By Henry Ojelu
In a judgment on Friday June 4, the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos held that only the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC has the power to fix salaries of National Assembly members.
The judgment was in respect of the suit filed by former 2nd Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani and one John Nwokwu
Against the Attorney General of the Federation, RMAFC, NASS and National Assembly Service Commission.
The Plaintiffs approached the Federal High Court, Lagos to challenge Constitutionality of the bogus remuneration and allowances of the members of the National Assembly.
Since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Nigerians have been demanding to know how much their Representatives in the National Assembly collect as salaries and allowances, the members of the National Assembly have kept that information as a top secret.
However, in March 2018 one of the Senators – Senator Shehu Sani in an interview revealed that each Senator receives the sum of N13.5 million monthly as running cost, in addition to N750,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances.
Another online publication further revealed that each Senator is entitled to the sum of N200 million annually as constituency project allowance.
Being aggrieved by this revelation, Mr. Ubani proceeded to the Federal high Court alongside Nwokwu to challenge the constitutionality of this bogus amount of money collected by the members of the National assembly monthly and annually.
The case was handled by Joseph Igwe Esq. led by Mr. Femi Falana, SAN
The National Assembly filed a defence denying ever collecting such amount of money, however they failed to disclose to the Court how much they collect.
The National assembly Service Commission also filed a defence denying being the one that approach and pay such amount of money to the members of the National Assembly.
They also challenged the locus standi of the Plaintiffs to institute the action against them, and also contended that the Plaintiffs have no cause of action against them, urging the Court to strike out the suit.
In a well considered judgment, Justice Prof. Chuka Obiozor, first dismissed the preliminary objections of the National assembly (sued as the 3rd and 4th Defendants) stating that the plaintiffs have locus standi to institute the action citing the Supreme Court case of Centre for oil Pollution Watch v. NNPC.
The Court held that public spirited individuals (Tax payers) has sufficient interest in ensuring that public authorities submit to the rule of law and that no public authority has power to arbitrarily or with impunity break the law or general statute
On the substantive suit, the Court declared that:
“The 3rd , 4th and 5th Defendants ( The Senate, The House of Representatives and the National Assembly service Commission) have no power, close or semblance of power and cannot determine, direct, command and/or instruct the 2nd defendant (Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission) or any person howsoever, to make, determine and/or fix the salaries, wages, remuneration, running cost or allowances of the 3rd and 4th Defendants.
“The 2nd defendant is the only body responsible for determining the salaries, remuneration and/or allowances of the National assembly or political office holders.
“In line with Section 32 (b)(d) of part 1 of third schedule of the Constitutional of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the 2nd Defendant should forthwith downward review and fix the salaries, remuneration or allowances of the 3rd and 4th Defendants to reflect the economic realities in the country.
“The 5th Defendant cannot or have no power whatsoever and howsoever to fix, determine or allocate the remuneration. Allowances, salaries, emolument or monetary value/s to the 3rd and 4th defendants.”
The Court recommended that since the Members of the National Assembly has denied collecting the jumbo remunerations and allowances, the EFCC should look at their books and if it is found that they truly collect such amount of money, they should be prosecuted.