Should legislators be compelled to make their allowances public?
- Mr. Louis Alozie (Principal Partner, Equity Chambers, Owerri, Imo State)
They should be compelled to make their allowances public because that will be in the interest of the people. An employer ought to know how much he pays his workers. Legislators’ earnings and allowances impact on the lives of Nigerians because money meant for development goes into the payment of salaries and overheads of these selected few.
They can be compelled to do this under the Freedom of Information Act through an action against the National Assembly and Clerk of the National Assembly. Being a legislator does not make them members of a cult.
If the public was not entitled to know what the legislators and other category of public officers earn, the constitution would not have vested the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission with the power to fix their remunerations. Legislators have no right to fix their own income and where they do, it is clearly illegal, unconstitutional, and void.
In other climes, whatever any public official earns is open to public scrutiny. Anywhere in the world, once you are a public office holder, your entitlement is public knowledge. Nobody hides it. That is why reference can be made to what America’s President earns, to what a United States senator or a congressman earns. If they were hidden, people would not have known what these people earn.
So, the National Assembly does not have the right to fix the salaries and allowances of its members. Whatever they earn ought to be known by members of the public. Any other thing they do is illegal. You know they do other things to get large amounts of money.
Many of them are engaged in one contract or the other. These constituency projects they insist on every time may not be about development. They fix these projects, lobby the ministries that award the contracts to give them to companies nominated by them, and everybody knows what happens.
There is the need for the emoluments, salaries and other entitlements of not only legislators, but that of the President, ministers and in fact, all public office holders, to be made public. If you are serving the public and the people you are supposed to be serving do not know how much you are earning, then you are stealing.
For the Senate spokesperson to say that the emoluments of senators cannot be made public is pure arrogance. It is not wise. Any person can exploit the Freedom of Information Act to compel them to reveal their pay package.
- Prof. Bake Sees (Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Port Harcourt division)
The legislators are public figures and being public figures, particularly in a situation where there have been many speculations, allegations and stories surrounding their wages, we need to know the truth.
Some of the stories we hear about several billions of naira which the legislators have since denied, need to be probed.
Personally, when you hear some of the figures, it sounds outrageous to believe that in a country like Nigeria, where the poverty level is mind-boggling, legislators can earn such fabulous amounts as salaries and allowances.
I think the best way to set the records straight is simply to make their salaries public, that is if they have nothing to hide. They are public figures; they will be there for a certain number of years and they have the mandate of the people, so the secrecy about their wages must not be tolerated. If there is nothing to hide, why are they refusing to make their salaries public?
Yes, I know that salaries, wages and incomes are private information, but they are not private persons. They are being paid with taxpayers’ money. If not for anything, they should dispel whatever doubts the public may have. It makes sense for them to make details of their wages public.
But where they are reluctant to do so, they are giving room for people to believe what they hear about what they earn.
- Olawale Okunniyi (Coordinating Secretary, Nigeria Political Summit Group)
It is now an open society the world over and that’s why you have groups like Transparency International. Why should their salaries and allowances be kept secret?
For them to say they can’t make details of their allowances public means that they are doing something immoral; it means they are trying to cover up some wrongdoing. We all know they should earn something for their work, but maybe they are hiding the details because they know that what they are earning is illegal and immoral, hence the secrecy. There is no big deal about them making their earnings public in the spirit of transparency.
We are in a democracy and you are being paid from taxpayers’ money; why should details of what is taken from the public to pay the lawmakers be kept away from the paymasters?
- Dachung Bagos (Convener, Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum)
I am of the strong opinion that our lawmakers must shred the secrecy surrounding their salaries and allowances by making them public in order to dispel the mystery and misconceptions surrounding them.
Their allowances should be published in our national dailies to confirm the actual payments made to each member of the National Assembly. They should do so because they represent Nigerians, not themselves. It will not be a crime if these figures are published. It’s unfortunate that few days ago, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Abdullah Saba said on a live programme on Channels Television that the upper legislative chamber would not disclose the salaries and allowances of its members.
I want the Senate spokesman to know that they were elected by the electorate to represent them and as such, the masses have the right to know what their representatives earn as salaries and allowances.
Considering the fact that legislators are public servants, they should make their allowances public, except they have things to hide.
- Haber Whyte (A legal practitioner)
Legislators are public officials and thus, their allowances must be known to the public. They have been elected to carry out some portions of a government’s sovereign powers. Nigerian legislators are products of electoral processes. Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999, as amended) says that the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in the National Assembly of the federation, which shall consist of the Senate and House of Representatives. Sub-section 3 of the same law says that their power is to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation. The members of a legislature are called legislators. Legislatures vary widely in the amount of political power they wield. They are representatives of the people.
The above strictly shows that they perform public duties which are an integral part of governance. In essence, it means that they earn from public funds and as such, every citizen they represent deserves to know how much they take as allowances. Their coming into power was not a secret affair, so also their remunerations cannot be a secret. They are being paid from public coffers. It would be very unfair to Nigerians if their allowances are not made public. Making their allowances public is part of the ways to curb excesses and pick on legislators that have failed to apply funds for the purposes for which they are meant.
It is only through public declaration of allowances that Nigerians can know what is being earned as salary, cost of running offices, cost of management, constituency allowances and cost of legislative studies. This would give room for transparency and accountability.
Let us know how much our legislators are earning so that we can determine whether they are truly representing us or their pockets.
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