A civil society group, We The People-Center for Social Studies and Development, has called on the House of Representatives to make public how much its members earn monthly as running costs. The call was made in a statement signed by Mr. Ken Henshaw, the group's Executive Director.
According to the group, it is important for the House to come clean on running costs by following the example of Mr. Shehu Sani, the senator who disclosed that he and his colleagues earn N13.5million monthly as running costs.
The group described, as alarming, the revelation that each of the 109 senators receives N13.5 million monthly without any accountability or details regarding what these amounts are used to run.
"In a country where all relevant indicators show that the majority of citizens live in abject poverty with an alarming percentage living far below the poverty line, we consider this outrageous allocation not only insensitive but also the hallmark of legislative larceny," said the group.
It observed that in ‘running costs’ alone, senators cost the public treasury N17.658 billion annually.
"This amount adds up to the total average annual allocation of 11 local government areas in Nigeria with an average population of 2.3 million persons. This sum also adds up to nearly half of the 2017 total federal allocations of Kwara and Ebonyi states. On a minimum wage scale of N18,000, what 109 Senators receive as ‘running costs’ will pay 81,750 public servants the minimum wage for one year. It is interesting to note that this amount does not include other allocations senators receive, including various allowances, their salaries, constituency allocations," reasoned the group.
The group added that it is more shocking the amounts were fixed by the senators themselves in closed sessions, as a way of ensuring that their constituents have no idea of the amounts their representation costs the country. While noting that the different political parties in Senate often make out as though they are different, the group said they are united in the award of outlandish allowances to themselves.
"All the senators, irrespective of the political divide and other affiliations, were in agreement not only to routinely fleece Nigerians but to keep their act secret," said We the People-Centre for Social Studies and Development."
It called on the Senate to immediately and drastically review the amount it allocates to itself and urged the House of Representatives to lift the lid on what its members receive as running cost.
"We hereby call on members of the House of Representatives to boldly reveal to Nigerian citizens how much they receive, especially in the guise of ‘running cost’. It is obnoxious that a legislative House elected by the people to represent them will deny the citizens they represent information relating to what they earn from the public purse."
"We make a call to any honorable member of the House of Representatives, who still lays any claim to honor, to come forward and tell Nigerian what they receive. While we are hopeful that at least one member has the conscience to do the right thing, we have however sent out a Freedom of Information request to the National Assembly requesting the said information," added the group.
It equally called on the National Assembly leadership to immediately begin open processes that will lead to a reasonable cut in the outrageous earnings of its members.
"Legislators are public servants; their salaries and allowances must be in line with the stipulations of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission," said We the People-Center for Social Studies and Development.