BY DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU, GBENGA OKE & LEVINUS NWAGBUHIOGU
The Senate and the House of Representatives, Tuesday, alleged mischief in the report alleging that Nigeria’s federal legislators are the highest paid in the world. The Senate said it would not as much as dignify the report with a response.
House members, like kettle calling pot black, asked critics to also look at the emoluments and corruption in the executive arm of government which they claimed was by far higher.
The defence of the legislators nonetheless, civil society activists denounced the legislators, saying they were bent on bankrupting the country and its democracy.
The report released by The Economist of London suggested that the lowest paid legislator in Nigeria earns N30.6 million ($189.5,000) per annum which was put at 116 times the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, per person.
As a ratio to GDP per person, Kenya was second with 76 times, Ghana 30 times and Indonesia 18 times.
Among those who reacted were former Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, constitutional lawyer, Itse Sagay, Afenifere, second republic parliamentarian, Dr. Junaid Mohammed and civil rights activist, Bamidele Aturu.
Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinninya Abaribe described the report as a figment of the imagination of the authors of the report adding “the Senate will not dignify the false claims with a reaction.”
His counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Zakari Mohammed said a number of the figures used as salaries were expenditures and allowances that were normally retired.
It’s mischief directed at us — Senators, Reps
He told Vanguard, “this is a mere mischief because we retire all these monies they are not part of our salaries. Medical allowance, furniture and the rest are monies you must retire.
Rep. Jagaba Adams Jagaba (PDP, Kachai/Kagarko Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, a one time chairman of the House committee on anti-corruption asked critics to also look at the emoluments drawn by those in the executive arm of government.
“No, how can we be the highest paid in the world? Have you cared to know how much ministers collect in Nigeria? Have you cared to know how much their aides have been collecting? The corruption we are talking, is it not the executive arm that is more involved than any other politician in the world? You see, the truth of the matter is that we are doing our work. ”
It’s dangerous for our democracy — Tsav
Abubakar Tsav said: “If it is true that they have been authoritatively ranked as earning the highest pay worldwide, then it is a dangerous development for our democracy. And it is capable of destroying our democracy. That is why you find people doing all manner of things to remain in office. Some have even turned political office into a do-or-die affair because of the money being paid to them. Some of the lawmakers have even turned themselves into contractors. If the situation is not corrected, people will always do anything to remain in office.
Yes, our legislators earn more than American president — Sagay
Prof. Itse Sagay said: “It is well established that Nigerian legislators, at the national level, are the highest earning legislators in the world. That is well known. The Senators’ take home pay is not less than N15 million a month and in a year, it is not less than $1.7 million.
“Whereas an American Senator earns $144,000 a year and the English parliamentarian is earning $100,000 a year, while the American president earns $400,000 a year.
“Our Senators earn far more than the American president and everybody knows this but nothing has been done and nobody listens”.
Describing the situation as an aberration, Afenifere speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “this is a classical case of extreme inequality to the extent to which those earning the N18,000 minimum wage and those who are supposed to be representing them are earning N29 million a month, there is no where in the world where such disparity will be allowed.
Our legislators decree salary for themselves— Mohammed
Dr. Junaid Mohammed who served in the second republic House of Representatives said: “Throughout the world, salaries of lawmakers are discussed publicly but in Nigeria, our parliament result to what is called Executive session and they decree a salary for themselves”.
“The National Assembly does not care what the economy could afford, they don’t give a damn about the economy and what is obtainable in the public service, all they are interested in is the jumbo pay at the expense of the masses. For me, this is criminal and they are shameless”.
He went further, “Our parliament is the laziest all over the world, they are irresponsible and indolent with the kind secret salaries they pay themselves. This is an insult to Nigerians”.
“Ours is a parliament where members decree constituency projects for themselves, they award constituency projects to their companies and make corruption more popular in Nigeria”.
It’s very unfortunate — Aturu
Describing the situation as frightening, Bamidele Aturu said: “Democracy is about ensuring the masses enjoy dividends of democracy, it is about developing the country by having adequate infrastructure but in a situation where huge money are being filtered away and wasted on idle legislatures who steals this countries wealth for doing nothing, it is very unfortunate”.
“This is a wake up call on Nigerians, we need to do something urgently about the equitable structure of this country because this injustice is very wicked”.
“On one hand he mentioned loans, do loans constitute salaries too or furniture allowance part of our salaries?. All these things he mentioned are not part of our salaries, we earn less than N1million Naira monthly after a loan of N300,000.00 must have been deducted from the car loan we took. “
“You must retire all these money before you quit this complex, my friend that story was planted to implicate the National Assembly.”