Senators’ jumbo pay: Law must take its course — Lawyers, CSOs

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Agbakoba, Falana, Ozekhome, SERAP, others speak

THE polity was awashed with outrage, yesterday, as some senior legal practitioners, political scientists and groups insisted that the country must get to the root of the controversy trailing jumbo pay for senators.

They were reacting to the statement of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, that only the management of National Assembly Service Commission, NASC, could explain how the monthly salaries and allowances of senators, which stand at N1.063 million, jumped to N13.5 million.

Those who spoke on the matter included former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, President, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; Dr Kayode Ajulo; University of Lagos Lecturer, Mr Wahab Shittu; his Lagos State University counterpart, Dr Gbenga Ojo; and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project,  SERAP.

Senate

Dr. Agbakoba, said: “The law must take its course. So, I expect the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, to proceed to court as this act of the senators is unlawful, inexcusable and unconstitutional.”

RMAFC has to do more than washing off hands — Falana

In his reaction, Femi Falana said:  “It is not sufficient for the RMAFC to wash off its hands like Pontius Pilate. Since it has been exclusively empowered by Section 70 of the constitution to fix the salaries and allowances of legislators, the commission should proceed to ask the court to stop the illegal payment and recover the illegal pay.”

We must cut cost of governance —Ozekhome

Ozekhome, who called for the abolition of the bicameral legislative system in Nigeria, which he described as too expensive to run, said there was need to cut down on government expenses at all levels, stressing that aside members of the National Assembly, governors and ministers also collect undisclosed jumbo allowances.

However, he said the RMAFC, being a body under the Executive, may not have the powers to scrutinise emoluments of lawmakers.

His words: “The NASS is one of the three arms of government, the other two is the Executive and the Judiciary. Each of these arms of government is constitutionally provided for, with its powers, limits jurisdiction and duties, no one arm can detect to the other arm as to how it runs itself.

“The NASS has a first line charge on our national coffers and once money has been paid into revenue account under Section 162, the money from there goes to the state government, the federal government and to the local government.

There is a legal lacuna — Ajulo

Also, constitutional lawyer and former National Secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, said there was a lacuna in the law that made it possible for lawmakers to pocket jumbo allowances without checks.

“I think there is a lacuna in the sense that the Nigerian constitution recognised that there are three organs of government, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The RMAFC is an Executive body.”

RMAFC has constitutional power to fix senators’ pay – Shittu

Mr  Shittu, said: “The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of fixing the remuneration of all public officers. The remuneration appropriated without the consent of the body is ultra vires, unconstitutional and illegal. The Senators are acting illegally and could be compelled through due process to refund to the coffers of the state the remuneration collected in excess of the funds approved by the RMAFC.

RMAFC disclosure amounts to  conspiracy —Ojo

Dr Gbenga Ojo of Lagos State University said: “RMAFC’s silence till this time before coming out to inform Nigerians about the senators’ salary is a pure conspiracy. If they are claiming ignorance of what they are receiving, that is far from the truth. RMAFC is culpable for saying that it is not aware that the Senators earn more than what is statutorily appropriated for them.”

Senators must return illegal allowances — SERAP

In its reaction, SERAP sought voluntary return of ‘illegal running costs, allowances’ by National Assembly members and urged Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to “persuade their members to voluntarily return running costs and other allowances so far collected, and now declared as illegal by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and to use any returned funds to establish a trust fund to improve investment in education and health.”

SERAP in a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale said: “Under the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the National Assembly cannot use its appropriation power for personal gain of lawmakers. The revelation that the National Assembly unilaterally increased their allowances and running costs without any regard to due process of law constitutes a flagrant abuse of governmental powers for personal gain.”





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