The group said it was willing to partner with other CSOs on the debate.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has challenged the National Assembly to urgently fix the date for the debate between it and former Vice President of the World Bank on claims that the lawmakers received a budgetary allocation of over N1 trillion between 2005 and 2013.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, who was the special guest at the civil society roundtable on Cost of Governance organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Abuja, lamented the negative impact of poor public finance management structure.
The former minister pointed out that with a per capita income of $1,500, Nigeria would continue to be left behind by her peer group if about 80 per cent of her national budget was allocated for recurrent expenditure, and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings come from oil, while only 18 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) comes from manufacturing.
She frowned at the practice where Nigerian federal legislators were the highest paid lawmakers in the world with a basic salary of about $189,500 (N30.6million) per annum, adding that since 2005 the National Assembly had received allocations of over N1 trillion as statutory transfers from the federal budget.
She gave details of allocations to include 2005 (N54.79 billion), 2006 (N54.79 billion), 2007 (N66.4 billion), 2008 (N114.39 billion), 2009 (N158.92 billion), 2010 (N150 billion), 2011 (N150 billion), 2012 (N150 billion) and 2013 (N150 billion).
The National Assembly in its reaction through the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene, rejected Mrs. Ezekwesili’s claims, saying the lawmakers would be ready to accept the challenge to debate publicly on the issue.
But, MURIC on Thursday urged the lawmakers not to trivialize the issue through mudslinging and the use of abusive language, challenging them to urgently fix a date for the debate in the interest of the public, who are interested in knowing the truth.
“Coming from a woman who has been twice a federal minister and a former executive of the prestigious World Bank, the issue should not be treated with a wave of the hand,” the group said through its Director, Ishaq Akintola.
“Any matter that borders on probity and accountability should be taken seriously in a decent society. Transparency is one of the major hallmarks of democracy.
“In view of the furore generated by the allegation as well as the attendant public interest, Nigerian federal lawmakers owe Nigerian taxpayers the inalienable obligation to organize, within the shortest possible time, an open debate on the subject-matter as requested by the former minister. Any undue delay will be interpreted as an attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet.”
MURIC reminded the lawmakers that Nigerians were waiting for the debate, pointing out that its members would be willing to partner with other civil society groups to work out modalities for the actualization of the debate.
The group said it would be interesting to know the rationale behind the federal lawmakers fixing their own salaries, despite the existence of an agency responsible for fixing salaries for all categories of public officials.
“We call on the leaders of the NASS to announce a date for the much awaited debate in the next few days failing which the Nigerian people will accept Ezekwesili’s claim as the truth, the only truth, and nothing but the truth,” the group said.
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