Angry Nigerians are currently mobilsing for massive protests against the alleged over-bloated cost of running the Nigerian National Assembly, especially following reports that the federal lawmakers would soon collect about N9 billion as wardrobe allowance.
Using two major themes: #OpenNASS, #UndressNASS and #OccupyNASS, various groups comprising civil society activists and professionals are been using the various social media platforms to get Nigerians prepared for what some angry Nigerians call a “mother of protests”, except the leadership of the National Assembly as well as the lawmakers urgently make a U-turn.
Nigerians also said they would use the protest to force the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, to review downwards the allocations to political officers in the country as it seems officers in the agency have decided to alienate themselves from the country’s economic realities.
As exposed in earlier reports, while each of the new 360 members of the House of Representatives would get N17.5 million, each of the 109 senators would get N21.5 million as wardrobe allowance amounting to N8.64 billion.
This is aside from other allowances including for furniture, housing and vehicle, which the lawmakers are entitled to.
As approved RMAFC, each of the senators, besides the Senate President and the deputy, would get N4,052,800 for housing monthly, amounting to N433,649,600 for all the senators yearly. Also, each member of the House of Representatives would get N3,970,425 as housing allowance, amounting to a total of N1,421,412,150 for all 360 members of the House of Representatives apart from the Speaker and Deputy Speaker who would get official houses.
In the last 24 hours, Nigerians have expressed serious concern about this alleged financial recklessness, warning the federal lawmakers to be prepared for a confrontation.
While some of the lawmakers have been trying to justify these jumbo pay and allowances to them, others have decided to stay with the people absolving themselves of any involvement and promising to fight against it.
Activist JJ Omojuwa, disclosed that “plans for #OccupyNASS are now advanced. Hopefully, you can translate your angry tweets into some form of action in Abuja and Lagos.”
He added: “N9 billion for wardrobe is the height of our lawmakers’ inhumanity to the people they claim they want to serve. Not at this time. Insensitive. We should set up websites to criminalise any Senator or Lawmaker that collects that criminal wardrobe scam.
“The era of the blind citizen is long gone. The earlier the modern day Nigerian politician understands that, the better.”
Immediate past member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri, asked for an urgent explanation from the leadership of the National Assembly while describing the alleged amount as strange.
“As an ex-Rep, news of N9 billion wardrobe allowance is very strange. To clarify, National Assembly must officially react,” she said warning the National Assembly not to take anything for granted any longer. “It will be ridiculous if true and I doubt it. I insist National Assembly as an institution should clarify.”
She disclosed that wardrobe allowance is supposed to be N20, 625 which is 12 and half percent of the lawmakers’ basic salary. “That is what we got!” she said.
In his own reaction, Senator Dino Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District at the current Senate, said he would not be part of such extravagance.
Speaking on a television programme, he also warned his colleagues to be ready to slash their salaries and allowances in relation to the country’s economic challenges.
“I stand solidly on what I earlier said about pay cut. There must be a pay cut to senators and House of Representative members. You can’t be talking about change and this kind of money in this country now when people are hungry.
“We must be sacrificious. We must show Nigerians that we must sacrifice by allowing a pay cut,” he said.
In her reaction, former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, recalled how she was attacked by members of the National Assembly in 2012 when she raised concerns over the budget of the country’s legislature.
“Now that we have Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker, they should host the debate on National Assembly members’ salaries,” she said, adding that this was very crucial.
BudgITng, an activist group which monitors the Nigerian budgets, is also reportedly collecting signatures from Nigerians to fight against the huge budgetary spending by the National Assembly.
A Nigerian analyst, Ayo Sogunro, said the National Assembly does not need to be begged but should be whipped into line.
He said Nigerian constituents must take up the lawmakers individually.
“Local voters have to step out and drag National Assembly members in the dirt,” he said, while lamenting that Nigerians mostly focus on the executive while turning blind eye to the legislature.
“The National Assembly cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be embarrassed either. You have to whip them,” he said.
Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, who had been receiving condemnation for keeping silent since the news broke out, also took to Twitter to appeal for calm and understanding.
The Senator said his investigation showed that the allowances enjoyed by the lawmakers were approved by RMAFC, but added that he needed a coalition of his colleagues to fight against it.
In his reaction, Ali George said: “the N150 billion that we spend on Senate annually is enough to take our 10 million out-of-school children back to school…What Senator David Mark alone has earned as a Senator in the last 16 years is enough to give free primary education in Benue State.”
Online activist, Marie Antoniette said: “it’s advisable to make National Assembly allowances less attractive so the people who really want to work will go there and work not crooks.”