- Category: Politics
- Published on Monday, 20 December 2010 00:18
- Written by Vanguard
- Hits: 1017
ABUJA—THE National Assembly, in an obvious bow to public anger, weekend, promised to cut its salaries and other perks of office for 2011, by over thirty percent.
This is even as the controversial jumbo packages being enjoyed by political office holders as well as the contentious concession granted to Bayelsa State to enjoy special derivation funds in the last two months may form the agenda at the first meeting of the newly appointed members of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, which comes up today.
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Rep. Muhammed Ndume, told Vanguard in an exclusive interview, that despite calls from the Executive on the Parliament to slash its perks, the Presidency’s appropriation estimate for next year’s recurrent, remained worrisomely high.
The recurrent (salaries/allowances) for 2011 as proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan is about N2.5 trillion, while the capital (infrastructure), is just about N1trillion.
Ndume said: “The National Assembly has decided to cut down on its overhead in the proposed budget; this is generally the budget of the National Assembly. The budget of National Assembly is 90 percent recurrent and about 10 percent capital, unlike other MDAs that are supposed to have more in terms of capital than recurrent. So, it is not the issue of apportioning blame but looking at figures and ways of improving it.
30% cut should be done overboard
“Right now the National Assembly has gone ahead to cut its overhead by 30 percent and what I am going to propose is that the 30 percent should be cut overboard and if this is done you will see what will happen. The budget and other money bills are basically instruments of the National Assembly, the institution reserves the legal freedom to slash and pad within the limits of law.”
The lawmaker, however, explained that the amount attributed to lawmakers as salaries was actually the accumulation of several subheads some of which go to office staff and for other services not directly beneficial to a lawmaker. He also sought a cut in remuneration for other arms of government, as he lamented that over 70 percent of the country’s annual budgets were spent on feeding public officers at all arms of government.
Ndume noted: “I have always said this and I will say it again. If you say our pay is relatively high, I will say it is true but it is not restricted to us the politicians – the President, the ministers and the judges receive high salaries and allowances.
But on the issue of recurrent, about 70 percent of the total and the country’s budget go on overhead and the recurrent is expended on less than five percent of the total population of this country – that is the executive, legislature and the judiciary. This is not fair and is not good for a country that is supposed to be developing.”
Ndume added: “A country cannot develop on a budget where the recurrent is higher than the capital expenditure. This is not restricted to the legislature because even now the recurrent stands at about N2.5 trillion in the new budget and the proposed capital expenditure is only N1 trillion. So, if you look at that there is no balance.”
He, however, maintained that the figure of the CBN regarding the recurrent of the National Assembly was inaccurate and capable of pulling down the National Assembly, which is the true democratic institution among arms of government.
The legislator noted: “On the issue of CBN, when I chaired the interactive session with the governor, we could not get the clarification we asked from him. We are concerned about the use of figures to arrive at the percentage.
He said he used the medium term development framework that was given to him by the Budget Office, but that is not an Appropriation Act. If you take the figures in the Appropriation Act and add up, you will get N1.383 trillion and if you take the National Assembly overhead, which is N135 billion or thereabout and you divide that, you will get a figure that is less than 10 percent.
CBN gov’s calculation wrong
“But when the CBN governor came out with N814 billion and if you still take that and divide by the National Assembly’s figure of N135 billion, you will still get less than 25 percent. But if you chose as he did, to use the figure in the medium and long term framework of N536 billion (which is the proposed) then you will get a figure of more than 25 percent. But when you are working a percentage, you do not use proposed figure; you use actual figure against actual figure.
“If he had used N536 billion and the estimated figure, he would have got a different percentage entirely. This I think is just a distraction because the institution of the legislature is the only symbol of democracy and if there is a high cost of running it, what he should have done is to propose a way of cutting it down. Or are they asking for the demolition of the democratic structure-that is the legislative arm of government.”
The lawmaker regretted that the bulk of the 2011 budget which is wage-based is proposed for borrowing, and that a 30 percent cut across board, would affect the minimum wage plan and trigger inflation in the economy.
He added: “Labour is demanding N18, 000 minimum wage and if you cut overhead, they will not be able to pay.
By the time supplementary budget was brought to us to fund, when the universities went on strike, they had to bring a supplementary budget of over N505 billion and you can see what will happen when the new salary structure is being implemented. And what is of great concern to me is that this money is going to be borrowed. So, it will increase domestic borrowing and that will lead to inflation.”
Meanwhile the Economic Confidential, the online intelligence journal has noted that while the Presidency was not responsible for the jumbo remuneration package, it (the Presidency) was concerned that President Goodluck Jonathan might have been misled into approving the special derivation funds that had been allocated to Bayelsa in the last two months.
Public officers’ remuneration
The RMAFC is constitutionally empowered to determine the remuneration packages of public officers as well as revenue allocation to all tiers of government including indices for the disbursement to each state and local councils in the country.
The tenure of the new Commission which is chaired by Engr. Elias Mbam commenced on December 1, 2010 after passing the screening by the Senate on November 22, 2010.
Because of the controversy and agitations from other states, the newly appointed board may deliberate on the presidential concession granted to Bayelsa which made the state to earn derivation fund from oil wells lying beyond the 200_metre isobaths, an action that is in breach of the Offshore/Onshore Dichotomy Abrogation Act 2004 in the application of the 13 percent derivation principle.
The concession has made the state to receive extra derivation revenue for nine juicy offshore fields that are beyond the 200_metre isobaths in the last two months.
Vanguard gathered that the recommendation to the President for the special concession was made by some agencies of government which include the National Boundary Commission, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission after the exit of Engr. Hamman Tukur as Chairman of RMAFC.
Following the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan on August 31, Bayelsa State is now leading oil producer and highest recipient of derivation funds among the oil producing states. Based on the new indices, Bayelsa State received N10.37bn at the meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee in November 2010, followed by Rivers N8.6bn, Akwa Ibom N8.3bn and Delta N7.2bn. Other recipients from derivation funds include Ondo N1.3bn, Abia N443bn, Imo N412m, Edo N300m and Cross River N287m.