From the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) came yesterday a declaration that the N13.5 million reportedly collected by senators as running cost is illegal.
According to the commission, the payment is not covered by the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendments) Act 2008 governing emoluments of political office holders in the country.
RMAFC said only the National Assembly Service Commission could explain how the senators came to be paid such an unapproved allowance.
The commission’s clarification was contained in a statement issued yesterday by its spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed.
He said the clarification became imperative in view of the recent revelation by one of the senators, Mr. Shehu Sani, who said each senator collects a monthly running cost of N13.5 million in addition to the monthly salary of N750,000.00.
According to RMAFC, the law on salaries and allowances of public office holders is very clear and as such it is only the management of the National Assembly Service Commission that can explain the N13.5 million running cost allegedly being enjoyed by each senator as the Act only covers salary and allowances but not running cost.
“A closer look at the monthly entitlement of senators reveals that each of them collects salary and allowances to the sum of N1,063,860:00 consisting of the following: basic, N168,866:70; motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance allowance N126,650:00; personal assistant N42,216:66; domestic staff-126,650:00; entertainment, N50,660:00; utilities, N50,660:00; newspapers/periodicals, N25,330:00; wardrobe, N42,216,66:00; house maintenance, N8,443.33:00; and constituency, N422,166:66.
“It is instructive to note that some allowances are regular while others are non-regular. Regular allowances are paid regularly with basic salaries while non-regular allowances are paid as at when due.
“For instance, furniture allowance (N6,079,200:00); and severance gratuity (N6,079,200:00) are paid once in every tenure while motor vehicle loan-(N8,105,600:00) is optional which the beneficiary has to offset before leaving office. The payment of running cost is not part of RMAFC mandate, therefore only the National Assembly can explain it,” the commission noted.
It added that any other payments enjoyed by any political, or public office holders outside those provided in the Remuneration Act of 2008 were not known to the commission and the chief accounting officer of the agencies concerned should explain them.
To avoid misinformation and misrepresentation of facts capable of misleading citizens and members of the international community, the commission advised Nigerians and any other interested party to avail themselves of the opportunity to access the actual details of the present remuneration package for political, public and judicial office holders in Nigeria published on its official website.
But, in its reaction, the upper legislative chamber insisted that the N13.5 million monthly running cost for each senator was legal and provided for in the Appropriations Act.
The Senate Spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the statements made by his colleague, Shehu Sani, on the salaries and funds for the running of offices of senators did not disclose anything new as the figure he gave out was contained in various line items and expenditure heads of the budget of the National Assembly which have been made public.
Abdullahi said if people had looked critically at the budget of the National Assembly which had since been made public, they would have seen that various line items like traveling, medicals, consultancy and the rest were captured in the budget and they were the funds divided for each senator’s use.
“Almost all holders of elective and appointive offices have running costs allocated to their offices and that cannot be said to be part of their salaries,” Abdullahi stated.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have urged the Federal Government to restore services on the Eastern rail lines and include them in the existing railway standardisation programme and the 2018 appropriation bill.
They also requested that all parts of the country be made to benefit from the $6.8billion loan approved for the standardisation and modernisation of the Nigerian railways.
These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion entitled: “The urgent need to include the Eastern rail lines in the Nigerian Railway Development Project”, sponsored by Victor Umeh representing Anambra Central senatorial district.
In his lead debate, Umeh said inclusiveness was the essence of governance in a democracy which was also supported by Section 15 sub-section 3 (a) and 4 of the 1999 Constitution.
He lamented that the Eastern narrow rail lines which originated from Port Harcourt moving through South-East to the Northern parts had been in a deplorable condition for over three years.
“Presently, the Eastern rail lines are not in use and trains no longer ply these routes in moving people and goods in and out of the old Eastern region leading to decline in economic activities,” he said.