Civil society groups (CSOs) and other Nigerians have reacted 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) has stirred up mixed reactions.
Mr. Sani disclosed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”
In an interview with TheNews, 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.
Some Nigerian activists have expressed disgust at the revelation describing it as waste in the use of public funds.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, 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.
“I believe in leadership by example. I believe in walking the talk and I believe in true representatives of the people.
“The summary of it is that, it is highly insensitive. It is uncalled for. It is a colossal waste of our resources. That money should be mopped up and should be invested in things that will better the lives of the ordinary citizen of the country.
“My advice is, we have lots of problems confronting the nation. Poverty and unemployment is on the increase. This money can be used to fulfil 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.
“Its 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.
“This tell you that they are just there representing their own selfish and personal interest, not the collective Nigerian interest”, he said.
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?
“For us, we want to see the Senate come out to tell the Nigerian people what they have been doing with this money or what they have been doing with the tax payers money.
“This has increased the space between government and the people and it is not good for our democracy”, he said.
Adewale Timothy, from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), gave PREMIUM TIMES 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!”
Sikiru Salawudeen wrote:
“a. Between 2007-2015, the NASS ran a budget of 150 billion naira every year!
b. Obasanjo, Yaradua and GEJ permitted the rape on the treasury.
c. In 2011, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi declared that the NASS was spending twenty –
five percent of our recurrent expenditure.
d. When PMB mounted the rostrum, they reportedly requested for a raise to two
hundred billion naira.
e. PMB was livid with rage and he told them that there was no way they would even spend that much in 2016.
f. They came down and demanded for 150 billion naira.
g. He said there is no way as our revenues were dwindling.
h. Eventually they settled for 115 billion naira which they spent in 2016, but they used the advantage of his ill-health to increase it to 125 billion this year.
i. Truly the loopholes are being blocked.
I. So, keep HATING and supporting people who want your grandchildren to stone you.
j. I spare a thought for my President, may the God Almighty continue to strengthen him!
Nigeria, we shall overcome!”
Chinedu wrote, “I applaud the courage of senator Sani in making this revelation. Even the senate spokesman Sabi bluntly refused to answer the same question on Channels TV some months ago. Let me also agree with Sani that this office allocation of #13,5m be abrogated immediately.
“I will want to believe that senator Saraki in his initiative of removing double entitlements to ex governors will also work hard towards this. But who can tell us what the ministers, special assistants, advisers and presidency do with the nation’s wealth? I guess TIME will tell.”
Below are the reactions of some Nigerians on Twitter:
As Nigeria remains reckless and irresponsible with its national resources, it is increasingly doubtful that Nigeria will remain united. There is no justification for the free money being dished out to senate members. Young Nigerians have no prospects.Yet politicians are on feast
— Obi Nwosu (@daggash51) March 7, 2018
13 million monthly is nothing compared to what the presidency use for the running cost in a day .
If we have to cut government spending , it should start form the presidency.
— muhammed jamiu (@emjayunit) March 7, 2018
The citizens needs to take to the streets to demand an end to this legalized corruption.A country where many go to bed on empty stomach.
— Udo (@Udocas2017) March 7, 2018
Nigeria at this rate of pay for these morons will never emerge from national poverty. Nigeria is a poor nation , there is no viable national economy Nigeria is a failed state from October first 1960. These thieves are looting our common wealth. No peaceful solution. Liars!!!
— Obi Nwosu (@daggash51) March 7, 2018
All this in a country that pays 18000 as minimum wage? Scrap the running cost, improve security and social infrastructure and nobody will come to beg senators for money. I salute Senator Shehu.
— MBC- NG (@asukufce1) March 8, 2018
Nigerians wont cry foul about this unwarranted sum of money, been given to people who debate more on things that would favour them Politically and selfishly, than things that would make the country better. The problem of Nigeria are NIGERIANS. We are tailor-made for foolishness
— Dynamite (@DavidIndia2) March 8, 2018