• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘No plan to probe National Assembly’s account’

NASS-building

The Presidency says it has not initiated any investigation into the National Assembly’s account, as public outcry mounted over the reduction in the high cost of governance at all levels.

Shehu Garba, senior special assistant to the President on media and publicity, told BusinessDay on an enquiry of a report that the Presidency had initiated an investigation into the accounts of the National Assembly.

“I am not aware of that. However, the National Assembly is not answerable to the executive,” Garba said.

Concerned Nigerians recently expressed concerns over the N13 billion allegedly spent on allowances and salaries of the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives barely two months into the eighth Assembly.

They also called for the disclosure of actual monthly salaries and quarterly allowances as well as contracts being awarded by the National Assembly bureaucracy.

They further called for part-time legislature, on the premise that the services of the lawmakers did not commensurate with the N600 billion spent for a four-year legislative tenure.

Earlier reports gathered showed that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) revealed that the Clerk of the House Committee on House Services was quizzed about three years ago over a petition on the award of some contracts.

When contacted on whether or not there was an ongoing investigation of the legislature, one of the ICPC management team noted that the Commission was at liberty to beam its searchlight on any public institutions in line with its statutory mandate.

“We do conduct investigations based on petitions from anyone who have information from any of the institutions. We call them whistleblowers. But for now, there’s no investigation that I know on the National Assembly,” according to the ICPC official.

When asked whether there was any petition against the seventh Assembly under Senator David Mark and Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who is presently the Governor of Sokoto State, the ICPC official said that, “there was none that I can recall.”

He explained that the commission do ‘painstakingly’ conduct thorough investigation into any corruption related practices, such as the 407 Peugeot contract scandal and Power probe that rocked the sixth House of Representatives.

Bobboi Kaigama, president, Trade Union Congress (TUC), who chided the failure of the National Assembly from approving living wage for Nigerian workers, argued that the rising cost of governance contributed to the lingering economic crises.

“Furthermore, considering the nation’s present socio-economic realities, it is totally indefensible for senators and members of the House of Representatives to be paid as much as N2 million and N1.8 million, respectively, as basic salary every month.

“Where then lies any justification for their claims to being contributors to the growth of a nation where unemployment and other social vices are the order of the day?

“The enormous cost of governance contributes immensely to the economic crises rocking the Nigerian boat. How is this huge amount justifiable in the light of the current financial dilemma the nation is overwhelmed with?

“What do the legislators who often turn down proposals for wage increase for the workers do to deserve these mind-blowing sums of money? We think it is high time Nigerians take their destiny in their hands and stand firm against these injustices and inequality,” Kaigama said in a statement obtained by BusinessDay.

KEHINDE AKINTOLA & ELIZABETH ARCHIBONG