Payment of overhead allowances to the newly inaugurated lawmakers of the 9th National Assembly in the first three months will increase their total allowances to N19.89bn, a report has revealed.
Naija News learned that about 469 lawmakers of the 9th National Assembly will get N4.68bn as a welcome package to sort out accommodation and furniture issues.
A report monitored on PUNCH newspaper by Naija News, says each senator will receive N40.5m for three months as an overhead allowance, with each member of the House of Representatives receiving N30m for the same purpose.
The development means that 109 senators will get N4.41bn as an overhead allowance for the first three months while the 360 members of the House of Representatives will get N10.8bn in their first three months.
Added to the N4.68bn for accommodation and furniture, the legislators will get N19.89bn within their first three months in the red and green chambers, investigations by Saturday PUNCH has shown.
The report said some Non-Governmental Organisations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had been strident in opposing the N4.68bn welcome package.
It was learned that the Presidency aborted the process of reviewing downwards the entitlements of lawmakers and other office holders, this the Presidency did by refusing to officially receive a bill for the review of salaries and allowances of public office holders prepared by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
RMAFC embarked on a downward review of allowances of all political office holders, this followed a public outcry that the remuneration of lawmakers was not in tune with the economic realities in the country
The ratification of the new packages prepared by a committee headed by Abdullahi Inde, a former Chairman of Remuneration Committee, followed a retreat held for commissioners of the agency in Owerri in November 2015.
Although the recommendation was informally sent to the Presidency, it was not formally received along with a bill for new revenue formula which was also prepared by RMAFC.
It is the responsibility of the President to present the recommendation to the Federal Executive Council for approval before being forwarded to the National Assembly as a bill, however, the aspect of the process was never completed as the Presidency allegedly avoided anything that would lead to completing the process for the review of the existing revenue formula, findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed.
A top executive of RMAFC told PUNCH that the process for the review of the remuneration of political office holders could not be completed.
The source, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “The commission made an attempt to review the package. There was an attempt but it did not see the light of the day.
“It is still on because it has to reflect the current economic realities. Maybe when the new board comes in, they will look into it again because of public outcry.”
Speaking on the call for the review of the welcome package of lawmakers, the RMFAC official said except for the ‘overhead’ payment, the furniture and accommodation allowances were backed by the law.
The official added: “Some NGOs make blanket statements without looking at what the law says. They do not know the mandate of public institutions. Sometimes, they don’t look at the position of the law. If it is within the law, it is not illegal.
“It is not really a welcome package. It is part of the Remuneration Act. It is also not only the legislature that benefits; the executive also benefits; the same with the judiciary. In fact, all public office holders, whether civil servants or public servants are entitled to those things.
“If you are employed newly, you are supposed to be given some allowances to enable you to settle down. So, as legislators, they are entitled to furniture and accommodation allowances. If they are seen as welcome packages, yes, they are. But they are backed by law. There is an Act which you cannot change.
“They cannot be paid anything outside the law in terms of furniture allowance and accommodation allowance. They cannot be paid anything outside what the law stipulates except it is for overhead as Senator Shehu Sani had revealed.
“The money will come from the National Assembly Service Commission. They have their own budget. But for ministers, their salaries and allowances come from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“It must have been captured in the budget. They must provide for their members in their budget salaries and allowances.”
Therefore, each member of the House of Representatives on resumption is entitled to N9,926, 062.5, according to the prescription of RMAFC in its Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders 2007 to Date.
The lawmakers are entitled to furniture allowance of N5, 955,637.5 and accommodation allowance of N3,970,425.
This means that the 360 members of the House of Representatives are entitled to accommodation and furniture allowances of N3.57bn.
In the same vein, each senator is entitled to a combined furniture and accommodation allowances of N10, 132,000 on assumption of office. While the accommodation allowance of a senator is N4, 052,800, the furniture allowance is N6, 079,200.
Each of the senators is entitled to N8, 105,600 for a motor vehicle while each Rep is entitled to N7, 940,850.50.
According to the RMAFC, this allowance payable once in four years is a loan and optional. This means that it is repayable. Lawmakers that received such money in the past had asked the government to convert it into a grant.
Apart from these allowances, other perks of office that are paid to lawmakers on a monthly basis include motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling. This is pegged at 75 percent of their monthly salary.
Others are a personal assistant – 25 per cent; domestic staff – 75 per cent; entertainment – 30 per cent; utilities – 30 per cent; newspapers/periodicals – 15 per cent; wardrobe – 25 per cent; house maintenance – five per cent; constituency – 250 per cent.
PUNCH reports that the lawmakers are also entitled to tour duty allowance, estacode (when they travel overseas) and recess allowances. For a senator, the tour duty allowance is N37, 000 per night; the estacode is $950 per night and the recess allowance is 10 percent of their annual salary.
The tour duty allowance is N35, 000 per night for a member of the House of Representatives, the estacode is $900 per night and the recess allowance is 10 percent of their annual salary.
When contacted for reactions, the Presidency said President Muhammadu Buhari could only act on a formal recommendation sent to him.
Senator Ita Enang, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, who spoke on the issue, asked for evidence of the proposal said to have been sent to the President.
His words: “It can only be turned down if it was passed and sent. So, who passed it, who sent it and when was it passed?
“What was the content of what you said was passed or presented?”
When he was told that the RMAFC reportedly made a presentation to Buhari on the issue, Enang replied, “I am not aware.”