Going by Wednesday’s revelations by Senator Shehu Sani Kaduna Central, APC), the federal government has spent not less than N157 billion to keep 469 lawmakers working in the last 32 months of the present administration.
This is without taking into cognisance, hundreds of billions of Naira spent on the Federal Executive (FEC) members, other political appointees and the justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
One conservative estimate put salaries, allowances and running costs of FEC members, their political appointees, justices of the two highest courts at par with what lawmakers get, though figures running costs from the Executive and judiciary are treated as “state secrets.”
“You don’t expect these ones to run their offices and lives from their own pockets, do you? Between what the Senators and Rep get, you can safely project the running costs, but because the ministers and other appointees in and out of FEC are there at the pleasure of the President, none can come out openly to speak the way legislators do about their pay.
“It is only the lawmakers who can get the exact figures that ministers, advisers, and other appointees get outside official salaries and allowances, but have not done so since 1999 for reasons best known to them,” a source said Thursday.
In the last 32 months, the 109 Senators have received N47,088,000,000 at N13.5 monthly for 109 Senators. The figure covers cost for official foreign trips, running of constituency offices, among others.
And less taxes, the senior lawmakers have received N3,710,743,680 for the last 32 months as official salaries and allowances.
Sources said that the running cost of each House of Representatives member ranges between N8.5 to 10 million.
In effect, the lawmakers have all combined got N97,920,000,000 in the last 32 months, without adding the N9,147,859,200 salaries and allowances for the last 32 months.
Lawmakers were unhappy Thursday that Senator Sani gave an impression that the running cost they got monthly did not have subheads.
But he is unlikely to face a disciplinary committee because he is said to be “well connected.”
In an interview with the News Magazine, Sani explained why it would be difficult to stop the allowances and constituency projects of lawmakers.
He said: “I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month….
“But what I am saying is that that money must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without any accountability is N750, 000.
“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 Representatives with salaries.
“There are issues that we need to understand. First, I don’t believe that members of the National or even state assemblies should be involved in carrying out what is called constituency projects.
“When people are elected into the National Assembly, they should just be involved in law making, raising motions, bills and also performing oversight functions. But we live in a society where people cannot differentiate between the legislators and the executive.
“When the people come to you, they want you to build roads, dig boreholes, build hospitals, schools, give money, pay school fees for them. Now, if we have a society in which people will stop asking legislators to do those things, then there is no need (for the allowances). But funny enough, if you are very active in the National Assembly in making laws and you don’t embark on projects in your constituency, you cannot in any way be appreciated by the people you are there to serve because the electorates in United States are different from the electorate in the United States and Africa.”