Prominent Nigerians and groups on Sunday took a swipe at the National Assembly over the N13.5m running cost being paid to senators.
The Campaign for Democracy, senior lawyers, including Mr. Femi Falana, Mr. Yusuf Ali and Prof. Itse Sagay, in separate interviews with The PUNCH also commended Senator Shehu Sani for the disclosure.
Sani had, in an interview with TheNews, revealed that each senator received N13.5m monthly as running cost apart from the N700,000 consolidated salary and allowances paid to each of them.
Sagay said Sani’s revelation had vindicated him on his criticism of the lawmakers.
Sagay said. “I’ve always said they earn too much. This figure by Sanni does not include constituency allowances, which is in billions of naira.
“We still have budget padding from which millions are made by them. By the time you put all that together, you can see that these people are collecting a huge chunk of the Nigerian budget.”
The CD, in its reaction, said the N13.5m running cost could employ over 100 graduates in the country.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the huge earnings by the senators contributed to the bastardisation of the economy.
He said, “You can take good care of over 100 graduates from a senator’s salary. The legislature should deliberate on the abject poverty and unemployment in the country.”
Also speaking, Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, said Sani must be commended for his courage.
Ogunye said, “What Senator Shehu Sani said has confirmed the long-held fears of Nigerians that Nigerian legislators, both at the state and national levels, have been short-changing Nigerians.
“They are not expected to use that elevated position to serve their own interest at the expense of public interest. They are not expected to allow their self-consideration to override their commitment to abiding by the law.”
The Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani, said Nigerians must demand a review of the lawmakers’ earnings.
Ubani, “It means that Nigerians have not been getting a fair deal from our legislators. If a single person will be earning that kind of money in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000; something has to be done. We need to insist on a review of these jumbo allowances.”
The Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said Nigerians had a right to be displeased because they had not been getting a fair deal from the lawmakers.
Adeniran said, “The outcry wouldn’t have been if the legislators have been living up to the expectation of their constituents. Nigerians don’t see the lawmakers as people who are representing their interest.”
Falana said Sani’s revelation had proved that Nigerian legislators were the highest paid in the world.
Falana, in a statement on Sunday, said, “Apart from the monthly package of N13.5m, each senator is given the opportunity to execute constituency projects to the tune of N200m per annum. However, the disclosure made by Senator Sani does not cover the allowances for cars, housing, wardrobe and furniture running to several millions of naira approved for each senator.”
Also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Ali, said the allowance was insensitive given the state of the economy and the minimum wage of the workers in the country.
He said, “Even if there were no mass unemployment and if the economy were buoyant, suchallowance is totally unrelated to our circumstances; it is very insensitive.”
The Head of Abuja office of Social Action, a non-governmental organisation, Mrs. Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, said the revelation was another sad commentary in the history of political offices emolument in Nigeria.
A former Managing Director of Unity Bank Plc, Mr Rislanudeen Mohammed, said there was no justification for the N13.5m monthly pay.
But the Senate said there was nothing new in what Sani said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, in a statement said the figures Sani disclosed were in the public domain.
“Senator Shehu Sani, on the salaries and funds for running of offices of Senators, did not disclose anything new as the figures he gave out about 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,” the statement said.
Also, the House of Representatives on Sunday said the issue of the total earnings of legislators had been “over-flogged” in Nigeria.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “The legislature had addressed the issue several times.”
Namdas, who spoke for the House, also declined to give what each members of the House earned as running cost.