By Emma Ujah, Luka Binyat, Demola Akinyemi, Oscarline Onwuemenyi, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowoopejo
ABUJA—CENTRAL Bank governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi was unmoved by the seeming intimidation of senior officials of the House of Representatives, Tuesday, as he stood his ground that burgeoning overhead of the National Assembly was a threat to economic growth.
Sanusi’s insistence on his figures came against the background of increasing apprehension by federal lawmakers of a possible backlash against them by the revelations. Senators were alleging a calculated attempt by concerned interests to derail the country’s democracy using the issue.
While the Senate was shy of making a public reaction on the increasing public concern on the cost on ordinary Nigerians maintaining their lawmakers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, himself went on the offensive against the executive arm of government alleging that 32 federal agencies including Sanusi’s CBN were not being subjected to budgetary control.
Bankole’s retort against Sanusi follows public criticisms of the revelation that the N136 billion overhead of the National Assembly in the 2010 budget represented 25 per cent of the total N536 billion overhead
More support came for Sanusi as the erstwhile Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, Engr. Hamman Tukur, decried the seeming resort to symbolism by the legislators as he challenged them to make public their total earnings from the public treasury.
Legislators are greedy—Tinubu
Also supportive of Sanusi was erstwhile Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who described the federal legislators as greedy saying that it was unimaginable for less than 0.1 per cent of the population to be drawing 25 per cent of the total overhead of the federal budget.
Lamido clad in black in a turtle neck safari, arrived Room 028 of the new wing of the House of Reps around 12:15pm. He came along with five Deputy Governors of the CBN, and 23 top officials of the Bank, among them Executive Directors.
He said: “I want to start by re-affirming that every modern economy needs an independent Central Bank. And for that independence to be guaranteed, the Central Bank must be able from time to time, be allowed to appraise government policies, especially when such policies impact on our own areas of core responsibilities.”
Clarifying his statement on the load of the National Assembly on the citizenry, he said that he never said the National Assembly took 25 per cent of the total 2010 budget, stressing: “The National Assembly’s overhead in this year’s budget is N136 billion, I don’t think anyone has disputed that. Where the dispute is, is that I have said that the Federal Government overhead is N536 billion.
“I want to place before the House what is official. I refer you to a document written for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the National Assembly and to the Federal Executive Council, FEC. His Excellency wrote you this letter (raised up the letter). It is entitled “the submission of the 2011/2010 Medium Term Expenditure framework. The document was approved by FEC on 8th September, 2010.”
He said that the document was prepared by the Budget Office, and approved by the Minister of Finance. “Every page of that document, is a page of the budget of the Federation. This is a document of the Federal Government of Nigeria, prepared by the Budget Office of the Federation, endorsed by the Minister of Finance and approved by the Federal Executive Council and submitted to the National Assembly, by the President.
If this number is correct, then N136 billion is 25 per cent of the Federal Government Overhead.
He noted that at the said lecture, he had mentioned several issues concerning the Nigerian economy and how wrong fiscal and monetary policies where not creating the right effect. He said that he did not set out to maligned the National Assembly, but that he stressed that the overhead was rising faster than any component of the budget, and that overhead was the most inflationary aspect of a budget of government.
He pointed out that the Overhead of the National Assembly was 21 per cent in 2008, 26 per cent in 2009 and 25 per cent in 2010 of the overhead of the National budget. He also cited how domestic debt was overgrowing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), pointing out that most of the borrowing was to finance overhead.
“As overhead increases, we have pressure on inflation. As a country, we cannot keep spending and spending on overhead and recurrent. It is not good for this country. The House officials were, however, unmoved as they took turns to attack the CBN’s governor’s presentation.
The Minority Leader Ali Ndume in his argument said that in the 2010 budget that was Appropriated by the National Assembly and sent to the President, the component of NASS overhead was N136 billion out of a total overhead of N852.12 billion.
He said if Sanusi was using that figure, then the National Assembly would not have gulped 25% of the total overhead.
Also the House Committee Chairman of Appropriation Hon. Ayo Ademola Adeseun, and the House Committee Chairman of Finance, Hon. John Eno agreed with Ndume.When Sanusi said he could explained what the N814 was standing for, Ndume said, the session was not for “argument .”
Also in a veiled attack at Sanusi’s revelation, Bankole at a lecture in Ilorin, Kwara State last Monday night decried what he claimed was the failure of an estimated 32 agencies to submit their budgets to legislative approval.
The speaker was in Ilorin , Monday night at a personality workshop organized by the Students Union Government (SUG) of the University of Ilorin . The workshop was entitled “the challenges and prospect of transforming the Nigerian democratic polity.”.
On the issue of 32 agencies of the executive that hitherto do not have their budget submitted for scrutiny by the legislature, the Speaker assured that it would not be business as usual because the lawmakers would henceforth insist on reviewing and approving the budget of the affected agencies.
Tinubu who was speaking at a seminar organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly for local government officials in Ikeja, Lagos described the members of National Assembly as “greedy”, saying that there was no justification to why the nation spends 25 percent of its budget on running the affairs of the lawmakers.”
Show what you earn—Tukur
Tukur speaking in an exclusive interview with Vanguard decried the attack on the CBN governor as he challenged them to make public their total drawings from the public treasury.
He asked: “Why should the statement by Sanusi bring about any controversy at all? It is not the percentage that matters, whether it is 25 or 50 percent is not important. The issue at stake, in my opinion is can the National Assembly justify the amount of money being spent on them.
“It is also not a matter of spending on overhead or recurrent or whatever, the question is what is the total package that Nigerians are paying their legislators, are they worth it, did they earn it? If a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives is taking more than is within the rule of law, it is wrong. It doesn’t matter whether it is one naira or ten naira, it is still theft!”
He added, “In my view, it is not the percentage that matters. The amount of money being taken by these people, is it justified? Is it within the rule of law? If the answer is yes, then Sanusi would be wrong, but if the answer is no then, of course, the National Assembly members are guilty and the CBN governor is right.
“We should not stop at saying they are wrong, but insist that there should be proper rectification.”
According to him, members of the National Assembly have nothing to fear if they do not have anything to hide from Nigerians, noting that the Clerk of the National Assembly has questions to answer over the over_bloated structure of the legislators.
“Why should they overreact over a simple statement by the Governor of the Central Bank, unless they are feeling guilty? As they say, the guilty are always afraid.
“At any rate, Nigerians should be asking questions of the Clerk of the National Assembly, who is the Chief Accounting Officer of the legislative arm of government. He is the one account for every single suspected money being paid to the National Assembly, if it is correct or not.”
He pointed out that recent reports that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole was forced to increase payment of the members to N42 million quarterly was worrisome for the financial health of the country.
“Who gave the Speaker the authority to approve anything for anybody? Nigerians should remember that the Speaker is just one member of the House of Representative who happened to have been elected by his colleagues; there is never an election for the position of the speaker, and the person can be changed every week if they so demand.”
“So, under what circumstances would the Speaker approve all that money, under what law or authority did he approve the said sum of money? In my view, the Clerk should be held responsible for such a misapplication of national resources.
According to the former RMAFC boss, the amount of money (N149 billion) expended by the National Assembly has not been justified, adding that they have not been productive enough.
He said, “The entire National Assembly during this legislative year could only pass 13 bills out of a possible 119, what a shame! Common, how can you spend all these billions and you just sit there? I don’t know what is wrong with our country. You are not contractors to your own country. We must not behave like contractors to maximize profit and then disappear.
“This is our country, who else is going to develop it? You are in authority, for goodness sake, and you have to be serious and get everything for Nigeria. You must be productive. What about security and the cases of armed robbery; what about hundreds of thousands that leave the universities every year and have no jobs?
What a country! Are we not ashamed of ourselves?
“The CBN governor made a comment and they are all over him, is this how you are going to run a democracy, and you concentrate on what you earn. C’mon! You are so primitive: only primitive people do these type of things. Only primitiveness produces this kind of result. How can you?
Tukur reminded the legislators that their job is to make laws that would ensure that development gets to the grassroots, and that every Nigerian enjoys quality life.
“Do you see what is happening? We are closing down our industries, unemployment is increasing; no efficient rail system. C’mon, in 2010! And we say we are running a democracy, we have resources, we have oil money! Primitive people! It is so annoying, so frustrating, and all you hear in the media is politics and elections; elections to do what?” he queried.
Tukur noted that, “Nigerians trusted these people, especially the Senators many of whom held big public offices before they were elected into the Senate. In fact, at their level, they should serve Nigeria free of charge; they should all be ready to offer free service to the country as happens in other climes, especially in Europe.
“I am saying that Senators should offer Nigerians free service, then we can look up to them for guidance. And not for them to be involved in these fishy things, and then get over_suspicious by a simple comment from the CBN governor: what’s the big deal about what he said?”
He explained that Section 70 of the constitution gives RMAFC the powers to determine the salaries and any other allowances of members of the state and National Assembly legislatures.
“Note that even after the salaries, every other imaginable allowance has been included in the package they are supposed to take. Therefore, no other naira can be earned by any legislator in Nigeria outside of this package, but it is obvious that this is not really the case today,” he stated.
He noted that according to the latest reviewed package, the annual basic salary for a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is N2,026,400.
“On a monthly basis, the basic salary of a Senator is N168, 866.66. We have included outside of the basic salary any imaginable allowance such motor vehicle allowance, fuelling allowance. Under the monetization policy of government, no legislator should be given a car; he or she should take a loan just like Civil Servants, and pay over a period of your tenure,” he added.