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NBA drags FG to court over jumbo pay for NASS members

By INNOCENT ANABA

The  Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, has filed a suit against the Federal Government to challenge the jumbo pay which members of the National Assembly approved for themselves, by raising their constituency allowances without recourse to the Revenue Mobilisation  Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC,  the body empowered by law to fix salaries and allowances for public officers.

The association is asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to restrain the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly from collecting or receiving any salaries and allowances or any other payment in excess of the amount determined by RMAFC for them.

NBA contend that recently, Representatives agitated that the N27.9 million each of them is paid as constituency allowance every quarter be raised to N45 million per quarter, while Senators want to be paid N90 million for constituency  allowance per quarter as against the N45.5m they had been collecting.

According to the association, from July 1, 2009 each Rep. receives a total package of salary and allowances amounting to N794,085 monthly while the total monthly earning of a member of the Senate by way of salary and allowances is N954,096.67 and for each member of the House of representatives, the quarterly constituency allowance at the rate of N27.5m a per quarter     amounts to N111.6m per annum while that of a Senator at the rate of N45.5m  per quarter amounts to N180m  per annum.

It further argued that the quarterly constituency allowance of the Senate President  is  N400m,  which amounts to N1.6 billion a year, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives receives a quarterly constituency allowance of N350m, which works out to N1.4 b per annum.

Defendants in the suit are the  President of the Senate,  House of Representatives Speaker, the National Assembly, Clerk of the National Assembly, Revenue Mobilisation  Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC,  Minister of Finance, Accountant General of the Federation and Attorney General of the Federation.

NBA also wants the court to restrain Senate President, House of Reps Speaker and members of the National Assembly from further tampering with the contents of the annual budget estimate with a view to altering any of the items therein, removing any item therefrom or inserting a new item therein or in any other manner altering the character of the budget estimate from that prepared and laid before each Houses of the National Assembly by the President.

The association  is consequently praying the court to “whether  on a proper construction of Section 70, paragraph 32(d) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 6(1) of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act, Cap. R7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,  it is  only RMAFC, who is vested with power to determine the salaries and allowances to be received by the 1st, 2nd and other members of the National Assembly during their tenure.

* Whether the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly are entitled to receive during their tenure more than the salaries and allowances determined  by  RMAFC.

* If the answer to the 1st question is in the affirmative, whether it is not     unconstitutional and illegal for the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly to fix, increase, or determine any salary or allowance including constituency allowance or any other allowance to be paid to them during their tenure

* Whether the defendants are not bound to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of the Constitution in the discharge of their functions as to promote public good and ensure a balanced distribution of wealth such that there shall be no concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people or group

* Whether the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly are entitled to receive constituency allowance  or any other allowance  not determined by the 5th defendant.

* Whether on a proper construction of section 81 of the 1999 Constitution the responsibility to prepare the annual budget estimate is imposed on any  organ, person or authority other than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
* Whether in the process of passing an Appropriation or a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly are entitled to alter the amount under any head of expenditure or remove or insert a new item in the budget estimate having regard to  sections 4, 5, 81, 85 and 88 of the 1999 Constitution.

The association wants the court to declare  that by the combined effect of section 70,  paragraph 32(d) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 6(1) of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act, Cap R7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, it is only RMAFC that is constitutionally and statutorily empowered to determine the salaries and allowances to be     received by  the 1st and 2nd defendants and other members of the National Assembly during their tenure

* A declaration that the Senate President,  House of Representatives Speaker and other members of the National Assembly are not entitled to receive during their tenure more than the salaries and allowances determined by RMAFC.

* A declaration that it is unconstitutional and illegal for the 1st, 2nd and other members of the 3rd defendant to  fix, increase, or determine any salaries or allowances  including constituency allowance or  any other allowance by whatever name  called or defined, outside that determined by RMAFC.

*A declaration that by the combined effect of Sections 1(1), 13 and 16(2) of the 1999 constitution, the  defendants are in the discharge of their functions  under a duty to conform to,     observe and  apply the provisions of the Constitution  and direct their policies towards  promoting inter alia, the common good, the provision of employment and reasonable national minimum living wage and ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of  wealth in the hands of few individuals or of a group.

* A declaration that the payment by the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and members of  the National Assembly  to  themselves, quarterly constituency allowances of N45 million for each member of the Senate and N27.5 million for each member of the House of Representatives constitutes a breach of the duty imposed on the defendants by Sections 13 and 16(2) of the 1999 Constitution as summarised in relief (iv) above.

* A declaration that under and by virtue of the provisions of Section 81 of  the 1999 Constitution,  the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and other members of the National Assembly  have no right or power to alter the annual budget estimates prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly  either by reducing or increasing a head of expenditure or by adding  a new item or head of expenditure into the budget estimate thus altering the character of the budget from the one prepared and laid before  each of both Houses by the President.


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