BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has called on government at all levels to reduce the high cost of governance in the country by effecting a downward review of emoluments of political office holders particularly, their allowances.
The Association equally challenged President Goodluck Jonathan, the 36 state governors and other political office holders to reduce their army of political appointees as a way of reducing the cost of governance.
The umbrella body for senior oil workers, spoke against the background of the ongoing trial and revelation of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole that he collected N100 million per quarter as allowance while his deputy collected N80 million and the least paid legislator went home with N42 million every quarter aside their legitimate salary.
PENGASSAN urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to intensify their investigations on the perceived corruption in the National Assembly as it believed there was more to be discovered.
According to PENGASSAN’s President, Comrade Babatunde Ogun, apart from wasting the nation’s resources to maintain the excessively high cost of governance, Nigerians were denied the dividends of democracy thereby creating the huge infrastructure deficit witnessed across the country.
He said: “It is anti-developmental that those purportedly elected to represent the people, appropriate money and ensure its judicious utilisation, turned the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly into a bazaar, collecting loans from banks and awarding themselves obscene allowances. It is now clear that the cost of governance is too high and most of the resources that could have been used on developmental projects with great benefit to Nigerians are being channeled to finance the gluttony of political office holders and their retinue of over-bloated staff.”
“It is essential that governments at all levels cut all extra-legal allowances of political office holders and stay within the limits prescribed by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). This way, resources can be freed to address our developmental challenges as it is not only unacceptable but indeed unsustainable that three-quarter of our budget as evidenced in this year’s budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure.”
Similarly, PENGASSAN’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Zaid Kolawole, and the General Secretary, Comrade Bayo Olowoshile, said that the EFCC and ICPC should look deep into financial activities of the two chambers of National Assembly.
Kolawole argued that the denial by the RMAFC of knowledge of jumbo pay to the legislators was not enough as not only the members of the House of Representatives received high pay but also their Senate counterparts. “When the EFCC told us that the leadership of the House of Representatives obtained loans to finance the illegal allowances of its members, then we must ask where did the Sixth Senate get funds to finance their own jumbo pay.. Indeed, it is tragic that while the vast majority of Nigerians wallow in abject poverty with restricted access to education, health and other basic necessities of life; members of the National Assembly appropriated to themselves the right of first refusal to plunder our common heritage.”