The Senate and its serial critic, Itse Sagay, are sparring again.
This time, the Senate accuses the senior lawyer and presidential adviser on anti-corruption of hate speech and claims he is a “senile, jaded, rustic and outdated Professor of Law” who may be “under influence of substance.”
The latest wrangling followed a claim by Mr. Sagay that a Nigerian Senator gets N29 million in monthly pay in a speech he delivered at the Nigerian Society of International Law public lecture in Lagos on Wednesday.
“From the information I have gathered, a Nigerian Senator earns about N29 million a month and over N3 billion a year,” the professor said.
“Basic salary N2,484,245.50; hardship allowance, 1,242, 122.70; constituency allowance N4, 968, 509.00; furniture allowance N7, 452, 736.50; newspaper allowance N1, 242, 122.70.
“Wardrobe allowance N621,061.37; recess allowance N248, 424.55; accommodation 4,968,509.00; utilities N828,081.83; domestic staff N1,863,184.12; entertainment N828,081.83; personal assistant N621,061.37; vehicle maintenance allowance N1,863,184.12; leave allowance N248,424.55; severance gratuity N7, 425,736.50; and motor vehicle allowance N9, 936,982.00,” Mr. Sagay added.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday, he challenged the Senate to prove him wrong by publishing what the lawmakers collect as salaries and wages.
However, in a statement on Thursday, the Senate spokesperson, Abdullahi Sabi, replied with vicious remarks and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rein in the at the septuagenarian lawyer, whom the Senate accused of “making hate speeches” against the National Assembly and using “uncouth and unprintable words” to describe the legislators and the institution they represent.”
“Ordinarily, we would ignore Sagay whose statements and attitude present him like a rascal and sadist instead of a former university teacher. However, his last speech in Lagos during which he was reeling out false and exaggerated figures about the salaries and allowances of legislators and also lied about the passage of anti-corruption bills showed that he just deliberately set out to undermine the legislative institution and lower its reputation in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and we therefore believe we should put him in his rightful place.
“As an academic whose creed should be to find facts and make comments based on truth, we believe that Sagay should stop spreading beer parlour rumours about the salaries and allowances of legislators when he could simply get the facts from the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) which is the body constitutionally charged with the responsibility of fixing salaries and allowances of all public officials,” said Mr. Sabi.
But he was yet done.
He said Mr. Sagay’s comparison of remunerations of a U.S. president and a Nigerian lawmaker was like comparing oranges and apples and that only “a senile, jaded, rustic and outdated Professor of Law like Sagay will make such a comparison which falls flat on its face, even to an ordinary lay man.”
The senator added: “This man talks like a man who is constantly under the influence of some substance and perhaps possessed as he employs the language of a tout with no civility. He is probably constantly excited and incensed by the fact of having his first opportunity to find himself in the corridors of power.”
Speaking further with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Sagay said he was unperturbed by the statement from the Senate calling him “loose cannon” who should be “put in his right place” by Mr. Buhari.
Asked how he arrived at his figures, he said, “It is not a figure that I arrived at; it’s a figure that was printed (for me) and published on the internet with very convincing details.”
Otherwise, he added, “If the Senate says what I say is false, they should publish what is right. right. If these figures are being doubted, write to the Senate President asking him to deny or confirm them.”
He was asked what particular issue he had against the Senate in the context of the accusation by the lawmakers’ spokesperson that every opportunity to address the public would be employed to disparage the Senate by Mr. Sagay.
“Firstly,” he said in response, “the minimum wage in Nigeria is N18,000 and the Senate is a group of people who actually vote their own minimum wage for themselves. The President does not determine his wage but the Senate takes a chunk of our budget and gives itself.”
“Secondly, their allowances: their basic salary in a year is N2,484,000. Then they collect hardship allowance which is 50 per cent of basic salary. Is there hardship in being a Senator? They stay in air-conditioned offices with beautiful cushions and live a luxurious life and yet collect hardship allowance. Then, there’s constituency allowance, 200 per cent of basic salary; furniture allowance, 300 per cent of basic salary; newspaper allowance, 50 per cent of basic salary. So, our senators cannot afford to buy their own newspapers, Nigeria has to buy newspapers for them? Wardrobe allowance, 25 per cent of basic salary. So, they arrived in Abuja stack naked, meaning we have to clothe them.
“Recess allowance, 10 per cent of basic salary; Accommodation allowance, 200 per cent of basic salary; utilities, we don’t even know what that means, 30 per cent of basic salary.
“Domestic Staff, 75 per cent of basic salary; entertainment, 30 per cent of basic salary; personal assistant, 25 per cent of basic allowance; vehicle maintenance allowance, 75 per cent of basic allowance; leave allowance, 10 per cent of basic salary; severance gratuity, 300 per cent of basic salary; motor vehicle allowance, 400 per cent of basic salary.”
“90 per cent of Nigerian youth are jobless, involved in kidnapping, armed robbery and so on. Boko Haram came because the people are jobless and a few people are earning over N3 billion a year. One can’t be neutral, should Nigerians be deprived of all these by small elite who think of themselves alone and do not care about the country.”