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 consider NASS’s ₦125 billion budget in 2017 as a case of ‘daylight robbery’, particularly because the budgeting process lacks details on how the vast sum is disbursed. The National Assembly has since the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999 received a total of approximately N1.2 trillion.
Nigerians have information about how half of this amount (N600 billion) was spent, the other half is estimated to go towards basic salary/personnel costs which remains shrouded in secrecy, leading to too many conjectures about how much each federal lawmaker takes home every month and annually. Since the rumored revelation of what the federal lawmakers earn as salaries and allowances, there have been strident calls from all walks of life for a downward review.
From the foregoing, 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.
However, despite 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 what they called 'office running cost.' 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, as the lawmakers have kept mum over it.
Coalition of Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs) also wrote to the 8th National Assembly leadership demanding urgent explanation to Nigerians, if it is true that a Senator gets N29 million in monthly pay, and over N3 billion a year.’’ Over the week, the media aide of Senate President Bukola Saraki has however invited CSOs to a roundtable over the “contentious” salaries of lawmakers at a date convenient for all parties in the next few days.
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”.
Over 20,000 Nigerians have signed the petition demanding for an #OpenNASS. Lend your voice and visit opennass.ng/petition to sign the petition.