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NASS Funding: Senate Unhappy Over Alleged Smear Campaign

Source: EMMA UCHE - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, Dec 08, (THEWILL) - The Senate today raised alarm over a seeming organized smear campaign to discredit the institution over allegations that are according to it totally untrue.

It also hit back at national negative debate over alleged huge salaries and allowances being earned by members of the National Assembly saying that it is unfortunate that the public has kept a blind eye over what the members of the executive earn.

Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze told a press conference that though members of the National Assembly are not disturbed by the backlash argued that the National Assembly should not be singled out for public derision.

He noted that in the haste to blindly condemn the National Assembly, “even people who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for wrecking their states have joined in casting aspersion on the National Assembly.”

According to him, most people who have been commenting on the salaries and allowances of the legislators “have mixed up what is used to run the office of the Senator with the salary or entitlement of the Senator or members of the National Assembly.

"Why is it that everybody is interested in knowing the salary and allowances of only members of National Assembly, they are not the only people who are earning salary and allowances? Let us put everything in the open. We are working for Nigerian people. If we are not singled out the way we are as a hunted people, we have no reason why we cannot come and display what our salaries are.

"We are answerable to Nigerian people, we are ready to disclose, but let it not be selective. In 1999, an argument arose about furniture allowance for members of the National Assembly. Investigation revealed that the National Assembly members were getting between N1.2 and N2million 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 there were officers of the government that were receiving about N36 million for the same furniture allowance and nobody said anything.

"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. 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 up 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 privileged individuals.

" If the decision of Nigerians is that the allowances that are paid to public officers are too high, we in the Senate are prepared for whatever policy projection that federal government is coming up with, let us cut across board, 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," he said.

Senator Ayogu Eze said that despite the outrage from Nigerians about the salaries and allowances of federal legislators, “We don't feel threatened because the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, people are entitle to hold their views and more importantly when they hold such views about their representatives.”

On the insistence by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria that the National Assembly spends 25% of the national budget, Senator Eze said those who believe his figures are doing so from “the point of emotion because a lot of them don't have the facts and even if you take the argument, the argument of the CBN Governor is that 25 percent of the overhead of the nation goes to the National Assembly, he his talking about overhead, but a lot of people think he is talking about the entire budget.

"He agreed with us that the budget of the National Assembly is only 2.45 percent of the entire national budget 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 are part of the calculation when you calculate the overhead, service wide vote and memorandum item," he said.