Some members of the National Assembly have been accused of defrauding the Federal Government and cheating their legislative aides in the payment of salaries and allowances. Some of the legislators’ aides earn as much as N950,000 monthly.
No fewer than 2,570 aides are engaged by 469 members of the 8th National Assembly. As provided in the National Assembly Act, each lawmaker, excluding principal officers, is entitled to five aides – one senior legislative aide, two legislative aides, a personal assistant and a secretary.
It was discovered that in the provision, President of the Senate is entitled to 45 aides, his deputy 30 and 20 each for principal officers.
Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives has 35 assistants, Deputy Speaker, 15 and 10 each for the six principal officers. An investigation published yesterday by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that many legislators draw the emolument of their aides from the assembly’s funds, but pay them fractions. Some of the lawmakers employed only one or two aides, but are collecting the full salary for the five they are entitled to.
This act was discovered to be perpetrated more by the members through their constituency offices, which they are mandatorily expected to have in their areas, but deliberately failed to do so.
They submit names of non-existent staff in the constituency office to the National Assembly Service Commission and collect their entitlements directly. An aide to a senator from the South-West, working with him in Abuja, told NAN that he had never heard of other aides or office his boss had in his constituency. “All of us, his aides are here; it is only when he is travelling to the state that he goes with the senior legislative aide and his younger brother.
“The brother works with him; he is not documented, but he is in charge whenever oga (the boss) is not around. “But, all of us are always in the office in Abuja, I do not know of assistant or aide he has at the constituency level or in the state,” he said, adding that it was the same with some other lawmakers.”
The source declined to disclose his salary, allowance and pay point, but said that the emolument depended on the grade of the aide. He, however, disclosed that the least-paid aide earned N120,000 from the assembly commission.
The lawmakers contacted on the issue declined to comment; with some of them saying that they were complying with the rules. The Clerk of the National Assembly and officials in his office also rebuffed enquires on the issues.
The report shows that out of 2,570 aides on the payroll, 700 work for lawmakers in the Senate, while the remaining 1,870 are engaged by House of Representatives members. The number of aides to each legislator, it was gathered, includes those in their constituency offices. The monthly emolument of the aides, which ranged from N150,000 to N250,000, sources close to the assembly said, has been reduced to between N75,000 and N180,000 by the current leadership of the assembly.
The investigation revealed that in addition to the regular aides, the principal officers of both chambers have Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants and Special Advisers of varying numbers. This category of aides, it was learnt, had a monthly salary of a minimum of N950, 000, but was reduced to N400,000 by the current management of the assembly. All the aides are paid from the coffers of the as- sembly.
However, NAN gathered that some of the lawmakers, especially principal officers, have more than the statutorily approved number of aides in their employ, who also draw their salary from the assembly’s funds.
New Telegraph investigations discovered that the total number of aides quoted in the survey (2,570) was the official prescription, but members of the National Assembly had, at different times, employed more or less.
In some cases, lawmakers employed not more than a secretary and a driver while the remaining slots were given to their relatives who may not even be in Abuja. Our investigation revealed that Senate President Bukola Saraki has hired about 115 aides, while Speaker Yakubu Dogara employed 168; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu employed 60 and Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun, has 58 aides. New Telegraph further gathered that the National Assembly management had, earlier this year, written to both Saraki and Dogara to reduce the number of aides they have employed.
“But when the presiding officers argued that sacking aides would not be good in view of the widespread unemployment, they were advised to demote some of them to cut cost. “However, as we speak, nothing has been done about it. They are still carrying on with the overbloated personal appointees,” a source in the management disclosed.
These aides include Special Advisers (SAs), Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) and Special Assistants. The special advisers enjoy the same emoluments with federal permanent secretaries while SSA are of the rank of directors in the federal service, while some SAs are of the rank of deputy and assistant directors, but with consolidated salaries and allowances.
Majority of the aides are former lawmakers who could not make it back to the National Assembly. For example, Saraki’s chief of staff is a former senator, while his deputy chief of staff is a former representative. Similarly, Dogara’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff are his former colleagues in the House and most of the aides.
New Telegraph can authoritatively report that between 1999 and 2003, the salaries of the National Assembly’s legislative aides were under the control of the lawmakers, as the management of the institution paid the aides’ monthly emoluments directly to the accounts of their principals.
This led to a lot of controversy because most of the lawmakers, after collecting the salaries of their aides, only paid them ridiculous sums, while the aides lacked the courage to protest the injustice for fear of sack or any other victimization.
However, when the National Assembly Service Commission came on stream, having known about the fraud that went on in the earlier assembly, the commission insisted that salaries of the aides should be paid to them directly to avoid shortchanging them by the lawmakers.
This direct payment started from the 2007 session to date, yet, New Telegraph found that this measure, notwithstanding, the federal legislators still devised other means of defrauding the country by submitting names of people who don’t actually work with them to the commission for documentation while engaging other staff to do the work, who are then paid peanuts by the politicians from their pockets.