Amid speculations that the federal government has spent not less than N150 billion in seven months on just 469 lawmakers, the Chairman of the National Assbly and Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has directed all enquiries on what lawmakers take home in financial terms to the Revenue, Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The speculated funds do not include similar huge sums expended on members of the nearly 50-member Federal Executive Council (FEC), which members have managed to keep sealed lips on their pay package and benefits, except that their posh Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) are seen on the streets of Abuja, just like those driven by the heads of departments and agencies under them.
Stories are told of operatives of the Executive Arm of government purchase houses and pay huge rents around upscale parts of the Federal Capital City.
Everyday.ng reports that a breakdown making the rounds show that in addition to the official salary of lawmakers, which comes to a little lower than two billion Naira in the last seven months, they may have benefitted from some other perks of office.
They include, car allowance, furniture allowance, accommodation allowance, constituency allowance, among others as approved by the RMAFC.
Outside this official entitlements, it was gathered that the regular quarterly disbursement to cover local and international travels for official engagements, conferences, and other expenses comes to N45 million per Senator (at N15 million per month), though it was thought to be about N40 million per quarter (N13.5 million) six years ago. There are those who think it may have risen beyond N45 million per senator per quarter, but there is no concrete evidence in that direction.
House of Representatives members get lower than senators of this largesse. Between N21 million and N24 million goes to them per quarter (at about N8 million per month). However, because of the sheer number of the lawmakers of the lower house of the National Assembly, their figure fluctuates, even dropping as low as five million Naira per month. “You will be surprised to find out they borrow funds from the senior colleagues to augment what is available to them,” an insider said.
A recent report, which has been vehemently denied officially by both houses and the presidency, says that each House of Reps member got N120 million palliatives, especially grains, during the last end of year festivities, while Senators got N200 million each. As soon as the story broke after two reps made videos of the grains they purchased with the disbursements, their colleagues roundly denounced them, and the information machinery of both houses went into overdrive in their denials and spins to deflect the attention from Nigerians, who were wondering why their own senators and representatives did not deliver the palliatives from PresidentBolaTinubu.
There is also the famous “prayers in your boxes” gaffe by Senate President Akpabio on live television which gave an insight into extra-official disbursements.
Also, it is not exactly known yet what has been set aside for constituency projects in the 2024 Budget for each lawmaker, though previous dispensations put it N200 million per senatorial zone.
There are already fears that the huge sums going the way of lawmakers is intended to make them turn a blind eye to Executive recklessness and put them on the bandwagon for unalloyed loyalty and support for the 2027 presidential election.
A former, senior federal lawmaker, now working in the innermost recess of the Executive is said to be the arrow-head of the political venture.
Meanwhile, following an action instituted by a lawyer M.O. Idam, Esq. requesting the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seeking to compel Akpabio to come clean on how much Akpabio and his colleagues take home as pay packages, the Senate President has said such requests should be channeled to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Idam who argued that as a citizen, he is directly affected by the way and manner the national treasury is managed by the respondent, sought to know the exact amount transferred to each Senator as recess or holiday allowance, for enjoyment during Senate recess or holiday, as revealed by the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, on the 9th of August 2023.
He also asked for the exact amount budgeted and paid as constituency allowances to Senators as well as practical measure(s), if any, put in place by the Nigerian Senate to meet the yearnings of the common Nigerian masses in order to cushion the negative effect of fuel subsidy removal.
Added Idam: “I am worried that if explanation is not provided for the monies spent by the National Assembly under the respondent, it will occasion arbitrary and frivolous spending which will further wreck the country’s economy.
“I know as a fact that Nigeria’s debt profile is on the increase amid poor health care delivery, dilapidated federal roads, poor electricity supply and high rate of out of school children.
“I also know as a fact that I and millions of other common Nigerians are currently subjected to the plagues of economic hardship, which was occasioned by reckless spending and economic mismanagement.”
Recall that nearly eight years ago, the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, caused quite a stir when he revealed that senators receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”
He said in March, 2018, “I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month
According to him, there was no specification on what the funds was meant for, but lawmakers had to back their expenses with receipts.
“But what I am saying is that that money (N13.5 million per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without any accountability is N750,000.”
On constituency projects, he said:
“The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200 million, but it is not the cash that is given to you.
“You will be told that you have N200 million with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will go and do those projects for you.
“Now, the corruption comes when the projects are not done and the money is taken. But right now, it is difficult to do that because NGOs and transparency groups have come into it. They track every allocation made to you and where they are being used.
“So, it’s becoming difficult for what used to happen in the past to happen now.
“But I can tell you that I would love a situation where we do away with running costs, constituency projects and leave senators and members of House of Reps with salaries.”