Members of the National Assembly on Wednesday said they welcomed the decision of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review downward the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly.
The House of Representatives said a pay cut would be a “relief” to lawmakers in many respects, including restoring the dignity of the legislature in the country.
It noted that it was “disgusting” to hear Nigerians call their legislators “looters” and “thieves” on account of the salaries and allowances worked out for them by an agency of the government empowered by law to do so.
The Chairman of RMAFC, Mr. Elias Mbam, had on Tuesday disclosed that a new pay package, reflecting cuts in the remuneration of public service officers would be released in September.
Mbam specifically mentioned the National Assembly as an arm of the public service that would be affected in the planned pay cut.
Mbam, who spoke with State House correspondents in Abuja soon after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said, “Presently, we are reviewing the subsisting remuneration package and it is going to reflect the socio-economic realities of today.
“We expect that before the end of next month, it will be ready.
“But, it will go through a process; it is not something that you will just say ‘yes or no.’
“It will go through a process and it should be obvious to you the economic realities of the day and it is going to reflect that.”
Answering a specific question on whether he thought senators and members of the House of Representatives would welcome the pay cut, he stated, “They (senators and Representatives) do not have a choice.
“We are guided by the 1999 Constitution and we are going to be guided by such laws that are provided for in the Constitution. They swore to obey the laws of the country.”
The House, which reacted through its Chairman, Ad hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Sani Zoro, claimed that members would be relieved if the new pay package came into effect.
Zoro observed that since 1999, Nigerians viewed legislators as people who did not deserve their pay or even “erroneously” believed that they fixed salaries for themselves.
“So, for us, it will be a relief if the pay is reduced. We will now have our integrity intact.
“We will feel confident to be called honourable, instead of feeling horrible as some people wish to address legislators,” he said.
Zoro also told The PUNCH that the pay cut would reduce the financial pressure lawmakers faced from their constituents and the general public, who held the “wrong impression” that they were very rich.
“This is good for us on another ground. There are those who see us as looters and thieves.
“This is a message to them to let us be; since we will no longer be paid the money they feel we do not deserve.
“Our burden will now become less and we are very pleased with this development,” Zoro added.
Zoro also told The PUNCH that it was a “cheering” decision by RMAFC, coming after the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, had set up a committee to assess the “needs” of the 8th House.
He explained that the committee, made up of civil society organisations and professionals in many fields, would cost the financial requirements for running the legislature.
At the moment, each member takes a monthly salary of around N900,000, excluding a quarterly allowance (running cost) of about N27.9m.
Senators take a slightly higher salary and quarterly allocation.
Lawmakers are currently observing a six-week annual recess to last till September 29.
Also, the Senate spokesperson, Dino Melaye, explained that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, first initiated moves to review downward, the total package accruable to legislators in the upper chamber immediately after the inauguration of the 8th Senate.