BY SONI DANIEL
ABUJA—As the National Assembly tries to wriggle out of the budget padding feud with the Presidency, a fresh round of crisis is looming in the House of Representatives following allegation by some aggrieved members that the leadership has short-changed them in the payment of salaries and allowances.
The aggrieved members of the House of Representatives, who spoke to Vanguard yesterday, accused the leadership of trading with their salaries and allowances.
However, a senior official of the House of Representatives, dismissed the claims, yesterday, saying that the House leadership was not ignorant of a calculated attempt by some elements to weaken the House, noting “we know where it is coming from and why it is coming at this time that we are having this face-off over budget. It is a continuation of well planned efforts to undermine the House by people who are not inclined to transparency”.
He added that, “there are calculated attempts to weaken the institution of the legislature and this includes the mudslinging that has been going on. It is a way of whittling down the hold on the public purse.”
Meantime, the aggrieved members of the House, who did not want to be named, explained that management of the National Assembly had at the inauguration of the current session started paying them a paltry N15 million per quarter as against the N43 million that their predecessors were getting per quarter.
The members, who were armed with some documents to buttress their point, claimed that the management later in June 2012 grudgingly jerked their pay to N27 million per quarter following threats by some angry members to confront the leadership.
The grouse of the aggrieved members is that it is wrong for their pay to be unjustifiably and inexplicably slashed by the leadership of the House of Representatives when the allocation to the National Assembly has not been reduced from N150 billion per year by the Federal Government.
Vanguard gathered that out of the amount, N43 billion is set aside for the running of the National Assembly while 40 percent goes to the Senate and 60 percent is taken by the House of Representatives because of their large size of 360 members compared to the Senate’s 109.
But it was learnt that unlike in the Dimeji Bankole-led House of Representatives when members were paid N43 million per quarter, the current leadership has only paid a maximum of N27 million to members with effect from June last year without explaining to them what happens to the balance of the money.
“That is why we want to draw the attention of Nigerians to a potential war that is about to break out in the House of Representatives unless our money is fully remitted to us as was the case in the 6th National Assembly,” the members warned.
They said there was no justification whatsoever for the leadership to keep them in the dark regarding their pay and asked the management to take immediate steps to assuage them before things got out of hand.
Excess money being saved for rainy day—Management
However, a member of the National Assembly management, who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity because he was not mandated to speak on the matter, explained that although the budget to the National Assembly had not been slashed by the Federal Government, members’ quarterly pay had to be pegged at N27 million and the balance warehoused for the rainy day.
The source said also that there was no way the leadership could pay everything to members so as not to fall into the same trap that forced the Bankole regime to resort to taking bank loans to survive.
“We are mindful of doing anything that would make us to go cap in hand and expose us to ridicule. That is why we are warehousing the little we can save so as to take care of any exigencies that may arise in the House.
“It is also from the savings that we can easily take care of members who are in urgent need of financial or medical attention,” the source explained.