Few weeks after the senator representing Abia North senatorial zone, and former Governor of Abia State Dr Orji Uzor Kalu allegedly lamented the poor remuneration of federal legislators, another lawmaker Oluwole Oke, has lent his voice to the agitation.
According to Oke, the N8.5 million monthly running cost that members of the House of Representatives receive is insufficient.
Oluwole Oke, who represents Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State, stated this in an interview with Punch Newspaper.
The lawmaker admitted that the running cost is different from the N606,000 he earns as monthly salary as a federal lawmaker.
In comparison, a civil servant on the N30,000 minimum wage will have to work for 24 years to earn what an House of Represenatatives member earns as running cost monthly.
It is even worse in the case of senators who earn N13.5 million monthly as running cost. In that case, a civil servant on the minimum wage would have to work for 37 years to earn what a senator earns monthly.
The N30,000 minimum wage only came into place in April. Before then, the minimum wage was N18,000.
Despite the huge discrepancy between what lawmakers earn and what other public officials earn, Mr Oke still belives the running cost is too low.
“How much is N8.5 million to me as a person?” he said.
“If you have to embark on research, looking at all the bills that I have sponsored in the House, you will see that those bills that I sponsored are not ones you can just come by anyhow.
They are not bills that you pick on the shelve.
“I remember when I promoted the National Pension Commission Act, it took me out to Chile and other countries like Argentina, the United Kingdom and India.”
“If you give me N8.5 million and I have to go and find out what is happening aside from the information that I get from the Internet.”
“Look at the tickets and see the flight costs even if I am flying economy class. So, how much is that?”
“If I have to engage lawyers and professionals to prepare bills for me, to work on motions for me; and get researchers also,” he said.
However, hiring legislative aides such as research assistants is taken care of separately. Each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to at least five aides paid by the government monthly. Presiding officers are entitled to more aides.
Mr Oke then made claims about the pay of U.S. lawmakers.
“Do you know how much their running costs are? It is $1 million. Do you know how much their salary is? It is $14,000 per month. Yet, you pay me $2,000 as salary,” he said.
Like Oke, like Shehu Sani
Mr Oke’s revelation is coming over one year after a former senator, Shehu Sani, while serving in the 8th Senate, revealed the monthly running cost of Nigerian senators.
The senator who represented Kaduna Central revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”
Mr Sani said that the running cost does not include the N700,000 monthly salary a senator earns.
In further justifying the running costs, Mr Oke alluded to the societal pressure on lawmakers.
“Besides whatever you get here in the form of salary or allowances, you have constituents with their numerous problems waiting (for you). Do you know how many scholarships and school fees that I am responsible for? Do you know how many constituents of mine who are ill; people who want to put to bed, people who have to undergo operations (surgeries) or need support? Do you know how many community projects that I have to support or celebrations and events that I have to support” he said.
Many Nigerian activists have, however, expressed disgust at the allowances which are fixed by the lawmakers themselves and are not approved by the revenue allocation agency, RMAFC.
Activists Condemn Pay
An activist and convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, while reacting to the comments by Mr. Oke said if judges do not earn up to that amount, there is no justification for any lawmaker to complain about it.
“If judges do not earn up to N2 million, why should legislators earn as much as N8.5 million?”
“This is fundamentally why there is corruption almost at every level and stage of our National lives.”
“A situation where judges compromise is because of inequality, inequality is the mother of all forms of social vices in the country. University lecturers and professors don’t earn up to that so why should legislators earn this much and still complain that the runing cost is not enough?”
“It goes to the root of the matter that most of the problems we are facing as a people in this country is about the inequality,” Mr. Adeyanju said.
Another activist, Lanre Suraj, also condemned the statement by the lawmaker.
“That is the more reason why I say most people who go there do not know why they are there,” Mr Suraj, an anti-corruption crusader, said.
“He should be given a calculator for him to calculate his running cost and the minimum wage of an average citizen Nigeria, then he won’t call it peanuts.
“I’m of the strong opinion that we should not just review the allowances of the legislators, we should also scrutinize those people who go there to represent us,” Mr Suraj said.