As the Eighth National Assembly resumes from its 14-day recess next week, management of the apex legislative body is making efforts to allocate offices to the 469 lawmakers, besides providing for wardrobe and other allowances like furniture, housing and vehicle.
Investigation revealed that the legislators would earn a total of N17.3 billion in total allowances, the lion’s share of which is N9 billion is for wardrobe, is to be paid into their individual bank accounts next week. The allowances do not include monthly salaries.
According to the breakdown, while each of the 360 members of the House of Representatives would get N17.5 million, a total of N21.5 million is earmarked for each of the 109 senators. There are currently 108 Senators, following the death of Ahmed Zanna, re-elected for Borno Central, on April 11. He died on May 16, 2015 at the age of 55.
The wardrobe allowance like furniture and vehicle is meant for the entire four-year tenure of the 469 lawmakers, while housing allowance is on yearly basis. Housing allowance for political office holders is 200 per cent of their annual salaries; furniture is 300 per cent and motor vehicle loan is 400 per cent.
Specifically, 107 senators aside the Senate President, according to our source, would be paid N4,052,800 each as housing allowance. They will also be paid the same amount every year because the housing allowance is on annual basis. Amounting to a total of N433, 649,600 annually. The Senate President and his deputy are provided accommodation by the Federal Government.
Each Rep member on the other hand, would get N3,970,425 for housing on assuming office, meaning that the 358 of them would collect a total of N1,421,412,150 for the purpose. Again, the Speaker and his deputy are excluded, because the government provides for their accommodation.
It would be recalled that following the monetisation of entitlements of public officials, the lawmakers lost the right to occupy houses built and maintained by government.
Consequently, the Federal Government sold the houses previously occupied by the lawmakers to them.
The principal officers of the National Assembly also benefited from the sale of the houses. As a result, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration is at present building new houses for the four presiding offices at both chambers.
For furniture, each of the senators is to get N6,079,200. The furniture for both the Senate President and his deputy are to be fully provided by the government. This means that the 107 senators would get a total of N650,474,400 under that sub-head, payable once in four years.
Each member of the House of Representatives would get N5,955,637.50 as furniture allowance, which translates to N2,132,118,225 358 for the Representatives (excluding the Speaker and his deputy).
Daily Independent also gathered that for vehicle allowances, each of the senators is entitled to N8,105,600 while each representative is entitled to N7, 940,850.50. This means that 107 senators will collect N867,299,200 for vehicles while 358 representatives will collect N2,842,824,479 for the same purpose.
Reacting on Monday evening, Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), Comrade, Idris Abdul, described the N9 billion wardrobe allowance for the legislators as outrageous, at a time the nation is faced with dwindling revenue accruing to the Federal Government.
“In view of the economic reality in our country at the moment, the amount is too much and must be reduced,” he said, adding that although the job of the National Assembly is crucial to the growth of the country, other groups and arms of government also contribute their quota to the development of the country.
“It is not only National Assembly members, civil servants also work and generate revenue for the country; they too must be considered when it comes to allowances and increment of salaries,” he said.
The human right activist expressed fears over the the ability of the present National Assembly under Bukola Saraki, as Senate President, to fight corruption based on his previous cases with EFCC.
He urged members to make sacrifice because of the country’s difficulty in paying workers salaries and other challenges.
Also reacting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr Joseph Nwobike, said it was unconscionable that such was happening at this critical stage in the nation’s history.
He said: “Well, to me, this is a signpost that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will fail. I mean, APC was hypocritical, because this is a party that has been professing change. Look at what happened at the National Assembly leadership election last week, this is a sign that APC’s chances of success are doubtful.
“I mean that APC appears to be disoriented and the change mantra on the basis of which they came into power may just be symbolic. It is unconscionable that we as a nation are witnessing proposal of N9 billion for wardrobe allowance for legislators under a party which said it would fight corruption and impunity.
“Well, I congratulate those that will be changing their wardrobe and I urge them that in doing so, they should patronise our local products, so that they can grow our economy,” Nwobike said sarcastically.