There have been several calls for transparency in the budget details of the National Assembly to allow a glimpse into the financial allocations of both parliaments. Many Nigerians considered President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposed budget of N125 billion for the National Assembly in 2018 as a case of ‘daylight robbery’, particularly because the budgeting process lacks details on how the vast sum is to be disbursed when finally passed. The National Assembly has since the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999 received a total of approximately N1.2 trillion.
The new media was agog last week over a recent revelation about the N13.5 million "running cost" allowances that senators receive monthly. The revelation, which was made by Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) has stirred up a lot controversies within the polity, the senator also revealed that the running cost "does not include a N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive" and other perks, leading to too many conjectures about how much exactly each federal lawmaker takes home every month and annually. Since the revelation of what the senators earn as running cost on monthly basis, there have been strident calls from all walks of life for a downward review.
For instance, the remuneration as approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), for every senator annually, excluding estacodes of $1,200 per night (where applicable), Duty Tour Allowance of N45,000 per night and other sundry allowances paid as necessary, is about N19.66 million; while for every member of the House of Representatives, it is N18.26 million. In addition to this, every senator and House of Representatives member collects N1.01 million and N1 million respectively for domestic staff.
Despite all these mindboggling take-home pay, what the federal legislators pay as tax to the coffers of government is insignificant, as their taxes are calculated based on their basic salary. Salaries and allowances of the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly are slightly higher than what are enumerated above. Apart from these RMAFC approved salaries and allowances as stated above, the federal lawmakers also pay themselves N13.5 million monthly what they termed 'running cost’ as revealed by one of the federal lawmakers, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central). They also receive constituency allowances, which very many of them see as their own share of the national cake. How much this runs to, nobody has been able to say.
The call for Transparency in the NASS budget is a worthy call that should be heeded. In the words of Atifete Jahjaga, “Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation”.