…No, we were contacted-Chinda, Igbakpa, Salam, Ossai, others
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
A member of the House of Representatives from Niger State, Hon. Abubakar Lado has said that the consent of some lawmakers was not sought before the donation of their two months salaries meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
This was even as most of the members of the House countered the submission, saying that they agreed to the donation before it was made.
It will be recalled that the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabimaila recently announced the donation of March and April 2020 of all the 360 members of the House the fight the pandemic.
The speaker who disclosed a video he shared on social media had said the donation will be transferred directly to the National Relief Fund account for the fight against COVID-19.
He said “We have in the House of Representatives jointly committed to contributing one hundred per cent (100%) of our salaries for the next two months to the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“Our contribution will support provisions for the welfare of frontline medical professionals and health workers, and other interventions to provide for the wellbeing of all Nigerians through these trying times.
“Accordingly, I have directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to see to it that all members’ salaries are transferred to the National Relief Fund for this month and the next.
“This is independent of ongoing individual efforts by members to alleviate the suffering brought on by this virus and to improve the living conditions of citizens in their various constituencies.”
Vanguard learnt that an average salary of a member of the House of Representatives is between N750,000 to N800,000 (excluding other allowances).
But speaking on Prestige FM 91.7 Minna, Niger State in Hausa language, Lado, a member of All Progressives Congress member representing Guevara/Suleja/Tafa Federal Constituency of Niger State, said that some of his colleagues were not happy about the donation, saying that their consent was not sought.
He, however, said it was a sacrifice for the lawmakers had to make for the good of the country and the people they represented.
“Though some of us were “forced” to donate our two months salary, we still help the poor with the little that we have and we will continue doing it till we see the end of this virus”, he said.
Asked again to confirm if he said they were coerced into the donation, the lawmaker “Yes, we donated the salaries because of the progress of Nigeria but I’m assuring you, most of us were not happy about it, that’s the truth. It’s just the way you see workers not happy about salary deductions without their consent.”
When contacted by Vanguard to expatiate on the matter as it was becoming a subject of controversy amongst many members of the House, Lado, said, “Yes, we have agreed with that”. We have agreed to make the sacrifice of our two months salary.
“Me, it (the decision) went down well with me. If didn’t, I can write to the leadership of the House and tell them, no, I did not agree”, he said.
Reminded about what he already said during the programme, Lado roared, “no, no, I didn’t say me. That’s why I said to try and get the tape and get somebody to interpret it for you very well. I am a politician just like Mr President. You can allege everything on him, then, being a politician, if it is not making any damage to you, I think there is no problem.”
Asked if he was playing smart on what he said earlier, Lado retorted “Smart as how? Do you know I was accused of planting a bomb and I went into a case with the federal government for a good 3 years and I was arrested by DSS for 6 months?”
Persuaded to speak further, the lawmaker said “why would you not speak on other issues. When you are hammering only on this, then it is something else. OK, my consent was gotten we agreed on that.
Asked whether he was withdrawing his statement he made during the programme, he said: ” no, no, I am not withdrawing any of my statements from that tape.”
We were not coerced-Lawmakers
Meanwhile, some other lawmakers who spoke with Vanguard said they were not coerced into donating their two months salaries, describing it as as a sacrifice.
Rep. Bamidele Salam from Osun State told Vanguard “No, there was no coercion. There were consultations through phone calls and I believe a consensus was built.
“Well, I think there was a communication gap on how much exactly was to be donated. Some of us would have preferred one month salary but then the speaker did the consultation and probably majority suggested two months! It is a big sacrifice for many of us especially considering that we still have to reach out to our constituents for the lockdown, the Easter and now Ramadan”.
Similarly, Rep. Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State said but for the method adopted to share the donation, there was no issue.
He, however, said that a lot for the members might read the decision on the pages of newspapers.
“I would not say that we were coerced. Recall that we are all at home now and communication and consensus decision is a bit difficult.
I was called on the phone by the Deputy House Leader and asked to inform Rivers Caucus of the decision. I did not object to the idea as a person but I informed him that it should be deducted in tranches as Senate did and that the money should be sent directly to our various States as we do not have confidence that the central Committee will be equitable to all the States in the distribution of the resources. There is nothing that is not tilted under the present govt.
“I did forward the notice I received to the Rivers Caucus for the information of Members. I believe that a lot of members perhaps were not reached and they read of it on the pages of a newspaper, of course, they were unhappy that they were not consulted, on a good day, Members won’t object to that.
“If there is an issue, it is as the method, not the act. All that will be easily resolved upon resumption cos every member has a right to conceded to that before implementation but the times were abnormal so a few abnormalities are likely to happen”, he said.
For Rep. Ben Igbakpa from Delta State, it was an opportunity to give back to the country.
“I have never coerced my brother. We gave the leadership the latitude to discuss and come up with what is reasonable. As leaders and critical stakeholders in the Nigeria project, I believe it’s an opportunity to see what we can do for our country, a time to sacrifice for our nation and our people of which nothing is too much. The HoR is different with different leadership, members and react to issues differently. Giving our two months salary is what we consider reasonable and no basis for comparison and competition with other government institutions”, he said.
On his part, Rep. Sergius Ogun from Edo State said Sergius Ogun “We were not coerced, the state and zonal caucuses had mooted it.”
Also, Rep. Ossia Nicholas Ossai told Vanguard that “My consent was sought, my brother. Thanks and God bless you”.
Asked why the House didn’t emulate the Senate to make it half salary, Ossai said: “My brother it’s a matter of choice”.