NASS: Lawmakers to get N19.89bn allowances soon
Payment of overhead allowances to lawmakers inaugurated on Tuesday in the first three months will increase their total allowances to N19.89bn.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported that 469 lawmakers would get N4.68bn as welcome package to sort out accommodation and furniture issues.
Further investigations showed that each senator will receive N40.5m for three months as overhead allowance, with each member of the House of Representatives receiving N30m for the same purpose.
This means that 109 senators will get N4.41bn as overhead allowance for the first three months while the 360 Reps will get N10.8bn in their first three months.
Added to the N4.68bn for accommodation and furniture, the legislators will get N19.89bn within their first three months in the red and green chambers.
Following the PUNCH’s earlier report, some Non-Governmental Organisations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project had been strident in opposing the N4.68bn welcome package.
FG frustrates bill to reduce emoluments
Meanwhile, further investigations also showed that the process of reviewing downwards the entitlements of lawmakers and other office holders was aborted by the Presidency, which refused to officially receive a bill for the review of salaries and allowances of public office holders prepared by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
Following a public outcry that the remuneration of lawmakers was not in tune with the economic realities in the country, RMAFC embarked on downward review of allowances of all political office holders.
The ratification of the new packages prepared by a committee headed by a former Chairman of Remuneration Committee, Mr Abdullahi Inde, followed a retreat held for commissioners of the agency in Owerri in November 2015.
Although the recommendation was informally sent to the Presidency, it was not formally received along with a bill for new revenue formula which was also prepared by RMAFC.
It is the responsibility of the President to present the recommendation to the Federal Executive Council for approval before being forwarded to the National Assembly as a bill.
This aspect of the process was never completed as the Presidency allegedly avoided anything that would lead to completing the process for the review of the existing revenue formula.
A top executive of RMAFC confirmed that the process for the review of the remuneration of political office holders could not be completed.
The source, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “The commission made an attempt to review the package. There was an attempt but it did not see the light of the day.
“It is still on because it has to reflect the current economic realities. Maybe when the new board comes in, they will look into it again because of public outcry.”
Speaking on the call for the review of the welcome package of lawmakers, the RMFAC official said except for the ‘overhead’ payment, the furniture and accommodation allowances were backed by the law.
He said, “Some NGOs make blanket statements without looking at what the law says. They do not know the mandate of public institutions. Sometimes, they don’t look at the position of the law. If it is within the law, it is not illegal.
“It is not really a welcome package. It is part of the Remuneration Act. It is also not only the legislature that benefits; the executive also benefits; the same with the judiciary. In fact, all public office holders, whether civil servants or public servants, are entitled to those things.
“If you are employed newly, you are supposed to be given some allowances to enable you to settle down. So, as legislators they are entitled to furniture and accommodation allowances. If they are seen as welcome packages, yes, they are. But they are backed by law. There is an Act which you cannot change.
“They cannot be paid anything outside the law in terms of furniture allowance and accommodation allowance. They cannot be paid anything outside what the law stipulates except it is for overhead as Senator Shehu Sani had revealed.
“The money will come from the National Assembly Service Commission. They have their own budget. But for ministers, their salaries and allowances come from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“It must have been captured in the budget. They must provide for their members in their budget salaries and allowances.”
Each member of the House of Representatives on resumption, therefore, is entitled to N9,926, 062.5, according to the prescription of RMAFC in its Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders 2007 to Date.
They are entitled to furniture allowance of N5, 955,637.5 and accommodation allowance of N3,970,425.
Therefore, the 360 members of the House of Representatives are entitled to accommodation and furniture allowances of N3.57bn.
On the other hand, each senator is entitled to a combined furniture and accommodation allowances of N10, 132,000 on assumption of office. While the accommodation allowance of a senator is N4, 052,800, the furniture allowance is N6, 079,200.
For motor vehicle, each of the senators is entitled to N8, 105,600 while each Rep is entitled to N7, 940,850.50.
The allowance for motor vehicle has been controversial. According to the RMAFC, this allowance payable once in four years is a loan and optional. This means that it is repayable.
However, lawmakers that received such money in the past had asked the government to convert it into a grant.
Apart from these allowances, other perks of office that are paid to lawmakers on a monthly basis include motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling. This is pegged at 75 per cent of their monthly salary.
Others are personal assistant – 25 per cent; domestic staff – 75 per cent; entertainment – 30 per cent; utilities – 30 per cent; newspapers/periodicals – 15 per cent; wardrobe – 25 per cent; house maintenance – five per cent; constituency – 250 per cent.
The lawmakers are also entitled to tour duty allowance, estacode (when they travel overseas) and recess allowances. For a senator, the tour duty allowance is N37, 000 per night; the estacode is $950 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
For a member of the House of Representatives, the tour duty allowance is N35, 000 per night; the estacode is $900 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
Presidency denies getting any proposal
When contacted for reactions, the Presidency said Buhari could only act on a formal recommendation sent to him.
His Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, who spoke on the issue, asked for evidence of the proposal said to have been sent to the President.
Enang said, “It can only be turned down if it was passed and sent. So, who passed it, who sent it and when was it passed?
“What was the content of what you said was passed or presented?”
When he was told that the RMAFC reportedly made a presentation to Buhari on the issue, Enang replied, “I am not aware.”
Meanwhile, two civil society organisations, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, have condemned the humongus allowances to be paid to members of the ninth National Assembly, saying such allowances are not sustainable.
The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “We insist that allowances which the Nigerian workers are not entitled to and an average Nigerian is not entitled to, should not be paid to members of the National Assembly. How sustainable, equitable and conscionable are those allowances?”
Also, the CACOL Director, Mr Debo Adeniran, said, “We are dissatisfied with the welcome package. This is because most members of the National Assembly have benefitted one way or the other from the same system. Some members of the senate are former governors, board chairmen and other government appointees. They don’t need furniture and house allowances.
“This country is broke. There is violence everywhere because of the anger bottled up in people due to mismanagement of our economic resources which has taken people away from their jobs. The government has to work harder to reduce the allowances of these legislators.
“The reason why the people scramble tooth and nail to become members of the National Assembly is because of the allowances. We have also said that if there is no clear-cut policy direction that deliberately revisits the cost of governance, the members will not want to deliberately bring down their allowances.”
Meanwhile a Northern elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Muhammed, has said the Federal Government should allow RMAFC to review the allowances downward.
Junaid said, “The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are yet to prove themselves and have to prove to us that they are different from the last batch of leaders. And if they don’t prove leadership, everything that has been done to get them into office would be a waste of time.
“The government should be aware of the counter-economic effects of this financial recklessness. For me, the solution to this problem is to return to the law. The law says the National Assembly should take their salaries and allowances as determined by RMAFC.”