CHIEF Teslim Folarin is the Senate Leader, an office that makes him a principal officer of the National Assembly.Â A man of indisputable integrity, he represented his colleagues in a published interview that centred on the nationâ€™s expenditure on the members of the National Assembly.
With all the talk about accountability and the trillions of Naira that members of the National Assembly cart away, the reporter thought Senator Folarin would put up a flawless explanation on allowances that senators and members of the House of Representatives earn.
The reporter wanted a confirmation from Senator Folarin that each senator got N15 million monthly to run his office while each member of the House of Representatives got N13 million per month. He repeated the question EIGHT times in different ways. Senator Folarin replied tersely FIVE times, â€œThose figures are not rightâ€. He refused to provide the correct figures. He had his reasons.
â€œI do not know where you got those figures from. Those figures you quoted are by far above what senators get. I do not want to speculate. If you want the right figures I will refer you to the Senate Services Committee,â€ he said as the reporter persisted.
How much does Senator Folarin get to run his office? â€œI do not think I can get on that question,â€ he said before launching into a long sermon on how legislators spend a lot of money hiring consultants and experts to facilitate their legislative duties.
Not satisfied with his message he justified the huge expenses, saying legislators use the funds to address poverty alleviation. He wants Nigerians to believe legislators share their money with their constituents. Only legislators play this role, Chief Folarin said, they deserve to be paid more.
Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, and former Governor of Kaduna State Ahmed Makarafi was equally unwilling to disclose the figures. He wanted to be quoted that legislators get their share of the treasury quarterly, not monthly.
Why would they not want people to know what they earn? Are they embarrassed by the figures like the public? Do they think they are accountable only to themselves? How do members of the National Assembly spend their constituency votes?
The reporter, whose work threw more light on the trillions spent on the National Assembly and the refusal of our senators to answer the questions on financial matters, was pointed in his questioning.
Chief Folarin again, â€œFor me to sit here and tell you this is how much a senator gets or earns is unfairâ€. He said he would have a figure when the amendment to the budget is passed. Chief Folarin should know where to get those figures. His point is that a public servant like the senators should be accountable, transparent and selfless to the electorate.
Nigerians have a right to know what their leaders are doing with their resources. Senators Folarin and Makarafi should not forget they are our servants and should account to us.