By Levinus Nwabughiogu
In apparent reaction to the backlash that has continued to trail the humongous amount of money paid to political office holders and clamour to reduce cost of governance, the House of Representatives has asked Nigerians to pressure the Executive arm of government to slash their salaries and allowances.
The House contended that the Executive arm gulps the largest chunk of the national annual budget of 99.902%, leaving the entire legislature with a paltry 0.8 per cent.
At present, Nigeria runs a bicameral legislature where the National Assembly is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The two Chambers have a total of 469 elected members, comprising 109 members in the Senate and 360 in the House.
The Executive, considered as the second arm of government, next to the Judiciary, is made up of the Presidency and the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, with all their appurtenances and paraphernalia of office which feed on the national budget.
Briefing journalists at the National Assembly complex yesterday, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, said the clamour by Nigerians for lawmakers to reduce their salaries was rather misplaced.
Agreeing that the cost of governance should be whittled down and salaries of political office holders reduced, Kalu said the agitation should be directed to the Executive arm as they get the major percentage of the annual income.
The charge was a response that emanated from a question of whether it was not yet time for political office holders to slash their salaries, following the harsh economic realities of the moment.
Kalu would not also respond to a direct question of exactly how much the lawmakers earned as salaries when asked.
He would rather asked journalists to activate the Freedom of Information Act, FoA, to get their answers.
Lamenting that Nigerians were being sold the wrong narrative that the National Assembly earned higher, the House spokesman said: ”The 0.8% of the National budget for the National Assembly is not enough to run the institution.
”If you want to cut salaries, expenses, cost of governance, start it from the executive. That’s the truth, because the 0.8 percent you’re talking about takes care of the Senate, people think that the money that comes to the National Assembly is divided by members of the House of Representatives, that’s a wrong narrative being sold there and that’s what Nigerians believe.
”That’s why my office is actually engaging on what’s called infographics that’s going to be released very soon, that will break it down once members approve it, so that you know where every thing goes into and Nigerians will be shocked that people they thought were rich are not able to meet their needs and that’s the truth.
”It’s high time we started at the 99.902% of the national budget and stop focusing on the 0.8% of the National Assembly. ‘Nigerians are not focusing on that, rather they’ve been conditioned to focus on the 0.8%, is that not deceitful?
”Nigerians need to change their focus and find out what’s happening to that 99.902%. Once we do that, you will see truth will start coming out, and even the Executive will know there’s need to cut down the expenses.
”Today, in the course of our engaging these agencies, I found out that the impact of Covid-19 which ordinarily is supposed to change the dynamics, including our cost structure because you know covid affected the revenue of the country and also introduced efficient use of technology. Innovation that’s supposed to reduce the cost of governance has not been welcomed by most of the MDAs.
“Today I asked them, why are you still engaging in the traditional travels, spend millions traveling locally in a year, when innovation like zoom can enable you hold some of your meetings. Why can’t the Executive apply that and embrace technology to reduce the cost of governance.”
Speaking on meeting up with the January to December budget cycle, Kalu said some committees of the House would start turning in their reports next week.
”You’ve have been following the events in regards to this budget. We are committed to meeting up with the budget calendar to make sure that by January Nigeria will have a new budget to work with.
”So all we’ve been doing is to meet up with the January to December calendar and I want to thank the members of various committees for their dedication.
”The House gave each of them a deadline and most of them will start turning in their report from Wednesday next week,” he said.