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WAR OVER JUMBO PAY

By NBF News

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sued the Federal Government and the National Assembly over undue salaries and allowances of its principal officers and members.

Joined in the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja include the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Clerk of the National Assembly and Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

Others joined in the suit are Minister of Finance, Accountant General of the Federation and Attorney General of the Federation.

In the suit, the NBA is seeking the court to declare that it is only the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission that is constitutionally and statutorily empowered to determine the salaries and allowances to be received by principal officers and other members of the National Assembly.

The apex body for lawyers also asked the court to declare that they are not entitled to receive more than the salaries and allowances determined by the revenue commission during their tenure.

It urged the court to declare that it is unconstitutional and illegal for the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly to fix, increase, determine any salaries or allowances including constituency allowance or any other by whatever name called or defined, outside that determined by the revenue commission.

Part of the plea by the NBA is for the court to declare that by the combined effect of Sections 1(1), 13 and 16(2) of the Constitution, the defendants are, in the discharge of their functions, under a duty to conform to, observe and apply the provisions and direct their policies towards promoting the common good, provision of employment and reasonable national minimum wage and ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth in the hands of few individuals or a group.

The NBA asked for a declaration that the payment by the Senate President, Speaker and other members of the National Assembly to themselves, of quarterly constituency allowances of N45 million naira for each member of the Senate and N27.5 million naira for each member of the House of Representatives constitutes a breach of the duty imposed on the defendants by Sections 13 and 16(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

It also asked the court to declare that under and by virtue of the provisions of Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the 1st and 2nd defendants and other members of the 3rd defendants have no right or power to alter the annual budget estimates prepared and laid before each chamber of the National Assembly either by reducing or increasing a head of expenditure or by adding a new item or head of expenditure into the budget estimate thus altering the character of the budget from the one prepared and laid before each House by the President.

The NBA asked that interference by the National Assembly with or any alteration of any entry or the insertion of any new item in the annual budget estimate prepared and laid before it by the President amounts to an unconstitutional interference with the Executive Organ of the Federation contrary to the clear provisions of Sections 4 and 5 of the 1999 Constitution.

Part of the plea of the plaintiff is also for an order restraining the Minister of Finance and Accountant General of the Federation from paying, releasing or making available to principal officers and other members of the National Assembly any salaries and allowances or any other payment by whatever name called, in excess of the amount determined by the revenue commission.

The NBA is also seeking an injunction restraining the Senate President, Speaker and other members of the National Assembly from further tampering with the contents of the annual budget estimate with a view to altering any of the items therein, removing any item therefrom or inserting a new item therein or in any other manner altering the character of the budget estimate from that prepared and laid before each chamber by the President.

In the originating summons, the NBA is asking the court to determine whether on a proper construction of Section 70, paragraph 32(d) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 6(1) of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act, Cap. R7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, it is only the revenue commission that is vested with power to determine the salaries and allowances to be received by the Senate President, Speaker and other members of the National Assembly.

The NBA is also seeking to determine whether the Senate President, Speaker and other members of the National Assembly are entitled to receive during their tenure more than the salaries and allowances determined by the revenue commission.