The economic down turn being experienced in the country has hit the National Assembly with attendant cash crunch which has resulted into non payment of August salary of the 469 federal lawmakers as at today, September 17, 2015.
The cash crunch as disclosed by one of the senators, is also largely responsible for crippling of oversight activities of already set up committees across the two chambers according to Leadership Newspapers
Making reference to the cash crunch being experienced in the National Assembly two days ago, a member of the Senate’s Ad- hoc committee on power, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa ( PDP Abia North), in an interview with journalists on the activities of the committee, disclosed that the much expected public hearing on power sector cannot hold for now due to non availability of funds to run it.
He said the cash crunch has no doubt prevented them as lawmakers over the months from carrying out their legislative functions effectively saying ” we cannot carry out our functions effectively because there is no money in the system”.
He, however, added that the problem of funding being faced by the National Assembly presently may perhaps be due to the expensiveness of bi- cameral legislature and Infact, presidential system of government , the country is running.
His words: ” Part of the problems we are facing now, is the problem of funding. I want to tell you outright because he who wears the shoe , knows where it pinches, our major problem now, is funding.
“There is no money in the system. Isolate the running of the parliament from parliamentarians . Isolate the cost of running of parliament from the parliamentarians in it. Running the parliament is expensive, presidential system of government in particular with bi- cameral legislature is an expensive part of democracy , so you can’t eat your cake and have it.
“So, now people keep saying how much is the budget of the parliament , amount of salaries of the lawmakers etcetera , forgetting that there are several sub- heads in the parliament . Infact, now, we cannot do our job effectively . We cannot do our functions effectively because there is no money.
“For example, we supposed to start the public hearing on the power sector on the 11th of this month, but we couldn’t because of lack of money. The idea was to have stakeholders meeting , the just ended interactive session for 2, 3 days from 8- 10 September , then 11th, we start the public hearing which supposed to end on the 15th day of September, 2015, but unfortunately we cannot do that because there is no money in the system to run the committee and perform our functions effectively.
“So what we have decided for now is to mellow down a bit till when the senate resumes for plenary sessions and see how we can raise money but before then, we believe money must have been released into the system.
“Infact , as it is today(Wednesday ), we have not collected our August Salary as federal lawmakers and by extension, the entire legislative staff of the federal lawmakers .
“Look at me here , I’ve not had August salary and this is 16th of September, 2015, but we don’t cry because we represent the people but that is the truth, am not telling you day by moonlight story, am telling you what is actually on ground”.
Apparently feeling the financial insolvency rocking the National Assembly more, are the 2,500 legislative aides of senators and members of the House of Representatives who are yet to be paid a single month salary since June this year when their various principals employed them , many of whom are even yet to get their severance gratuity after serving in the 7th National Assembly.
A disturbing situation that made them to make a mild protest at the central lobby of the National Assembly two weeks back over the N7billion worth allowances.
The unpaid allowances according to some of the legislative aides who spoke on condition of anonymity covers both severance gratuity and duty tour allowances which ranges from N1.5 to N3m per aide depending on grade levels and steps.
They alleged that based on information at their disposal, the N7billion meant for the payment had been released to management of the National Assembly by the Federal Ministry of Finance last month without any sign of readiness for payment from them.
“Our protest is all about prolonged delay we are experiencing in the payment of our severance allowances by the management of National Assembly, even weeks after payment of similar allowances to all the 469 federal legislators who served in the 7th Assembly.
“We believe that the protest, though aborted, has sent the needed message to them that we are ready for showdown with them any time from now if we are not paid the money in this month of September”, they said.
But in an internal circular later issued from the office of the Director, Personal Management of the National Assembly, the management said the money was not yet released from the Ministry of Finance as claimed by the aggrieved aides.
The Acting Director, M. A Abubakar, who issued the circular on behalf of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, said: ” I am directed to inform all Legislative Aides to exercise more patience regarding their payment of severance gratuity and duty tour allowances as the management is making assiduous efforts to get the monies released from the ministry of finance.
“I also urge you to maintain the existing good working relationship between National Assembly Management and the Legislative Aides for an enduring welfare of the legislative aides. I wish to assure you that as soon as the monies are released, payment will commence without delay as all preparations have been concluded”.