JUMBO PAY: Nigerians Should Leave NASS Alone - Senate Leader
The public outrage generated over the salary and allowances of lawmakers has provoked the Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) to propose the scrapping of the National Assembly if that would lead to drastic reduction in the cost of governance.
The senator made his proposal known in an interview with The Nation in Abuja.
Mr. Ndoma-Egba (PDP, Cross River) frowned at the frequent allegation by members of the public that the National Assembly is responsible for the over bloated recurrent expenditure of the Federal Government.
He specifically pointed to the damning Sheik Ahmed Lemu report, which indicted members of the National Assembly for allegedly living fat off the commonwealth of Nigerians, saying the report was off the mark.
Mr. Ndoma-Egba, who described the report as “sensationalism, tokenism, scapegoatism and diversionary tactics”, noted that those who constantly criticize the jumbo pay for lawmakers often forget that the budget of the National Assembly is only N150 billion or three per cent of the country’s annual budget – which he said has been maintained for over three years.
He insisted that the country should consider scrapping the parliament if that would assuage the “misinformed sentiment” some Nigerians have about the National Assembly.
The Senate Leader further disclosed that his take-home pay after tax is between N900,000 and N600,000. The basic salary of a rank and file member of the US Congress is $174,000 (N28.2m).
The senator, who was apparently piqued by the assumption that lawmakers live in flamboyance, stated that he has only one car compared to ministers, who move about in a convoy of cars.
Mr. Ndoma-Egba said: “I have made a proposal that we should scrap the National Assembly and see how much we save.
“Like I said before, we lived without the National Assembly before. We lived without the National Assembly for 30 years. Let’s scrap it and see whether it will solve the problem.
“But I told you, even when the National Assembly did not exist, the cost of governance was an issue.”
The Senator said: “Let us put the cost of governance in perspective. First of all, you know, for the many years that we had the military rule the National Assembly did not exist.
“And in those 30 years, that the National Assembly did not exist, the cost of governance was still an issue.
“I remember I was commissioner under the military and one of the most topical issues was the cost of construction in Nigeria.
“It was said to be the highest in the world. This was when the National Assembly did not exist. The cost of governance was still an issue.”
Insisting that there was no direct relationship between the cost of governance and the National Assembly, the Senate Leader said that Nigerians should pick the budget and do informed analysis of the fiscal policy.
He said: “Let us come to the figures. We have maintained a budget of N150billion in the last four or five years.
“That of the Judiciary has been dwindling, from N97billion four years ago to about N60billion.
“What has been the trend for the Executive? Has it been stagnant like the National Assembly or has it dwindled like the Judiciary?
“That of the Executive has continued to go up. Now, what is the ratio or the percentage of N150billion out of a national budget of approximately N4.8trillion, about three per cent.
“So, why do we have this fixation on three per cent of the budget and not on 97 per cent of the budget?
“Three per cent of the budget is getting 97 per cent attention and 97 per cent of the budget is getting three per cent attention.
“What is the fixation? And now the impression out there is that ‘oh you collect this N150 billion and just share it amongst members of the National Assembly.
“Nothing can be more fallacious because one, the N150 billion includes our capital; it includes recurrent; it includes the salaries of 109 Senators, 360 members of the House of Representatives, their aides – we have a maximum of six aides.
“It includes the salaries of the civil servants from the Clerk to the National Assembly to the Deputy Clerk, to the Clerk of Senate, Clerk of House and to all the civil servants here down to the lowest cleaner. It includes the salaries of the National Assembly Service Commission, from the Chairman through his Commissioners, down to the civil servants there to the lowest cleaner. It includes the salaries and allowances of the National Institute of Legislative Studies, from the Director General through the many Professors down to the cleaner.
“It includes our subscriptions to international parliamentary organisations.
“The total running cost of the National Assembly is that N150 billion out of a budget of N4.8trillion.”
Asked to comment on the cost of maintaining senior officers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Ndoma-Egba responded, “Do we know? What does it cost to maintain a senior manager in NNPC? I am not talking of the Managing Director. Do we know?
“What does it cost to maintain a senior manager in Petroleum Technology Development Fund? Do we know? What does it cost to maintain a senior manager in Central Bank of Nigeria? Do we know?