By EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
ABUJA-Members of the House of Representatives may agree with the majority of Nigerians that the welfare package for the legislators should be reduced.
They, however, are insisting that any cut to their N42 million quarterly allocation should be made to be across board. Hysteria over the welfare package of legislators recently swept the nation following revelations made by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN that a quarter of the national budget was being spent on the National Assembly.
Outrage was further fueled by recent disclosures that the immediate past House of Representatives secretly increased the quarterly allocation of its members from N23 million to N42 million. The increase which was effected without budgetary approval was allegedly funded through bank loans.
While members of the new House of Representatives are seeking to distance themselves from the old House, they are nevertheless alleging that other arms of government were equally earning salaries and other welfare packages unknown to members of the public.
A number of them spoken to pledged readiness to support a reduction but any attempt to review only that of the National Assembly would not be a welcome development as government encompasses the three arms, not just one arm.
Rep Zakari Mohammed, Kogi said “an holistic approach should be put in place to see all salaries and allowances of all public officers, from executive, legislature and the judiciary with a view to addressing take home pay to tally with our current economic reality in Nigeria.” Nigerians should not only turn the
House of Reps as the whipping child.”
Rep Akpamaika Umoh said; “ to me and those of us that are new in the legislature it seems to me that the leadership of the demised 6th Assembly did not exhaustively explain to the press considering what I read, you know that those allowance equally include maintenance of Abuja and state offices in their various constituencies.
“Some Reps have offices in as many as five local councils and they must be serviced and maintained to remain relevant in the scheme of things and when their names are attached to relevant constituency project that does not automatically transform into cash for their pockets.
“There is need for enlightenment of the public on how these allowances were distributed because there is a disconnect between what is on ground and what they are seeing.”
On his part Rep. Victor Oghene said that “Nigerians have to decide whether we don’t want a presidential system of government or go back to the parliamentary system which we have tried in the past but all the essentials must be across the board in terms of reduction of emoluments and salaries.
“After this must have been done, then there could be salary/allowances reduction.”
The N42 million quarterly allocation is besides the stipulated salaries paid to members of the House of
Representatives which presently stands at N749,000.00 monthly.
The general consensus of the House members who spoke on the issue was that there is need for reduction but it must be across board as the matter does not lie with the green chamber alone.