Recently, the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”
Mr. Sani said there was no specification on how the funds should be spent as each senator is only required to provide receipts to back the expenditure.
A few days after the revelation, Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Abdullahi, confirmed he and his colleagues receive the running cost monthly.
However, the payment is not approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the body responsible for fixing the salaries and allowances of public and political office holders in Nigeria.
The development has fuelled reactions from civil society groups (CSOs) and Nigerians alike, as many frowned at the illegal payment in a country with dire need of funds for development; especially as Nigeria, with about 170 million population and N18,000 minimum wage, has inadequate funds for capital projects.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in December 2017 said the federal government had released N1.2 trillion to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government for implementation of capital projects contained in the 2017 budget; implying the government was only able to finance about half of the capital projects by that time.
However, the running cost received by senators would have been enough to execute some of the projects.
From June 2015 when they assumed office till date (34 months), each senator has pocketed N472.5 million as running cost. Also, the 109 Nigerian senators would have pocketed over N51.5 billion. This does not take into account the fact that principal officers of the senate are believed to receive more money than the others.
So what would N472.5 million received by each senator or at least N51.5 billion received by all of them have done for Nigerians?
In the agricultural sector, the running cost of a senator every month would provide over 85,909 bags of fertilizer at the government approved price of N5,500 per bag.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture in its 2017 budget, indicated buying and running a tractor in a year would cost over N33,500,000. This implies that the N472.5 million so far pocketed by a senator would provide at least 14 tractors.
The ministry, in the same 2017 budget, placed the purchase/acquisition of a plot of land for the institute of animal science at N2.5 million. This therefor means for the expansion of agricultural production; a senator can acquire at least 189 plots of land to enhance animal husbandry through their running cost.
Also, the N51.5 billion received by the 109 Nigerian senators can provide 9,364,090 bags of fertilizer; 1537 tractors and; 20,601 plots of lands, in a country that seeks to improve on its agricultural sector.
According to the 2016 budget of the Ministry of Health, the cost of constructing a primary healthcare centre (PHC) is estimated at N21 million.
Therefore, each senator can construct 22 standard primary health care facilities if he/she decides to so deploy the accumulated running cost.
Also, in the same budget, the ministry estimated N30.8 million is required to build and equip a dialysis centre, a facility that is in short supply in Nigeria. This means the running cost so far received by each Nigerian senator can provide at least 15 dialysis centres.
The N51.5 billion collected by the 109 senators would go a long way to provide 2452 primary health care centres and 1672 dialysis centres.
Construction of a single solar powered borehole in Nigeria costs about N13,000,000. As shortage of potable water has placed a huge burden of water-borne diseases on Nigerians in many parts of the country, the accumulated running cost of each of senators will provide over 36 solar powered boreholes. Also, the accumulated running cost of the 109 Nigerian senators would provide about 3961 boreholes across the country.
Assuming senators decide to create jobs in their constituencies and pay each worker N100,000 monthly, more than five times the N18,000 minimum wage, each senator would comfortably employ 135 people, who could be paid monthly from the running cost.
Also, should senators decide to improve the welfare of constituents, each would be able to provide over 47,250 bags of maize monthly at an average market price of N10,000 per bag.
Each senator can also choose share to constituents over 26,250 bags of rice monthly at the average price of N18, 000.
On the other hand, 5.2 million bags of maize and 2.9 million bags of rice can be purchased with the accumulated running cost sum of all the Nigerian senators in the country.
With regards to education, the accumulated “running cost” received by Nigerian senators will achieve the following;
· Purchase over 94,500 JAMB forms for students seeking admission into the university.
· The Ministry of Education puts the construction of a block of six classrooms at N25 million. This means the accumulated running cost of each senator, so far, can build at least 18 blocks of six classrooms each and rescue some pupils from learning under tree shades.
· If a student in the university or any tertiary institution is to receive N100,000 as bursary allowance, the “running cost” of a senator would provide bursary for 4,725 students.
Also the 109 senators in the country can help create a better educational experience with the following;
· Purchase over 10.3 million JAMB forms for students seeking admission into the higher institutions
· Provide 2060 blocks of six classrooms each
· Over 515,025 students would also receive the bursary allowance should N100,000 be paid to each student.
The Ministry for Power, Works and Housing, in its 2017/2018 budget wants N1,606,552,948 to reconstruct bridges destroyed by insurgents in the North-East. The accumulated running cost of each senator, so far, could provide 29.4 per cent of the project sum.
Also, the N51.5 billion so far received by the 109 senators since June 2015 would not only have reconstructed all the destroyed bridges in the North-east, but would also have left over N49 billion that could be used to build all the “National Priority 2” roads listed by the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola,
Mr Fashola’s ministry required N43.1 billion for the roads which include dualisation of Sapele-Ewu Road in Delta/Edo states; dualisation of Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Road in Lagos/Ogun states; rehabilitation of Hadejia-Nguru-Gashua-Bayamari road in Jigawa/Yobe states; and the rehabilitation of Ilorin-Kabba-Obajana Road in Kwara/Kogi states.