The minority whip of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said Nigerians are looking in the wrong place if they remain fixated on how much members of the legislature are being paid. Instead, he added, Nigerians should focus on a larger picture.
In an interview last Saturday with SaharaTV’s Rudolf Okonkwo, Mr. Gbajabiamila responded to a recent statement by the Finance Ministry that about 74% of this year’s budget is scheduled to go into recurrent expenditure. The ministry had added that a large chunk of the recurrent expenditure will be used to pay the salaries and allowances of legislators.
In response, Mr. Gbajabiamila said that this is nothing compared to what the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala or any Minister for that matter takes home. “My salary is nothing…not a hundredth of what she takes home”, he said.
Mr. Gbajabiamila said the country’s legislators receive over 20 different allowances even though he and others of his rank in the House receive between N700, 000 and N800, 000 a month as take-home pay.
He hinted that even though his salary is common knowledge, his allowances should not necessarily be made public. He however offered to make that information known to Sahara Reporters via email. Mr. Gbajabiamila compared the Nigerian situation to that of the USA saying Americans may know the take-home figures of their legislators but not necessarily the allowances they receive.
He also charged the Minister to come clean on the disputed $10.8 billion in missing oil revenue and not on a relatively paltry 150bn which accounts for only about 2% of the budget.
“The 150 billion that we talk about for the whole national assembly is only 2% or thereabouts of a 4.7 trillion budget”, he said.
He also charged Mrs. Okonjo Iweala to tell the Nigerian people where the remaining 98% goes and how subsidy monies are spent.
Speaking further on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s claim of spending the disputed $10.8 billion on kerosene subsidies, he admitted that he is actually disturbed about that situation too. Mr. Gbajabiamila said there was no formal request for a kerosene subsidy in the budget and reiterated the hosts question on why the NNPC took the audacity to spend so much without appropriation. He admitted that the National Assembly must share the blame for this oversight.
“We cannot pass a budget without knowing the basis for it” he confessed.
The legislator also touched on other issues including why his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has not assumed the position of the majority in the House despite their current 10-point lead over the People’s Democratic Congress (PDP). He said the APC is bound by the constitution to assume the majority stance in the House and to produce its leadership but there is a pending court injunction which binds them to hold on with any such plans.
He called the court’s decision “strange” explaining that the country’s jurisprudence does not permit the judiciary to meddle in the affairs of the legislature.
He however said the APC intends to abide by the ruling of the court. “We will not join PDP or any other party in the culture of impunity and disregard the court’s decision” he said.
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