Nigerians are pouring their reactions to a recent revelation of the N13.5 million “running cost” allowance that senators receive monthly.
The revelation, which was made by Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central).
Mr. Sani disclosed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”
In an interview with The News, the senator said that the running cost “does not include a N700, 000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive” and other perks.
He explained that though there is no specification on what the funds were meant for, each lawmaker is mandated to provide receipts to back up their expenses.
Joe Odumakin, a human rights activist and president of the rights group, Women Arise for Change Initiative and the Campaign for Democracy, expressed disappointment at the federal government, describing the money as a “colossal waste of resources”.
“With the calculation of all the amount and then the N13.5 million for running cost, it is outrageous, highly insensitive and cannot stand the test of time.
“With the level of hunger on the line and the state of our economy, I think that money should be invested even in education. Look at our budget, UNESCO stipulates 26 per cent of our budget. Imagine we put that money into the education sector, it will do a lot for the ordinary Nigerian.
“My advice is, we have lots of problems confronting the nation. Poverty and unemployment is on the increase. This money can be used to fulfill an obligation in the welfare of the people. Welfare, in the aspects of education and security.”
Another activist, Hamzat Lawal, the leader of Connected Development (CODE) and co-founder of Follow the Money, described it as a sad revelation, stressing the high level of poverty ravaging the country.
“It’s quite sad. Know that at this point of our democracy, a lot of children are out of school and knowing also that a lot of communities do not have access to drinking water and most of these communities don’t have primary healthcare centres and the ones that have, don’t have vaccines, no syringe, nothing.
“We just came back from a community in Warawa Local Government in Kano state that doesn’t have a single PHC for population of over 30,000 with villages surrounding and the federal lawmaker representing their interest gets an alert for money that is not even tied to any form of intervention. It is pretty much, very sad.
“This also shows that there is no transparency and accountability. This is one of the reasons we called for open NASS; let’s know what is budgeted for National Assembly.
“Come to think of it, this is just less than one year to the expiration of their tenure. It means that from inception till now, if you do your calculations well, they have received so much money that would have gone into better service delivery to the people.
While commending Mr. Sani for the revelation, he however, argued that it was coming late.
‘It is wrong for a legislator to even implement anything called constituency project. It is very wrong. A legislator is meant to regulate laws and policies and pass bills.
“As much as we commend Shehu Sani for coming out to say this, why didn’t he mention it since? Why is he just saying it?
Sunday Olowoyo, from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), gave his “personal opinion” on the matter “pending when the group will release an official statement.”
“Sani has spoken. It is left for them to confirm or to deny. We have a lot of CSOs canvassing and campaigning for transparency in the National Assembly and accountability.
“Honestly speaking, in a democratic setting, nothing should be hidden so long as it is not something that will jeopardise the National Security.
“If you are elected as a parliamentarian, you are accountable to the people. In the first instance, if you are our representative, should we not know how much you’re getting?
“Things like this will continue. As far as the leadership of the National Assembly is not open, there will be speculations circulating wild”, he said.
Some Nigerians also took to Facebook to applaud Mr. Sani for his courage in making such revelations. Others however, demanded that “something be done after this revelation”.
Below are reactions of some Facebook users:
Olawoore Babatunde wrote, “You can see why senators and reps want to keep their office at all cost by re-ordering election so that their election will come first. So the all other arms of government and the party machineries would have to work for them first to be elected so that they can maintain their loots.
“Where is Dino Melaye who places the failure of Nigeria to the executive arms alone? A man who has done (nothing) in life but can boast of mansions and fleets of exotic cars?
“Which country will work when lazy men and fraudsters calling themselves legislator are ravaging the resources in this way? They will collect millions of Naira in constituencies projects, give it to their cronies to apply for them money and nothing will be done.
“Any ministry or MDA that do not cooperate with their looting antics would be summoned to the chamber for victimisation. Most of the time they go (to) business men selling motorcycles with just #100k for photo of their wares, which they take to the MDA to claim as evidence of the execution of the fake project to claim their money. Nigeria with this kind of parliamentarians can never do well.
“That’s why the likes of Saraki who knows how share loots hold sway in the heart of our senator. What a country! Alas, instead of the masses to stand to free ourselves from the hands of these wicked people, we divide ourselves on ethnic and religious lines to protect the looters. Can one imagine how much people like Ekwremadu will worth in the land of the looting legislative! It is saddening!”