Senators, Reps don’t earn jumbo pay – National Assembly DG
The Director-General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), the academic arm of the National Assembly, Prof Abubakar Suleiman, says the perception that members of the assembly earn ‘jumbo pay’ is false.
He said that there is a misconception that senators and members of the House of Representatives spend the bulk of the nation’s budget.
Suleiman, a former Minister of National Planning, said that while there were merits to claims that democracy is expensive, it was disingenuous to blame the National Assembly, noting that only a small portion of the nation’s annual budget is allocated to the legislative arm.
“If they say democracy is expensive, maybe we can start the conversation. But to single out the parliament and say it is expensive, I don’t know what it means. Let me give you a good example: there is this notion by some Nigerians that parliaments – to be precise, the National Assembly – are the ones that spend or take all our money.
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“That has been the perception. Perhaps, it was this perception and misconception that informed the conclusion that having two arms (Senate and House of Representatives) at the national level is too much and, therefore, something needs to be done. I want to debunk that notion or that perception with some facts.
“One, the notion or the misconception that tends to believe that the parliament, especially the National Assembly, takes all our money; that they are thieves, that they are this and that…the question we have to ask ourselves is, ‘Which money are we talking about?’” Suleiman told The Punch.
Asked to comment on the supposed ‘jumbo pay’ to legislators, Suleiman said, “The entire budgetary provision for the entire National Assembly is not up to N300bn.
“This year alone, the Federal Government budgeted over N20tn (N21.83tn)), the National Assembly does not control N1tn. It does not get N300bn. So, if the executive is spending about N22tn and the National Assembly is getting less than N300bn, who controls the remainder?
“That fund is under the executive, but nobody talks about it. They are not expensive. They don’t steal. Our accusing fingers should not be pointed at them but at the people who control less than N300bn. If we ignore that organ of government that sits on over N20tn, and our focus is now on the organ that sits on N300bn, where lies the justification?”
He said that the allocation to the National Assembly is not solely for payment of legislators.
“Let us say N250bn was allocated to the National Assembly, out of that amount, don’t forget that we have two components of the budget – recurrent and capital expenditures.
“People have forgotten or are ignorant of the fact that the National Assembly comprises of about four agencies and all these agencies share this N250bn.
“Under the National Assembly, there is the National Assembly Service Commission, Public Complaints Commission, NILDS and National Assembly Budget and Research Office. Then, we have the National Assembly Management.
“All these are besides the parliamentarians – senators and representatives. All these, together, are the ones that share the N250bn.
“So, where lies the justification that they are too expensive? When you talk of oversight (of the ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government by the lawmakers), it is part of the N250bn.
“When you talk of training – some overseas, it is out of the N250bn. By the time you do the allocations here and there, I think you will sympathise with the parliament.”
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