The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the National Assembly to put a stop to the practice of fixing its members’ pay.
The judge, Chuka Obiozor, ruled in his judgment delivered on June 4 that only the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is empowered by law to fix the salaries and remunerations of public officers.
There has been public outrage amongst Nigerians over the humongous emoluments of senators and members of the House of Representatives, despite widespread poverty and unemployment in the country.
It would be recalled that, Shehu Sani, a former member of the Nigerian Senate representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, had in March 2018, revealed that each senator received the sum of N13.5 million monthly as running cost, in addition to N750,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances.
Two plaintiffs, Monday Ubani, who is a former 2nd Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and John Nwokwu, had filed a suit to challenge the constitutionality of this jumbo-sized pay said to be collected by the members of the National Assembly.
The defendants in the suit were the Attorney General of the Federation, RMAFC, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the National Assembly Service Commission.
In their argument before the court, the two chambers of the National Assembly had filed a defence denying its members ever collecting such jumbo-sized pay, but failed to disclose to the court how much members earn.
On its part, the National Assembly Service Commission filed a defence, denying being responsible for the mouthwatering pay being taken by the members of the National Assembly.
They equally contended that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi (the legal right) to institute the action against them, contending that the plaintiffs had no cause of action against them.
They urged the court to strike out the suit.
However, delivering judgment on the matter, the judge, Mr Obiozor, dismissed the preliminary objections of the 3rd and 4th defendants, a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES by the plaintiffs stated.
The judge said the plaintiffs were properly clothed with the right to institute the legal action, citing the Supreme Court case of Centre for Oil Pollution Watch v. NNPC.
The court held that public spirited individuals (taxpayers) had sufficient interest in ensuring that public authorities submitted to the rule of law and that no public authority had power to arbitrarily or with impunity break the law or general statute.
He therefore declared that the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants (the Senate, the House of Representatives and the National Assembly service Commission) “have no power, close or semblance of power and cannot determine, direct, command and/or instruct the 2nd defendant (RMAFC)) or any person howsoever, to make, determine and/or fix the salaries, wages, remuneration, running cost or allowances of the 3rd and 4th defendants.”
‘Only RMAFC can fix salaries of public officers’
The RMAFC (2nd defendant) is the only body responsible for determining the salaries, remuneration and/or allowances of the National assembly or political office holders, the court ruled.
“In line with Section 32 (b)(d) of part 1 of third schedule of the Constitutional of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the 2nd defendant should forthwith downward review and fix the salaries, remuneration or allowances of the 3rd and 4th defendants to reflect the economic realities in the country.
“The 5th defendant cannot or have no power whatsoever and howsoever to fix, determine or allocate the remuneration. Allowances, salaries, emolument or monetary value/s to the 3rd and 4th defendants,” the statement had read.
Possible prosecution over jumbo pay
The judge was also quoted as saying that “since the members of the National Assembly has denied collecting the jumbo remunerations and allowances, the EFCC should look at their books and if it is found that they truly collect such amount of money, they should be prosecuted.”
“Similar case was filed by SERAP and assigned to the same judge who held that whatever decision is reached in Messrs Ubani and Nwokwu’s case in Suit No FHC/LA/CS/690/ 2018 should bind on them,” the plaintiffs’ statement added.
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