By Alifa Daniel, Abuja.
The plot thickens further in the face-off between House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and Governor Nasir el Rufai as runaway, renegade representative and deposed chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has tacitly lined up behind el Rufai, questioning Dogara’s salary slips made public Tuesday by the lower House.
In a rash of tweets, Jibrin suggested there was something fishy about Dogara’s slips because they show, he, Jibrin, earns more than the Speaker.
The tweets read:
“If what I saw is the authentic pay slip of Mr Speaker, it means I earn more than him from what I see in my salary statement of account
“-I have requested for my pay slip from NASS, I will publish it and my monthly salary statement of account. Perhaps I have been over paid
“I will make few comments on the response of Speaker Dogara to El Rufai and as usual using the institution of the House as cover.
“As regard NASS budget, I completely agree with paragraph 9, 10 and 11 but will raise issues on paragraph 5, 6, and the pay slip.
“The statement failed to address the call by Nigerians and majority of members for Mr Speaker to disclose details of our internal budget.
“Beside salaries, allowances and running cost, no member has details of about 20 other expenditure heads captured in Namdas statement.
“Mr Speaker, you know that NILS HQ is not completely funded from NASS allocation but part funded by FG under service wide vote.
“If Mr Speaker is saying ‘budget disclosure’ commences 2017, Nigerians will never see details of how a trillion was spent in last 10 years?
“Its no favour to Nigerians disclosing details of budget. In fact, it is a criminal offense to refuse even members copy of their budget.
“If what I saw is the authentic pay slip of Mr Speaker, it means I earn more than him from what I see in my salary statement of account.
“I have requested for my pay slip from NASS, I will publish it and my monthly salary statement of account. Perhaps I have been over paid.
“I have so much comments to make on 2017 budget which I will release before the budget is transmitted to Mr President, God grace
Recall that nearly 24 hours after the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, made public his pay slip and details of his State’s budget, House Speaker also made public his pay slips, but not details of the controversial annual N115 billion National Assembly budget.
But the House did give the agencies, staff, and other subheads in addition to the 469 federal lawmakers that benefit from the huge budget.
Sources claim that of the N115 billion, about N54 billion is spent on federal lawmakers. Each of the Senators is believed to get N13 million monthly, while Representatives get about N8 million monthly to run and maintain their offices in Abuja and their constituencies, pay for local and international travels and conferences monthly, among others. Many are however said not to have constituency offices. Previously, the federal lawmakers got more than this and were usually paid promptly; but since the recession set in, their salaries and allowances are delayed like those of the National Assembly staff.
Despite the position of many of the lawmakers on national issues and recurring public outcry over their huge allowances, none on record has been known to reject these monthly allowances, even though some are known to spend a substantial sum on the coterie of constituents that daily besiege their homes and offices for favours.
Some have been known to seek other hideouts outside homes and offices to evade visitors, while a considerable number are seen in government offices pursuing favours, often for projects in their constituencies.
Dogara, at the weekend, had asked the Kaduna State government to disclose details of its security votes and local government expenditure after el Rufai’s request to the National Assembly (NASS) to provide further details the N115 billion 2016 Assembly budget.
Tuesday evening, House spokesman, Abdulrazaq Namdas, displayed Speaker Dogara six months pay slips, urging the Governor Nasir el Rufai to stop misleading Nigerians on NASS Budget, and concentrate on tackling Southern Kaduna crisis
The House described as misleading, claims by the Governor that the National Assembly’s N115 billion in the 2016 National budget is for its 469 members.
Namdas said the budget covers, among others, salaries, allowances, expenditure and running cost of 469 members, salaries, allowances of about 3,000 Legislative Aides and salaries, allowances, equipment and maintenance of about 5000 staff in the Bureaucracy of the National Assembly.
He said further: “The National Assembly has agencies too. The National Assembly Service Commission has a staff strength of about 500. The National Institute for Legislative Studies is also a parastatal of the National Assembly that serves as a legislative think-tank and a highly rated academic institution, which serves not only the National Assembly but also State Houses of Assembly and the international community. It is currently building its headquarters which is world class. It has to be funded. El-Rufai’s mischievous publication carefully ignores the fact that the Bureaucracy of National Assembly and its agencies and 469 members need travel and transport support. They require medical attention, offices, equipment and all the support available to others in the public service.”
The Representatives also noted that the statement released by Governor El- Rufai is “patently misleading and a terrible display of ignorance and falsehood or a deliberate attempt to blackmail the parliament.
“El-Rufai conveniently forgot that the National Assembly has buildings to build and maintain. He discountenanced the need for training and re-training of staff and even capacity building for members. The narrative is such th at he excludes the need for National Assembly members and bureaucracy to attend conferences both local and foreign. Some of the most critical work the National Assembly does is Oversight. It costs a lot of money to conduct proper oversight of executive agencies to save money and ensure governmental efficiency for the Nigerian people. Public Hearings by the National Assembly and its Committees have become a regular feature of our democracy, because citizen engagement and consultation is cardinal for running a democratic government. It costs a lot of money.”
“It is most uncharitable to ignore the fact that the National Assembly is an arm of government, not a department in the Executive branch,” the lawmakers added, noting that some departments and agencies in the Executive have higher budgets than that of the legislature.
“Budget of so many agencies in the Executive is higher than that of National Assembly, an arm of government. Such agencies as NCC – N102billion, CBN – N421billion, NPA – N250billion, NIMASA – N100billion, FIRS – N146billion, Customs – N81billion and NNPC whose budget runs into trillions are some examples. Indeed, the National Assembly Budget is about 2% of the National Budget. Yes, the National Assembly has voluntarily agreed to publish its Budget from 2017, as a responsible and accountable democratic institution. What happens to 98% of the National Budget should engage our attention too. We are sure that if 10% of the public scrutiny National Assembly receives is also devoted to those spending the other 98%, Nigeria would be better for it,” the House said.
It also denied that the National Assembly Budget is opaque, explaining that since 2010 when the Constitution was amended and National Assembly was placed on the first line charge, its budget became part of Statutory Transfers, together with the Judiciary, INEC and others which cannot be found in the National Budget but in the case of the National Assembly, from 1999 to 2010, the details of the National Assembly Budget has been contained in the National Budget.
“The leadership of the National Assembly has already directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to publish details of the National Assembly Budget from 2017 and so to continue to repeat the same call made 3days earlier smacks of propaganda and cheap blackmail.
“The Kaduna State Governor chose to give headings of its budget on security related matters. Maybe he will give further details of actual security expenditures at the appropriate time. He claimed that the State’s accounts have been audited. No grounds have been broken here. The response by the Kaduna State Governor completely missed the point. Mr. Speaker’s call was for El-Rufai to extend the campaign for openness and transparency to other arms of government, including the Governors’ expenditures on security votes and Local Government funds. He merely doubled down on his campaign on National Assembly Budget leaving out the other aspects of Mr. Speaker’s request.
The lawmakers added, “Nigerians may recall that the Rt. Hon. Speaker on Friday April 7, 2017 in response to calls by Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai disclosed that the leadership of the National Assembly had directed the bureaucracy and all other agencies under the National Assembly to make available details of their annual budgets beginning from 2017 budget which is still under consideration in the parliament.
“Nigerians may further recall that the Rt. Hon. Speaker requested Kaduna State Governor, El-Rufai who is known for his consistent advocacy for openness in the budget of the National Assembly, to, in the spirit of good governance, transparency and accountability extend his campaign to other arms and tiers of government beginning from the Judiciary, to State Governments and Local Governments. The Speaker specifically urged Malam El-Rufai who has been championing this cause to impress on his colleagues (Governors) to disclose their Security votes and also publish what they do with local government funds under their jurisdictions.
“Thus, the call by the Speaker was for Malam El-rufai to extend his advocacy on transparency and accountability to other arms and tiers of government in order to remove the lid of secrecy that has beclouded expenditures at the state level led by his colleagues especially on their security votes and not the states’ security budget. We note that what Malam El-rufai published was the security budget of Kaduna state and not his security vote expenditure as such.
“We wish to advise the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to concentrate his efforts in Governing Kaduna State and stop undermining and distracting the National Assembly in playing its constitutionally assigned role in nation building. He launched an attack on the National Assembly on Friday, 7th April, 2017 and continued on Monday 10th April 2017. We are aware that there are serious security issues he should be grappling with in Southern Kaduna and other governmental issues facing him. He should not give the impression that he has no challenging work to do in Kaduna State. These attacks are coming on the heels of his now famous letter to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, where he made strenuous effort to undermine his government, by openly lampooning him when he has unhindered access to His Excellency, Mr. President. As a senior citizen, he has a responsibility not to unnecessarily overheat the polity with tendentious and unfounded outbursts.”
el Rufai’s spokesman, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Monday, had welcomed Dogara’s earlier challenge to go public with earnings and expenditure, stressing that the move would strengthen the country’s democracy.
He told Dogara that his state budgets are detailed and presented under the headings of personnel cost, overhead and capital expenditure while the Assembly’s was usually a single-line item of over N100 billion.
“NASS can, at least, break down its own single-line budget into the hundreds of line items that are detailed in every state government budget in Nigeria. It is disingenuous to respond to every request for transparency by casting aspersions,” the governor said
He said further: “In 2016, in an unprecedented step, the state published not only its own budget, but also that of all the 23 local government councils online on the www.openkaduna.com.ng website. The local government budgets provide details of the recurrent and capital spending of every single local government in a transparent manner. The proposed 2017 local government budgets, currently before the State Assembly, are also already online on the same website, and on www.kdsg.gov.ng. Approved State Budgets 2016-2017 can be found on http://openkaduna.com.ng/Budget/approved-budget.”
On the specific matter of security votes, el Rufai disclosed: “The 2017 budget details specific amounts N1.5billion for the procurement and installation of CCTV cameras for monitoring and surveillance towards reducing criminal activities within the metropolis; N193million for procurement of Geo-position Interceptor and location of GSM UMTS System to check the trends and Intercept/locate kidnappers’ GSM calls N265 million for the procurement of drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to identify locations of armed bandits in our forest reserves across the state and the establishment of a forensic laboratory to assist in determining substantial evidence in cases that otherwise proved difficult. In addition, N2.6billon is allocated in 2017 to support the network of federal security agencies in Kaduna with communications, logistics and materials.”