A former Governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, is reported to be receiving N750, 000 salary and N13.5m monthly running cost from the National Assembly, 11 months after his conviction by a Federal Capital Territory High Court.
This means that his total earnings have risen from N85.5m in November last year to N171.1m in May despite being in prison.
This sum is separate from a severance package he is supposed to receive as an outgoing member of the 8th National Assembly.
This payment had continued despite a lawsuit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) before a Federal High Court in Lagos to “stop the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, from paying former Plateau State governor, Senator Joshua Dariye, N14.2 million monthly allowances while he serves out a 10-year prison sentence for corruption because such payment violates Nigerian law and international obligations.”
Investigations by Sunday Punch showed that the former governor still receives the allowances because his seat had yet to be declared vacant by the leadership of the National Assembly or the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The senator, who served as governor of Plateau from 1999 to 2007, was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of an FCT High Court for embezzling N1.162bn.
Dariye was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal which upheld his conviction last month.
The Director of Information at the National Assembly, Agada Rawlings, in an interview with Punch, said the lawmaker could not be denied the payments.
Rawlings said, “The point here is that his seat has not been declared vacant. You’re looking at the moral side of it but we are looking at the constitutional side. There are two issues that are at stake. Dariye, as of today, is still a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has not been recalled.
“Secondly, INEC has not declared his seat vacant. As the management of the National Assembly, we do not have such powers to do anything otherwise until the law speaks otherwise.
“So, it’s not for us as the management to decide who stays and who does not stay. The law on that is clear. The only constitutional provision to declare a seat vacant is on the basis of recall or death of a member.”
He said even upon suspension by the rules of the house, if certain procedures were not met, such actions were deemed to be void.
“But in this particular instance, there is a moral burden, but if there is no law that states that he has been barred as a result of the judgement and the court in this judgement did not say his position at the Senate of the Federal Republic (had) lapsed,” Rawlings added.