Jumbo allowances for lawmakers and sale of govt houses

Guardian Editorial, 25th June 2007.

IT is a matter of deep regret that the Federal Government has now approved a new jumbo salary and allowances for the members of the National Assembly. The legislators would be paid a mind-boggling total sum of N12.3 billion as furniture, housing and car allowances. Accordingly, each Senator will get N53.7 million, while each member of the House of Representatives will receive about N47.9 million.

Under this new salary package, each Senator is entitled to a monthly car maintenance allowance of N126, 000 while a member of the House of Representatives would receive N124, 075. Also, there is a yearly wardrobe allowance of N500,000, constituency allowance of N5 million and about N2 million for Senators and Representatives respectively. Furthermore, the lawmakers would go home with an annual utility allowance of N400,000, annual entertainment allowance of N600,000 and severance allowance of N6 million. In a year, a Senator would earn a least N8 million on allowances alone.

This is at best a rip off. It is outrageous to say the least. All Nigerians have every reason to feel scandalised. Paying lawmakers so much money just to sort out their affairs, without having done any work, runs counter to the ideals of public service as sacrifice and an act of selflessness. The impression that has been created is that lawmaking is such a lucrative business, and that politics is an easy means of access to instant wealth. The allowances should be reviewed.

The money, among other things, is also meant to enable legislators secure accommodation in the Federal Capital Territory. This calls to question the sale of the Apo Legislative Quarters that was built purposely for lawmakers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In 2004, the Obasanjo administration sold the Quarters to the past lawmakers under the Federal Government’s monetisation policy. Each federal lawmaker paid N11 million to become the owner of his or her official residence. The effect is that the new set of lawmakers are now rendered homeless in Abuja The monetisation policy that was meant to help government save cost has now turned out to be a major cause of waste and a symbol of abuse of office.

The Legislators’ Quarters were built out of the realisation that most of the lawmakers would be persons going to live in the Federal Capital Territory for the first time from different parts of the country. Given the housing crisis in Abuja, the availability of official accommodation enables the new lawmakers to settle down quickly without any stress. After four years, one set of occupants is replaced by another. Certain other categories of public servants were also provided official accommodation including judges, Ministers, Special Advisers, the Inspector-General of Police and so on. With the blanket sale of government houses, many of these officials in charge of sensitive assignments have now been rendered homeless and exposed to undue humiliation.

The National Assembly had to adjourn to give its members time to sort out accommodation problems. We are now faced with an ironic situation whereby old legislators are living comfortably in government houses claiming that they have bought them, while new legislators and other public officials are on the streets and in hotels. The purpose of the provision of official accommodation in the first place has been defeated. Regrettably, government is not building new houses. Instead, both public and private houses are being demolished in Abuja. This is partly why the UN (Habitat) recently classified Nigeria as having one of the worst housing policies in the world.

It is interesting that the state governments refused to follow the example of the Federal Government to sell public houses, otherwise the state lawmakers would have faced the same predicament. Some state governments are even in court to challenge the sale of government houses in their areas of jurisdiction.

The Yar’Adua administration should revisit the sale of the people’s houses by the last administration. First, the sale must be reversed as a matter of public policy. Second, further sale of the houses should be stopped forthwith. Three, a thorough audit of the sale should be carried out to determine who bought what, at what price and whether or not the process was transparent and fair.

Those who bought the houses are claiming that they have paid for them in full and that they are bona fide owners. Their position is self-serving. There should be full-scale probe into the source(s) of funds used in purchasing those houses. All the information obtained in doing this should be made public. President Yar’Adua should not miss the opportunity of taking a prompt and clear decision on this important matter.

_____________________________________________________________________________Adeola Aderounmu says Nigerian Politicians are heartless and corrupt. They are thieves and they will milk the masses dry. They are the most useless humans alive. Nigerian Politics is still the worst tragedy of modern times.

May the Glory of Nigeria come, soon!

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