Everest Amaefule, Eniola Akinkuotu, Ifeanyi Onuba and Olaleye Aluko
The National Assembly Service Commission should be held responsible for the running cost of N13.5m paid to each senator on a monthly basis, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission has said.
In a statement by RMAFC spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, the commission said on Wednesday that the approved remuneration of a senator for a month was N1.06m, adding that anything outside the payment was against the law.
Senator Shehu Sani, a senator representing Kaduna Central constituency, had in a recent interview confirmed the reports that each senator gets a jumbo pay of about N40m per quarter.
Sani had explained that each senator receives N13.5m a month for running cost apart from salary and allowances.
According to him, although senators are not directed on how to spend the money, they are expected to “retire the payment.”
Washing its hands off from the jumbo pay, RMAFC said only the National Assembly Service Commission should be held responsible for the jumbo pay, adding that it had become imperative for RMAFC to give a clarification because the subject had remained in the public domain since Sani made the disclosure.
Mohammed said, “The law on salaries and allowances of public office holders is very clear and as such it is only the management of the National Assembly Service Commission that can explain the N13.5m running cost allegedly being enjoyed by each senator.
“A closer look at the monthly entitlement of senators reveals that each senator collects salary and allowances in the sum of N1,063,860:00 consisting of the following: basic, N168,866:70; motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance allowance, N126,650:00; personal assistant N42,216:66; domestic staff, 126,650:00; entertainment, N50,660:00; utilities, N50,660:00; newspapers/periodicals, N25, 330:00; wardrobe-N42,216,66:00; house maintenance, N8,443.33:00; and constituency, N422,166:66.
“It is instructive to note that some allowances are regular while others are non-regular. Regular allowances are paid regularly with basic salary while non-regular allowances are paid as and when due. Furniture allowance (N6,079,200:00) and severance gratuity (N6,079,200:00), for instance, are paid once in every tenure while motor vehicle loan (N8,105,600:00) is optional which the beneficiary has to offset before leaving office.
“The payment of running cost is not part of RMAFC’s mandate. Therefore, only the NASS can explain it.
“Thus, the RMAFC also wishes to use this opportunity to state that any other payments enjoyed by any political or public office holders outside those provided in the Remuneration Act of 2008 is not known to the commission and the Chief Accounting Officer of the agencies concerned should explain it.
“To avoid misinformation and misrepresentation of facts capable of misleading citizens and members of the international community, the commission considers it most appropriate and necessary to request Nigerians and any other interested party to avail themselves of the opportunity to access the actual details of the present Remuneration package for Political, Public and Judicial Office holders in Nigeria published on its website: www.rmafc.gov.ng.”
Mohammed added that auditing did not fall within the purview of the commission.
Sagay, others slam N’Assembly
In his response, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said it was the sole prerogative of the RMAFC to fix allowances of public officials, including lawmakers.
He said the blame for the jumbo pay should be put on the National Assembly and not the National Assembly Service Commission since the National Assembly leadership controlled the commission.
Sagay said, “I agree with what the RMAFC has said because anything beyond what the commission approves is illegal. The National Assembly has been voting money for lawmakers outside what is permitted. Lawmakers’ allowances ought to be regulated by the RMAFC and so anything they get outside this is illegal.
“But I don’t understand why the blame should put on the National Assembly Service Commission. Who is directing the other? Isn’t the National Assembly Commission under the control of the National Assembly? Aren’t the Senate President, the Speaker and the Clark the bosses of the commission?
“There is no doubt in my mind that the whole thing is being orchestrated by the legislators. They are just money-mongers who believe that it is their duty to milk the country. So, somebody may be technically responsible but in reality, the National Assembly leadership are the ones that should be held responsible for the allowances.”
Also, a former Managing Director of Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Rislanudeen Mohammed, said there was no justification for the N13.5m running cost.
Mohammed who is also the Managing Director, Safmur Investment Limited, called on the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review the payment in the light of current economic realities.
He said there iwa the need for the lawmakers to make their budget more transparent, adding that since the budget of the National Assembly was shrouded in secrecy, it was prone to abuse.
He said, “It is up to the RMAFC to establish whether the referred allowance paid is in itself legal or not or it is rather shrouded in the secret way the National Assembly budget is approved and implemented as one line item.”
Senators must refund illegal allowances – CACOL, CDHR
Two civil society organisations, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, have said the members of the Senate must be compelled to refund the excesses on their allowances, going by the revelation made by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said that after the refund of the “illegal earnings, the legislators must be prosecuted for such unconstitutional allocations from the government treasury.”
Adeniran said, “We have said that members of the Senate are complicit in the criminal conspiracy to allocate jumbo salaries to themselves. This is illegal and all of them have committed criminal offences for which they should be rounded up and prosecuted. Any public servant earning more than what RMAFC stipulates is committing a crime.
“What should follow now is that the executive should mobilise the anti-graft agencies to ensure that all these excess allocations must be paid back by the members of the Senate.”
Also, the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “It is a classic case of misappropriation of public funds. The constitution is clear about the agency of government that fixes the remuneration of all public office holders, not just the Senate.
“It is one area that there is total breach. Any amount different from what RMAFC fixes is not just an illegality, but the senators should be compelled to return it.”