By Chris Ochayi, Dirisu Yakubu, Emmanuel Elebeke & Gabriel Ewepu
Mixed reactions, yesterday, trailed the ‘no jumbo pay” for lawmakers remark by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.
Lawan had, while playing host to executive members of Senators’ Forum in his office in Abuja, on Tuesday, said contrary to insinuations, no member of the National Assembly receives jumbo pay.
His statement has, however, drawn the ire of stakeholders in the polity.
While Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described the Senate president’s statement as a welcome development, Middle Forum and Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, disagreed, contending that the humongous allowances collected by lawmakers remained the bone of contention.
In its reaction, spokesman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu, said: “The jumbo pay of the last NASS was anti-people. How can a country said to be the headquarters of poverty tolerate such super expensive legislators with least productivity.
‘’We’re happy with that move by the 9th Senate president. We need part-time legislators and we also need their numbers to be drastically reduced to not more than 37 senators and 70 Reps. We must reduce cost of governance in Nigeria.”
Also reacting, National President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Borgu, who contradicted the position of Lawan, told Vanguard in an interview that the federal lawmakers were actually making millions of naira monthly through accumulated allowances.
He said: “What the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said is the basic salary. Salary is not just the basic. Salary is cumulative with allowances called salary advance. So, what he said is just basic.
“Even the president, his basic salary may not be more than a million naira. But when all these allowances come into play, then it runs into millions of naira. And that is the truth of the matter.
“So, Lawan tactically mentioned the basic salary without all these other ones, like how much is attached to transport, how much is attached to housing, how much is attached to sitting, how much is attached to entertainment, how much is attached to wardrobe, furniture, cars etc. All these put together make their pay run into millions of naira.”
On his part, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CSLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said while salaries of the legislators might not be too high, the sundry allowances they earn remained problematic.
Rafsanjani called on the Senate president to speak more on the entire pay package each senator is entitled to so as to properly situate whether their earnings are more than what obtained in other countries of the world, particularly developing nations like Nigeria.
He said: “I don’t think the problem is with the salaries they earn, but the allowances. Given the economic situation in the country, it is quite in order for Nigerians to kick against the payment of these sundry allowances.”
Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said the remuneration of state and federal legislators and, indeed, all political office holders was determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
These include the president, vice president, ministers, advisers, permanent secretaries, directors-general and judges of all the superior courts.
He said: “There is nothing fantastic about their remuneration. It is only the remuneration, which they approve for themselves over and above the official remuneration which is the challenge. And the media need to investigate to come out with the actual details beyond the public gossip.
Former Director General of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, WAIFEM, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, said: “It is very difficult to ascertain without facts. It is the Wages and Salaries Commission that can confirm the matter. Furthermore, we should not confirm salaries with allowances. Let us obtain the facts.”