Jumbo Pay: Bankole Says NBA Position Is Misleading

Source: SAINT MUGAGA - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, August 25, (THEWILL) - Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole has challenged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) not to single out the National Assembly in its corruption crusade but look at other agencies of government too, saying the lawyers have failed to differentiate between ‘allowances and overhead’.

Bankole who spoke at a dinner organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja to mark the 50th birthday of its Secretary General, Comrade John Odah said he is ‘confused’ that the NBA chose to sue National Assembly over wages while overlooking glaring cases of corruption in the system.

The Speaker expressed shock that the NBA did not sue anybody when $13.5 billion was expended on power projects in the country without any electricity stressing that the NBA did not find it pertinent to ask questions when the contract for the Abuja Airport Runway was awarded at the cost of N65 billion.

Bankole explained that the allowances of lawmakers were not fixed by the National Assembly but by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) and wondered why the NBA decided to sue the National Assembly.

According to him, over N1 trillion of unspent funds are not returned to the federal government coffers annually yet the NBA has not found it necessary to sue those perpetrating the corruption to court.

"A week after I became Speaker of the House, we were told unspent funds were just N28bn which means there was about 90% performance of the budget. But we all know that in Nigeria, budgets do not perform more than 30%, so I insisted on knowing what happened to the rest 60%. Within six weeks we had N450billion as unspent funds. And we got to know that an average of between N800 million to N1tr does not get returned to the treasury every year and no one is suing.

"That was why I was a bit confused when the other day the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), took the National Assembly to court; its a shame that they cannot differentiate between allowance and overhead", Bankole stated.

"$13.5 billion dollars was spent on power without electricity yet the NBA didn’t go to court. Between N800 million and 1 trillion is not remitted to the treasury every year but nobody is going to court."

A radical Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana had sued the federal legislators at a Federal High Court claiming among others that they do not have the powers to increase their salaries and allowances and has requested the court to declare as unconstitutional the allowances provided for the members of the National Assembly in the Appropriation Act, 2010.

Falana has also asked the court to order the lawmakers to refund to the federal treasury all unauthorized salaries and allowances received by them since May 29, 2007.

Those joined as defendants in the suit are the Senate; the House of Representatives; the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC); the Attorney General of the Federation and the Accountant General of the Federation.

The lawyer has accused the National Assembly members of allocating to themselves allowances in contravention of the law. He said, "Since 2007 the members of the 1st and 2nd Defendants have allocated to themselves several billions of naira as allowances."

He averred that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world with a Senator earning N240 million ($1.7 million) while his House of Representative counterpart earned N204 million ($1.45 million) per annum.