In confirmation of Senator Shehu Sani’s claim that each senator in the country gets N13.5 million monthly as running cost, the Senate said he did not say anything new.
According to the Senate, the figure given by Sani is contained, along with others, in the various line items and expenditure heads of the budget of the National Assembly which had been made public.
The confirmation was made in a statement by the Chairman, Senate Committeee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, made available to The Next Edition.
Abdullahi dismissed any insinuation that Sani’s colleague were unhappy with him over the disclosure.
He said if the public had looked critically at the budget of the National Assembly which had been made public, they would have seen that various line items like travelling, medicals, consultancy and the rest were captured in the budget and they were the funds divided for each Senator’s use.
“Almost all holders of elective and appointive offices have running costs allocated to their offices and that cannot be said to be part of their salaries,” Abdullahi stated.
Sani had last week revealed the amount a senator receives monthly as running cost.
Sani, a very vocal lawmaker who represents Kaduna Central Senatorial District of Kaduna State, made the disclosure in an interview with The News magazine, but published online by Sahara Reporters.
The running cost, he said, was apart from the N750,000 they collect monthly as consolidated salary and allowances.
“I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month,” he was quoted as saying.
He said while the legislators were not instructed on what to spend the money on, whatever amount spent had to be accounted for with the provision of receipts to back their claims.
“What I am saying is that that money (N13.5 million per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without any accountability is N750,000.00,” he said.
He said further: “The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200 million, but it is not the cash that is given to you.
“You will be told that you have N200 million with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will go and do those projects for you.
“Now, the corruption comes when the projects are not done and the money is taken. But right now, it is difficult to do that because NGOs and transparency groups have come into it. They track every allocation made to you and where they are being used.
“So, it’s becoming difficult for what used to happen in the past to happen now. But I can tell you that I would love a situation where we do away with running costs, constituency projects and leave senators and members of House of Reps with salaries.
“And also, the public should be informed that nobody should come to any senator’s house asking for any kobo. That also would be helpful.”
The legislator said that he did not believe in legislators getting involved in the execution of constituency projects.
He said legislators should rather be involved in law making, raising motions, bills and also performing oversight functions.
Shehu Sani said it was wrong for people to expect the lawmakers to build roads, dig boreholes, build hospitals, schools, give money, pay school fees for them.
“Now, if we have a society in which people will stop asking legislators to do those things, then there is no need (for the allowances). But funny enough, if you are very active in the National Assembly in making laws and you don’t embark on projects in your constituency, you cannot in any way be appreciated by the people you are there to serve because the electorates in United States are different from the electorates in the United States and Africa,” he said.
He said because of the peculiarity of the Nigerian society, people wanted the legislators to directly address those basic fundamental issues that affect their lives.
Shehu Sani explained further: “If we can be done with that, it would be okay. Now, you are talking of bogus salaries and bogus allowances – there are three steps you need to consider – the first has to do with the fact when you represent the people, expectations arose from your immediate and the larger constituencies.
“But I agree with you that the salaries and allowances of lawmakers should not be discreet, but what is discreet about it when you can write to Resource and Fiscal Mobilisation Commission to get everything about what a senator earns?
“The only money you are not expected to account for is your salary and the salary of a senator is about N750, 000.00 per month. The other one, the running cost of office must be accounted for. You must provide a receipt for every expense you make.”