Nigeria’s Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, has asked Nigerians to demand for accountability and the output of the lawmakers and the legislature in general instead of questioning the “jumbo pay” received by lawmakers.
He made this call on Friday while speaking at a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission in Abuja.
The lawmaker said the funding that the National Assembly receives is inadequate and as a result, ”many lawmakers struggle to do things by themselves.”
“I’m not advocating for more than necessary but what we have today is inadequate and you find members of the National Assembly struggling to do almost everything by themselves. That does not get the best out of us.
“Can we debate the functions of the National Assembly rather than talk about the jumbo pay? Where is the jumbo pay? We should be looking for value for money.
“So when we always debate on “jumbo pay” instead of what should be the functions and hold us responsible for what we are able to do or what we are not able to do; ask for what you think we should be doing rather than saying close the Senate or close the National Assembly. Do you understand the implication of this?” he said.
Mr Lawan complained that the National Assembly gets less than one per cent of the nation’s budget and that the call for their pay cut is ‘misplaced’.
“…in a budget of over N13 trillion, the National Assembly will have a budget of N125 to N128 billion. What percentage is that? It’s less than 1 per cent. So where is the remaining 99 per cent?
“And yet, instead of trying to see how much of the N128 billion will be utilised by NASS, what will be the output from NASS and how useful it will be to the Nigerian public, we are saying ‘cut the funding to the National Assembly, it’s too much, it’s bogus’,”
Mr Lawan’s defence comes amidst the clamour for the National Assembly to make public the details of its annual budget and the cry against the massive funds deployed to fund less than 500 federal lawmakers yearly.
Between its inauguration in 1999 and 2015, the National Assembly had received about N1.26 trillion ”with little to show for it,” a report by BudgIT had shown. And details of the budget of the legislature have been kept secret since 2012.
However, during the eighth Senate in 2017, details of its budget were released – after an #OpenNASS campaign admonishing the legislature to open its books to the public and take possible cuts on its finances, especially at a time of financial uncertainties.
A former Kaduna senator, Shehu Sani, had in 2018, revealed that each senator earns ₦13.5 million as monthly ‘running cost’. This is in addition to a monthly consolidated salary of ₦700,000.
Although the Senate and some lawmakers had refuted the claim, a lawmaker said this was meagre.
Meanwhile, Mr Lawan said it is better for the citizens to debate the relevance of the legislature rather than call for its scrapping. Mr Lawan also challenged Nigerians to change the current set of lawmakers ”by voting them out in 2023 is they feel unsatisfied”.
He said it will be better for Nigerians to replace the current set of lawmakers with new and better representatives ”instead of calling for the scrapping of the National Assembly and other debates over alleged jumbo salaries and allowances”.
“I’m not here to defend the National Assembly but I’m here to encourage the debate on what it means to us as a country. If you don’t like the set of members in the ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people. Let’s support the system to function,” he said.
”The value of the legislature and National Assembly to Nigerians is a democracy,” he added. ”And if you take out the legislature, it might not be a dictatorship but certainly not a democracy.;;
The Senate President disclosed that the National Assembly is working to ensure the passage of the 2021 Budget by the second week of December. He said the lawmakers will conclude work on its proposed constitutional amendment and review of the Electoral Act, 2010 in 2021.