Some legislative aides to federal lawmakers have written a petition to the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, demanding an investigation into “criminal diversion of their budgeted legitimate entitlements.”
They also asked the EFCC chairman to bring the culprits to book and ensure the prompt payment of their allowances.
Also copied in the letter is President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Director General of the State Security Service, Yusuf Bichi, and the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owansanoye.
In the letter which was made available to PREMIUM TIMES, nine of the aides, who do not want their names mentioned for fear of victimisation, signed on the endorsement page of the petition. The letter was dated November 19 and received by the anti-graft agency same day.
They accused the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori, of diverting funds appropriated to them. They accused them of complicity in the management of the legislative aides’ account.
An investigation in 2016 revealed that no fewer than 2,570 aides are engaged by the 469 members of the 8th National Assembly. Out of the number, 700 aides work for lawmakers in the Senate, while the remaining 1,870 are engaged by House of Representatives members.
As provided in the National Assembly Act, each lawmaker, excluding principal officers, is entitled to five aides – one Senior Legislative Aide (SLA), two legislative aides, a personal assistant and a secretary.
Also, the President of the Senate is entitled to 45 aides, his deputy, 30, and 20 each for principal officers.
Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives has 35 assistants, Deputy Speaker, 15 and 10 each for the six principal officers of the House of Representatives.
The number of aides to each legislator, it was gathered, includes those in their constituency offices.
The monthly emolument of the aides, which ranged from N150, 000 to N250, 000, sources at the assembly said, has been reduced to between N75, 000 and N180, 000 by the current leadership of the assembly.
All the aides are paid from the coffers of the assembly.
The letter, dated November 19, is titled “Petition on criminal diversion of funds of legislative aides by the clerk and presiding officers of the 8th National Assembly.”
In it, they explained that aides are employed on a short-term basis and entitled to allowances as applicable to other public servants and a severance package of 300 per cent of their annual basic salary at the end of the four -year tenure of their principals. ‘
Part of the allowance, they said, is the Duty Tour Allowance (DTA).
“Each SLA from Level 15 to 17 is entitled to the sum of N100,000 while other category of aides receives the sum of N75,000 every quarter as. DTA allowances. In essence, each aide is entitled to between N300,000 and N400,000 yearly as DTAs.
“We are also entitled to be trained four times yearly which was later compressed into twice a year. At the end of each training, each aide is entitled to a honorarium of N50,000 making a yearly total of N100,000,” part of the letter read.
They said of the 13 quarters DTA owed legislative aides of the 8th Assembly since June 2015, only two quarters has been paid, adding that there has been no training activities for the past three and half years despite the budgetary allocations for these items, “which were neither used for the said activities nor were they returned to government coffers as unused funds.”
“The non-payment of these accumulated legitimate entitlements has turned legislative aides into legislative slaves. We have been pauperized to the extent that we are unable to meet our financial obligations like payment of school fees, hospital bills, house rents, debt serving, putting us into several embarrassing situations.”
The aides praised the past senate presidents for reportedly ensuring the payments of such allowances and accused the present leadership of fraud.
“It is pertinent to point that past Senate Presidents including Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Adolphus Nwagbara, Pius Anyim, Ken Nnamani and David Mark were all diligent in ensuring that legislative aides receive their appropriated DTAs and training allowances.
“We are hereby alleging criminal diversion of these yearly appropriated legitimate entitlements by the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Omolori because of their complicity in the management of the legislative aides account,” they said.
The aides said all avenues employed in appealing to Messrs Saraki, Dogara and Omolori were unsuccessful, hence the last recourse to the petition.
Referring to a PREMIUM TIMES’ report on how National Assembly mismanaged billions of Naira through illegal expenditures and fraud, the aides said instead of settling the accumulated entitled, Mr Omolori engaged in sundry white elephant projects which are not captured in the original plan-of the National Assembly. These projects, they said, served as a conduit pipe of diverting and misappropriating funds meant to settle our entitlements.
When contacted, Mr Saraki’s spokesperson, Yusuf Olaniyonu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Senate President has nothing to do with the salaries and allowances of legislative aides.
He explained that payment of the aides is controlled by the “management committee” of the National Assembly and that the aides are speaking ignorantly.
“The salaries and allowances of National Assembly aides including me, is handled by the people they call the Management committee which is headed by the clerk, like the bureaucracy of the National Assembly. The Senate President does not have anything to do with it. In fact, I attended a meeting he held with them the other day, and he told them, “I don’t know a single thing about your salaries and allowances”
“They have paid my salary now and he doesn’t even know. My letter of employment is issued by the clerk, my ID Card is signed by the clerk. My salary is paid by the clerk, I don’t collect my salary from the Senate President.
“Funds that come into National Assembly, come under various headings. If it is senate, it goes to the clerk of the senate who then, administers it there. The one for House of Reps goes to House of Reps. Then the one for management goes to the entire staff, both political and bureaucratic.
“Even if he was not my boss, I cannot accuse him of diverting funds because he does not have anything to do with my salary and allowance. They are speaking ignorantly,” he said.
Efforts to reach Mr Omolori and Mr Dogara’s spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, were unsuccessful as they did not respond to calls and text messages sent to them.
This alarm raised by the legislative aides is not the first. They had on October 9, staged a protest at the National Assembly Complex to demand allowances – a protest which the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, described as “uncalled for.”
This petition also comes days after hundreds of staff of the National Assembly shut lawmakers out of the complex to demand payment of their entitlements.
The workers held placards bearing inscriptions such as ‘Omolori is a contractor’ ‘Killing staff with poor condition of service’ and ‘Constitute the National Assembly Commission Now.’
Mr Omolori had addressed the protesters and declared that the problem was not from him but that the federal government had not approved the money for payment of such entitlements.