mindboggling sums of money? We think it is high time Nigerians take their destiny in their hands and stand firm against these injustices and inequality,” the union stated.
While reminding the politicians of their campaign promises, the Congress charged the lawmakers and other politicians elected into various offices not to betray the trust of Nigerians again, because of the grave sacrifice the people made to ensure that the much-touted “change” is entrenched in all facets of our national life.
“However, it must be sounded that the desired “change” will become reality only if our leaders make as much sacrifice as the people have done.”
In his reaction, Tsav condemned the N9billion earmarked for the lawmakers’ allowances.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly intervene as Nigerians are angry over the huge payment.
Tsav told Nigerian Pilot that it is unthinkable that in a country where most of the states owe workers’ salaries, a few individuals are to be paid such amount as allowances.
“The thing is outrageous, it is too much. They will be draining the purse of the nation. Ordinary workers in the country are not earning much and about 24 states cannot even pay salaries. I heard that President Muhammadu Buhari said he will reduce allowances, he should quickly look into this,” he said.
Similarly, National Coordinator of HURIWA, Mr. Emmanuel Nwubiko, condemned the huge allowances to be paid to the legislators and demanded an immediate systematic cut in the remuneration of the lawmakers because “it’s illegal and unconstitutional to pay these persons a series of allowances that are unknown to law and aren’t recognised by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocations and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.”
He said: “Nigerians must stand up and demand action to cut the cost of governance and make political offices less financially rewarding. Political offices should be more of service rather than seeing it as an avenue for primitive acquisition of wealth at all cost.”
In the same vein, Okeke told Nigerian Pilot that paying such a huge amount of money in the name of allowances shows how unserious the Federal Government intends to govern the country.
Okeke argued that instead of paying such a colossal amount of money to the lawmakers, the government should empower local manufacturers to produce quality furniture at low costs for them.
He called on the current administration to give the idea a serious thought and ensure it cuts the cost of governance at all levels.
According to him, “It shows how unserious our government has been. Take for instance the issue of furniture allowance in Edo State; there are furniture makers that need some kind of assistance to make quality furniture. If we are a serious country and want to be just to our people, there is nothing stopping us from developing our local expertise.
“Since government has decided to provide furniture allowances, these people should be empowered to produce the furniture instead of paying bogus money in the name of furniture and other allowances. Anybody who complains that the grade of furniture they produce is not good enough, should forfeit his own. If these local manufacturers are being empowered the way they should, in no time, they will have a big market within and outside the country,” he said.
RMAFC to cut salaries, allowances of lawmakers – Saraki
Meanwhile, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, yesterday hinted of plans by the RMAFC to cut salaries and allowances of the federal lawmakers.
Saraki, who stated this on his Twitter handle after meeting with the RMAFC boss, said the annual wardrobe allowance for each Senator is N506,600.
He said that fixing the allowances of the lawmakers is the sole responsibility of the commission.
The Senate President disclosed that the commission will publish details of lawmakers’ allowances on its website.
Saraki said: “RMAFC was in my office to clarify wardrobe allowance is N506,600 per senator. I have just been informed that RMFAC will be publishing details of allowances on their website.
“With the current challenge we are facing as a nation, RMFAC will be reviewing the allowances to reflect the current economic trend.
“Fixing remuneration is sole responsibility of RMFAC,” Saraki said.
The media had reported that a member of House Representatives will collect N17.5million each, while a Senator will get about N21.5million as wardrobe allowance.
The 109 senators, apart from the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, will be paid N4.05million each as housing allowances. They will also be paid the same amount every year because the housing allowance is on annual basis. This means that the 107 senators will be paid a total of N4.33billion as housing allowances annually since both the Senate President and his deputy are provided official accommodation by the Federal Government.
However, 107 senators will get a total of N650,474,400 as furniture allowance. Just like wardrobe allowance, furniture allowance is paid once in four years. Each member of the House of Representatives will be paid N5,955,637.50 as furniture allowance. This means that 358 lawmakers, excluding the Speaker and his deputy, will collect a total of N2,132,118,225 for their furniture.
Senators divided over pay cut proposal
Amid the criticisms trailing the lawmakers’ huge pay, Senators are divided over the move to cut their salaries and allowances.
Senator Kabir Marafa, who represents Zamfara Central, on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, said the claim that legislators in the country were receiving high remunerations was untrue.
“I think there is a general ignorance as to how much a Nigerian senator earns. I would want Nigerians to know exactly how much we earn; then they can come up with criticisms on basis of facts,” he said. When asked how much a Senator earns, he simply asked the reporter to find out from the banks.
“Our monies are paid through banks, they don’t give us directly; so let the bankers come out and say how much a senator earns. When you get the correct figure, that is when you and I can sit down and talk but you cannot invent an amount and then tell me how much I should reduce from it,” he said.
Senator Dino Melaye, APC, from Kogi State, had vowed to champion a campaign for salary cut for federal lawmakers when the new National Assembly resumes.
Melaye insisted that legislators must begin to sacrifice their comfort and allow a pay cut, saying that money realised from the exercise would be used for developmental projects and proper oversight roles.
Senator Ben Bruce, who represents Bayelsa-East Senatorial Zone, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said that he would support any reduction in the pay of members of the National Assembly, noting that he was elected into the Senate to render service and not to waste tax-payers’ money.
He said: “I subscribe 100 per cent to pay cut for National Assembly members; they can cut it to whatever they want, I am in support of it.”