Two weeks before the Federal Government announced the removal of fuel subsidy on Petroleum products, leading to a hike in petrol price, Nigerian Senators got an unexpected largesse, Premium Times can authoritatively report.
Between December 15 and Christmas, the President of the Senate, David Mark, distributed mint-fresh cash in U.S. dollars to each of the country’s 109 Senators, multiple knowledgeable sources have told Premium Times.
There is no evidence that any Senator rejected the largesse. Even activist members who got elected on the platform of opposition parties, promising to expose corruption in parliament, quietly got and pocketed their shares.
“Each Senator got sixty thousand dollars and principal officers even got more, I think between seventy and eighty thousand dollars,” one of our sources, a top Senate official, said.
The source maintained that the dollar notes were so crisp that “one of us (a Senator) joked that the money could only have come directly from the (American) Federal Reserve Bank.”
Though the Senators were not told the source or purpose of the largesse, Premium Times learnt that the money originated from elements and departments in the federal government pushing the proposed deregulation programme of the administration.
“I think the money came from the executive,” said a top legislative aide, whose boss also benefited. “Even though it was not stated then, I believe it was meant to calm the Senate in preparation for the fuel subsidy removal.”
The funds, tucked in envelopes and paid out after the Senate commenced its recess on December 20 last year saw many Senators collecting on behalf of their colleagues.
Aides were not allowed to receive the payment on behalf of their bosses.
Not from us
It is not clear where the Senate President, whose office distributed the largesse, got such amount ($6.7miilion) in foreign currency from.
The Central Bank of Nigeria stated that it did not sell such foreign currency to the Senate.
“That is nonsense. Senate to do what with dollars?” Mohammed Abdullah, spokesman for the apex bank, said, when contacted by Premium Times.
Mr. Abdullahi explained that the only time the CBN could sell dollars to public officials is when they travel on official foreign trips and deserve estacodes, adding, “and that is after presenting all necessary approval by his ministry or institution.”
As expected, Senators interviewed on the illicit payments denied ever receiving such money from the Senate President.
Paul Mumeh, spokesman for Senator Mark said such allegations could only be blackmail.
“Even if you break CBN vault, you won’t get that kind of money. Such things (allegations) can only be blackmail,” he said.
“I am not aware of any such thing,” said Ita Enang, a Peoples Democratic Party Senator from Akwa-Ibom State. “I am not aware. I will go and ask him (Mr. Mark).”
Nigerian lawmakers are reputed for arbitrarily increasing their emoluments, and are among the highest paid in the world.
They are notorious for lining their pockets with public funds and some of them are standing trial for corruption.
Their salaries and allowances are a hugely guarded secret, even as they receive an average of N50million quarterly in “office running cost”. They are never made to account for the payments.