THURSDAY, 17 JUNE 2010 01:20 MAX AMUCHIE & IKECHUKWU EZE
With the questionable quality and number of bills passed by the National Assembly, there are concerns about potential increases in the remuneration of the legislators.
The legislators are mounting pressure for a 100 percent increase in their quarterly allocation despite the uncertain economic climate and their current very high expenditure profile.Their demand, analysts say, could undermine the 2010 budget. N127.7 billion was allocated in the 2010 budget to the legislators out of the total N4.6 trillion.
The senators are currently pushing for an increase from N45 million to N90 million per quarter even as there is controversy over the wide disparity between what principal officers of the Senate earn and what goes to other senators as emoluments. With a generous pay structure including salaries, allowances and fat constituency allowances which come to about N351 million quarterly for senators and N147 million for every member of the House of Representatives, the question is what do the citizens get in return.
Osita Okechukwu, publicity secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), described the legislators’ demand as “outrageous and insensitive”, lending voice to the growing condemnation of legislators’ demand as criminal. “It shows that they are disconnected from the reality on ground because of the abject poverty in the country. It is either the proponents don’t visit their senatorial districts or they do not feel the pulse of their people. In 1998, according to the United Nations, about 40 percent of Nigerians lived below poverty line, today it is above 70 percent. There is gross unemployment and even those employed are either under-employed or under-paid. They (legislators) opportunistically added themselves to INEC and the judiciary to Section 81 of the constitution in the proposed amendment to be in first line charge” the CNPP scribe said.
Under the present pay formula, whereas senators believe that the Senate president enjoys a quarterly allocation of N140 million, funds made available to his office stand at N250 million. The deputy Senate president, believed to be taking home a quarterly allocation of N80 million is said to be actually receiving N150 million. Other principal officers believed to be earning N55 million are actually getting N78 million. This disparity is already causing ripples in the upper legislative chamber.
Between 2007 and now, not more than 16 bills have been passed by the National Assembly out which only eleven have presidential assent, a development that represents a worsening trend, especially as up to 100 bills were passed in the eight years of Obasanjo’s two term presidency.
Many Nigerians are worried that bills which would positively affect leadership particularly in areas of checking corruption and profligacy in office like fiscal responsibility, freedom of information (FOI) and electoral reforms bills have been left untouched and allegedly being frustrated by the lawmakers themselves.