25% BUDGET : WE RE NOT THREATENED BY CRITICS COMMENTS â€“ SENATE
The Senate on Wednesday said it was not in anyway threatened by the opinions of some critics against the National Assembly as regards the controversy over the disclosure that 25 per cent of overheads of recurrent expenditure of the budget is allocated to the National Assembly. The allegation was made by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The upper legislative chamber, however, said it was concerned about the fact that people were being carried away by sentiments but not the facts of the matter. The Senate said while people were entitled to free speech as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution, they should not be carried away by emotions.
Spokesman of the Senate, Ayogu Eze who gave the position of the Senate during a press conference in Abuja said many of the people talking on the matter do not have the facts stressing that going by the argument of the CBN Governor, most of the people were of the opinion that the 25 per cent was the entire overhead of the recurrent.
Eze said the Minister of Finance who is the custodian of the nation's budget had explained that there was no way one could talk of overhead without taking into consideration service wide vote and memorandum items.
According to Eze; :'The CBN Governor agreed with us that the budget of the National Assembly is only 2.45 percent of the entire national budget and that is not a controvertible fact.
The issue in contention between us and him is that he has discounted some items of the overhead, such as service wide vote on memorandum item in his calculation and the Minister of Finance did say categorically that those items were part of the calculation when you calculate the overhead. 'We are satisfied that the Minister of Finance who was sitting with him and to whom the office of the Director of Budget reports, said that as far as he was concerned the calculation basing it on N536 billion was an erroneous calculation because he didn't take on board the other items such as service wide vote and memorandum items and in statistics, it depend on what you are calculating, percentage of what, because every institutions have their methods of calculation.'
'The day Sanusi came when the matter of the budget of CBN was put to him and he brought out the fact that Central Bank spent N303 billion out of which only N63 billion is for capital expenditure, which means over two hundred and something billion goes into overhead, nobody wrote it in the paper, everybody kept quiet as if that didn't happened here.'
Commenting on the emolument of the members of the National Assembly, Eze noted that Nigerians had mixed up what was used to run the office of a legislator and the emolument adding however that it was curious that people were only concerned and interested in knowing the salary and allowances of only legislators.
According to Senator Eze; 'Members of National Assembly they are not the only people who are earning salary and allowances and I think that the clamour should be that Nigerians from point A to point Z, should be interested in all political office holders' emoluments so that everything is put in the open.
'The National Assembly should not be singled out as a hunted people. We have no reason why we cannot come and display what our salaries are. We are answerable to the Nigerian people, we are ready to disclose, but let it not be selective. 'In 1999 an argument arose about furniture allowance in the National Assembly. The National Assembly members were getting between one point something and two million naira as their furniture allowance and Nigerians almost brought down the sky on top of the country, because they say the allowance was too much and at the same time some officers of the government were receiving about N36 million for the same furniture allowance and nobody say anything.'
'So if we want a thorough job, if we want to stamp out corruption, the National Assembly is prepared to release the army that will sanitize Nigeria and clean up corruption. And we have been saying it on the floor here let us not pretend and be selective, people who are even standing trial in EFCC for embezzling billions of the country's money will wake and start throwing stones, people who we know that have companies that are wrecking the state governments through the under hand deals, will stand up and start speaking, let this war be holistic, let it not be targeted at some under privilege individuals,' Senator Eze stressed.
The Senate Spokesman further said that the Senate is prepared for whatever policy projection that the Federal Government and Nigerians feel that the allowances that are paid to public officers are too high.
In the words of Senator Eze; 'Let everybody make a sacrifice, Nigerians should stop singling out the National Assembly, we are not the only branch of government in Nigeria, let us put the search light on all public officers, let us come to a decision about what we want to do about Nigeria. Let us not be selective and those who do not have moral high ground to throw stones are throwing stones, people who have cases of billions of naira embezzled from people's money standing trial are staying well on very unholy platform and throwing stones at us, let the crusade start now, we are ready to lead it.'
Senator Eze also lamented the delay in the presentation of the 2011 budget saying that it is surprising that even we are in the month of December, the National Assembly I yet to receive the budget proposal. 'Again when this budget process start and we try to do a thorough job to examine what the MDAs are going to spend the money on, I am sure Nigerians will come on us and start shouting, the National Assembly, the Senate, the House of Reps, but nobody is asking question why the budget has not come,' Senator Eze said.