Pay them their dues – The Nation

  • Legislative aides who barricaded the National Assembly complex deserve their pay

Injustice has always fuelled protests and, sometimes, led to conflagration. Hungry aides to federal lawmakers have been calling attention to failure of the National Assembly to pay them allowances due them since 2015. They complain that, while the legislators are paid huge allowances, including a N13.5 million controversial running cost, constituency office, hazard, furniture, newspapers, recess, among others, the Duty Tour Allowance of their aides have been left unpaid.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new as, between 2001 and 2003, the aides complained about the cheating lawmakers who deprived them of their dues. Then, their emoluments were paid to the lawmakers who engaged them, but who turn round to hand them only a fraction. It was in response to that that the aides won the recognition battle that allowed them to be on the payroll of the National Assembly Service Commission.

Every worker is deserving of his wage, as such, these aides should be paid ascertained salaries and allowances. We find the recourse to the huge amount the more than 1,300 aides draw as cheap blackmail. While it’s true that the N5.8 billion may be heavy, it pales into insignificance, compared with the unconstitutional allowances that the 109 Senators and 360 House of Representatives members have unilaterally awarded themselves.

We call on the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to immediately intervene in the matter. The veil on the cost of running the National Assembly and maintaining each lawmaker that was partially lifted with Senator ShehuSani’s disclosure should be officially addressed by the appropriate bodies. There should be nothing secret or confidential about public finance. In the same way that the Auditor General of the Federation is constitutionally mandated to lay reports of public agencies before the Public Accounts Committees of the two chambers of the National Assembly, audit of the account of the Assembly should be made public in demonstration of the principle that all public officials are ultimately responsible to the people.

We are also concerned that funds for running the legislature are reportedly tied down by the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Finance. This makes mockery of the principle of Separation of Powers and financial independence of the legislature. Almost two decades after return to civil rule, time hallowed values that keep the system running are still being violently breached.

As we move towards 2019 and inauguration of another epoch, these aberrations should be corrected. President MuhammaduBuhari, in his capacity as father of the nation, should direct officials of the relevant executive branch of government to liaise with leaders of the National Assembly to correct the ills. As the government claims to be making all efforts to reduce poverty in the land through various social intervention schemes, and has regularly reached out with bailout to enable states pay backlog of salaries owed their workers, those working directly or indirectly for the federal government should not be denied their wages. Some of the aides left the mainstream civil service to deploy their skills in the legislative sector, some are so senior that they are on Salary Grade Level 17. This category of staff should not be treated shabbily as they have access to confidential information and documents, a breach of which could compromise national security.

Nigeria is not a banana republic where anything goes. Public servants are not beggars; they are entitled to their wages as a matter of right. We therefore urge that all outstanding allowances of the legislative aides should be paid even as those of the other workers in the public service are being addressed.

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