By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—THE prospects of outgoing members of the House of Representatives getting their enhanced welfare allocation before the end of their term dimmed, yesterday, following the resolution of Speaker Dimeji Bankole not to borrow on behalf of the members.
Bankole’s stringency nonetheless, members of the Dino Melaye-led group have demanded a fresh probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on how entitlements of the House members were allegedly misused.
Meanwhile, associates of Speaker Bankole and the Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Usman Nafada, were yesterday exchanging mutual accusations of complicity in the secret decision to increase members’ entitlement.
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that the House, at a closed door session in March 2010 commenced the process that eventually led to the formal increase in members’ quarterly allocation from an estimated N29 million to N42 million.
It was further learnt that the resolution was adopted almost unanimously with both pro-Bankole and anti-Bankole forces in near unanimity on the issue. The increase was, however, irrespective of the standard recommendations of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMFAC, of the estimated N26 million quarterly allocation which is supposed to cover the salaries and allowances of the legislators and their official and domestic staff.
The fund is also supposed to cover the running of their constituency offices, newspapers, travels and tours and other logistics, though many of the legislators were often in the breach in the utilization of the provisions.
Associates of Speaker Bankole were adamant, yesterday, that he was absent when the idea of raising the jumbo salary was reached.
A close associate of the Speaker told Vanguard last night: “I remember that I was with the Speaker in Ibadan on that day that the issue was raised because I followed him to inaugurate a facility in the university.”
The associate affirmed that the House in the absence of the Speaker mandated a team headed by a principal officer to study the matter who in turn came up with the constitution of the 37-member Members’ Welfare Enhancement Committee.
The committee included a member from each state of the federation and the federal capital.
The implementation of the new package was rolled back to the beginning of 2010, a decision that compelled the House to take a loan to cover the payments that were handed out to members in the second quarter. A commercial bank, it was learnt disbursed the loan to cover up the deficit in the jumbo pay.
The bank it was further gathered, however, panicked when it realized that the two presiding officers, Speaker Bankole and the Deputy Speaker, Nafada were not returning to the House and then moved to immediately offset the loan from the House account that was until recently domiciled with it.
It was the decision that led to the non payment of the members’ second allocation when they returned last week.
Vanguard learnt yesterday that Bankole was now determined not to borrow on behalf of the House, a fact one associate said had become complicated on the basis of the perceived antagonism from the Central Bank of Nigeria, Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
A source said: “You know the House has waged a war against them and now it is like pay back time and they have now compelled the banks not to dole out money to the House.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Dino Melaye who raised the issue of the deficit in the House purse has called on the EFCC to investigate the issue to the extent of finding out the circumstances that led to the development.
Melaye told Vanguard that if it was true that the banks were not willing to pay the money because of the loan “then the anti_graft body should start investigation now because you cannot spend money without appropriation.
“The loan in the first place did not get a formal approval from the House before it was obtained from the banks involved and if they refused to pay us because of the apex bank’s non_directive, somebody took the loan he should be questioned as to how the money was expended.”
“The Federal Government cannot spend money without due consultation with the NASS and this money was borrowed without consultation with other members, this is most unacceptable to us the anti_graft agencies should step in now.”
It was learnt that the banks are merely keeping the House in suspense on fears that the Seventh Assembly may not honour financial commitments of the Sixth Assembly.