Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has threatened to sue the 8th National Assembly to court, if they fail to maximally slash what he described as the ‘bogus’ salaries and allowances they earn, which takes up 25 percent of the country’s national budget.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, in Lagos, Agbakoba, who advised the President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari on how to handle the big shocks caused by Nigeria’s dwindling economy, argued that there is need to challenge the earnings of the lawmakers.
According to him, it will be very easy for Buhari to compel the NASS to slash their bogus emolument, if only he first sets the example by slashing the bogus allocation to the Presidential Villa.
He said this has become imperative, as Nigeria has been hit by a tidal wave of big shocks bordering on a post oil economy, preference of the clean shale oil over the nation’s smelly hydrocarbon oil in the international market, as well as an economy in danger of running out of steam and cash.
The constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, had in 2011 alleged that Nigerian lawmakers at the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly are the highest paid legislators in the world.
According to Sagay, a Senator in Nigeria earns N240 million (about $1.7 million) in salaries and allowances, while a member of the House of Representatives earns N204 million (about $1.45 million) per annum.
This is a far cry from the situation in the United States of America (USA), where a Senator earns $174, 000 and in the United Kingdom (UK), where a member of Parliament earns about $64,000 a year.
Also Senators-elect Ben Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa East) and Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) have described as unacceptable the high cost of running government in the country, demanding immediate review so that the incoming administration can achieve meaningful development.
Agbakoba said that “It will be very easy easy for the President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to compel the National Assembly to slash their bogus emolument, if only he first sets the example.
“If he first cuts down the budget account of the Presidential Villa, the lawmakers will fall in place. For instance if the budget of the Villa is N5 billion and he cuts it down to N500 million, no one needs to tell the national assembly members to toe the same line.
“The problem in Nigeria is professional politics, where the lawmakers say, the executive allocates bogus emolument to themselves, why shouldn’t we do same. But if the President is living above board and transparent, he will have the political authority to get lawmakers to behave, because he is the one who controls the budget eventhough you appropriate it.”
“I am actually preparing a case to go to court to challenge the National Assembly on the unconstitutional allowances, and for the court to also declare that the national assembly legislators are only part-time, since the 1999 constitution stipulates that the Legislature should operate for 180 days of the 365 days in a year.”
“If we want things to work in this country, the role doesn’t only rest in the President. Civil societies also have a role to play. What we haven’t seen in Nigeria is a President who is willing to run the country towards a new order.
“Who are even these legislators, how many are they? They are about 500. So, they can’t continue in the context of dwindling economy, to eat up 25 percent of our resources. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.