By Augustine Adah, Lagos
Reactions to the disclosure that members of the 8th National Assembly would get about N9 billion as wardrobe allowance were spontaneous. Several Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society organisations, expressed disgust over the amount earmarked in view of present economic realities in the country.
The Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Debo Adeniran, described the development as very discouraging to the new government.
“It is very unfortunate that the present administration is starting on a note like this despite the promise of change before they got to power,” he said.
Adeniran said that the National Assembly members have left nobody in doubt of the fact that they don’t have the interest of common Nigerians at heart by setting such a whooping amount as wardrobe allowance.
“It is preposterous that the National Assembly of a country that has a preponderance of its citizens living below poverty line could set aside a whooping N9 billion as wardrobe allowance.
Earmarking such an amount for such frivolous purpose is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the country and the entire Nigerians.
This is a government Nigerians are expecting would cut salaries and emoluments of its officers.”
Speaking further on the matter, Adeniran said: “Therefore, the action of the lawmakers is not only reprehensible but retrogressive and must be condemned by every well-meaning Nigerians.”
Also, Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), Comrade Idris Abdul, has described the N9 billion wardrobe allowance for National Assembly as outrageous and should be slashed.
According to Abdul, the country is going through a critical moment where the revenue is falling which demands that everybody must be prepared to make sacrifice at this crucial time.
“In view with the economic reality of our country at the moment, the amount is too much and must be reduced,” he said.
Abdul further stated that though the job of National Assembly is crucial to the growth of the country, other groups and arms of government also contribute their own quota to the development of the country.
“It is not only National Assembly members, civil servants also work and generates revenue for the country; they too must be considered when it comes to allowances and increment of salaries.”
The human rights activist expressed fear over the current National Assembly under Bukola Saraki as Senate President to fight corruption based on his antecedent.
“I doubt if the Senate under Saraki would be able to fight corruption because of his previous cases with EFCC.”
He urged members to make sacrifice because the country is finding it difficult to pay staff salaries and other challenges.
Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West senatorial zone, has also condemned the N8.64 billion the National Assembly has earmarked as wardrobe allowance for the 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, while at the same time, defending the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the President of the Nigerian Senate.
The senator said it was morally wrong to pay such money to legislatures when people are hungry and solicited for the downward review of the allowance.
In his view, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Joseph Nwobike said it was unconscionable that such was happening at this critical state in the nation’s history.
He said: “Well, to me, this is a sign post that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will fail. I mean, APC was hypocritical because this is a party that has been professing change. Look at what happened at the National Assembly leadership election last week. It is a sign that APC’s chances of success are doubtful.
“I mean APC appears to be disoriented and the change mantra on the basis of which they came into power may just be symbolic. It is unconscionable that we as a nation are witnessing proposal of N9 billion for wardrobe allowance for legislators under a party which said it would fight corruption and impunity.
“Well, I congratulate those that will be changing their wardrobe and I urge them that in doing so, they should patronize our local products, so that they can grow our economy,” Nwobike said sarcastically.
Miffed by the plight of civil servants who are being owed arrears of salaries, a members of National Assembly from Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, has promised to donate part of his wardrobe allowance to the unpaid workers in Osun State. He made this known via his Twitter handle. Daily Independent gathered that for about seven months now, workers in the Osun State civil service are yet to be paid their salaries. Murray-Bruce promised that whenever the wardrobe allowance is paid, he would give half of the amount to Osun State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) who would use the money to settle part of salaries owed workers in the state, and the remaining half to widows in Akassa community of Bayelsa State.
The Senator said: “I, Ben Murray Bruce, will not sit down idly, while my fellow citizens die because salaries have not been paid. As a first step, I am immediately donating my wardrobe allowance to unpaid workers in Osun State and widows in my Constituency. We are starting in Osun, but we will not end there. I will do as much to help workers who have not been paid in other states.”
He, however, called on his friends and followers to make contributions to alleviate the plight of the workers.
However, the move does not go down well with Osun State government. In a swift reaction, the Osun State government lampooned the lawmaker, saying he was playing to the gallery just as he said he (Murray-Bruce) was trivialising the issue.
Reacting to the public condemnation, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki explained that the allowance of National Assembly members was fixed by Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) in consonance with the economic reality of the country at the moment.
He further stated that a plan was in the offing to reduce salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly.
SOURCE: Daily Independent.