- Category: Politics
- Published on Monday, 31 May 2010 03:54
- Written by Next
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Tomorrow, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole, and his deputy, Usman Nafada may face their toughest battle yet, as members of the House square up to press for a raise in their quarterly allowances.
The angry lawmakers will also be insisting that Mr Bankole and members of his team explain how the closed-door discussion they held on the matter, three weeks ago, was leaked to the media.
Members said the reports gave the impression that lawmakers were insensitive to the economic situation of the country, and portrayed Mr. Bankole as a prudent leader. Mr. Bankole was away at the last sitting when the matter came up for discussion but will be in charge of the proceedings tomorrow.
Last week, the papers were awash with reports that the representatives want the entire capital budget of the House converted into additional allowances for them, thus raising their quarterly take from N27.2 million each to N42 million. If the Speaker accedes to this request, the total amount for allowances will come to N15.1 billion.
Who is the leak?
At the resumption of the plenary session last Tuesday, a member, Independence Ogunewe demanded for an executive session to discuss the source of the publications, but Mr Nafada disagreed and urged him to make his complaint openly or see him in the office. At the executive session which was subsequently convened, aggrieved members accused the leadership of leaking the discussion on the allowances to the media. Mr Nafada was said to have pleaded for understanding until the Speaker returned.
NEXT source, who refused to be named said at the weekend that the lawmakers will still demand that the leadership accounts for the leak of a meeting held behind closed doors which ended with everyone agreeing not to speak of it to the media.
It was gathered that members will request for another executive session this week to discuss the matter as part of the pressure on the Speaker to bow to their request. However, the aggrieved members are being careful to avoid unnecessary antagonism as they pressure the Speaker to yield to their demand.
“This matter has not actually ended as you people are suggesting, because I am aware that some of our colleagues are still warming up for another executive session to discuss it,” the source said. “You know that Bankole was not present at our executive session on Tuesday (last week) and so he has not been confronted directly. We will still bring up this matter. Our demand for increase in allowances is justified.”
Part of the grouse of the lawmakers is that ministers, who did not win elections, are allegedly collecting allowances close to N80 million quarterly. It was learnt that the same reason informed the demand by senators to have their allowances increased to between N50 million and N100 million quarterly.
Our source said as part of the move to make the Speaker bow to their wishes, the lawmakers are planning to dig up sundry issues, including the decision of the leadership to purchase certain items which were neither necessary nor purchased at the right price. It was learnt that members are not happy that items such as foot mats, torches, and palm tops were bought at exorbitant prices when more critical items remain in bad shape.
But Mr Bankole however appears unmoved by this resort to subtle blackmail. Although he was said to have apologised over the media reports, insisting that he did not instigate them, he was reluctant to approve the new allowances because the move may backfire someday.
The Speaker is said to be afraid that he will somehow be made to account for such an illegal action, and a mischievous member may even drag him to the anti-graft agency over the matter once there is a crisis in the House.
The House spokesperson, Eseme Eyiboh and the Speaker’s media aide, Musa Ebomhiana could not be immediately reached for comment. When contacted, Idowu Bakare, the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, merely said, “I thought the matter is over,” and refused to speak further.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission is the only body empowered by law to fix allowances for the lawmakers. Mr Bankole is apparently not willing to play into the hands of the lawmakers as he allegedly did on the N2.3 billion car purchase in 2008, which was later used against him by some members.
On the orders of late President Umaru Yar’Adua in February last year, the revenue commission reviewed downwards, the salaries and allowances of the legislators, alongside those of other political office holders.
Mr Yar’Adua predicated his order on the global meltdown and unprecedented economic crisis. The commission had only cut down the allowances of the lawmakers, leaving their salaries intact.