The eighth Nigerian Senate has demonstrated measures of vibrancy in taking on national issues in law-making, passing resolutions and oversight functions. Despite majority members in the Senate being from the ruling government, APC, the Senate has demonstrated balance in its actions and pronouncements, in and outside the Senate chambers.
Of late, among other issues, the Senate has taken the issue of disclosure of members’ salaries most seriously and had opened up to the public, details of their earnings. It is believed, still, that the facts the Senate had made available to the public on members earnings were not far-reaching and convincing. More acceptable details are being demanded.
Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project, SERAP, and other Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, are leading further request to the Senate President Bukola Saraki to provide further detailed explanation to Nigerians on claims that a Senator “earns as much as N29 million monthly and over N3 billion a year”.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, through his Special Adviser on media, Bamikole Omishore, issued a statement in Abuja, Sunday, September 17, that a meeting has been planned by the Senate President to meet Civil Society Organizations to discuss what he described as “contentious” salaries of lawmakers.
The statement said Nigerian Senate President has agreed to host SERAP and other CSOs to a roundtable to “enlighten them and answer genuine questions regarding the matter”. Omishore added: “I will make contact with SERAP and other CSOs for a date convenient for all parties in the next few days”.
He said the Senate had released budget breakdown and pay-slips of lawmakers and was “surprised” that some Nigerians were not still clear on the matter. To meet the peoples yearning, the Senate President had to agree to a meeting to provide further details on lawmakers earnings.
His words: “The attention of the office of the president of the Senate has been drawn to demand for more details regarding the earnings of Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having released the breakdown of the National Assembly Budget, the most comprehensive in the history of Nigerian Senate, it seems the release of pay-slips of the National Assembly is yet to clarify earnings of Nigerian Senators”.
Budgets contents are, often, not the easiest interpretable documents by many. It takes professionals and technocrats to craft budget contents. Even the best breakdown of budget contents by ministers of government may not send the message in the budget clear to ordinary people who need clear information on government actions to base their judgment.
As such, it is necessary for Nigerian Senate to do more in providing clearer picture of the earnings of its members as being demanded by the public. The perception of Nigerians and international public is that the earnings of Nigerian lawmakers are mind-boggling.
This makes the issue of clarification of the “contentious” salaries of Nigerian lawmakers inevitable to the leadership of the Senate. The steps taken by Senate President Bukola Saraki are in the right direction. He further needs to be down-to-earth in his discussion, armed with incontrovertible facts on the earnings of lawmakers when he meets SERAP and CSOs on this subject. Mr. Senate President – lay the facts bare.