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Nigerian Senators Express Anger Over N2 Million Christmas Allowance

What could you’re doing with a Christmas bonus of N2 million? The response is quicker if you are a Nigerian senator: not much.

In fact, some senators have described the quantity — which is merely a fraction of a daily stream of advantages accrued to them — as “a mere drop” within the vast ocean of their Yuletide expenses. Others threatened to cause the Senate leadership “some headache” upon resumption from their Christmas-New Year recess later this month.

“It wasn’t enough to satisfy our Christmas needs,” one senator said. “In fact, a number of us are already coming together to formally complain to our president.”

The lawmakers received the N2 million on December 18 from the Senate overhead and operations account, consistent with bank transaction alerts of two senators seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

The purpose of the transaction wasn’t attached to the payments, but lawmakers had been told a couple of days earlier to expect the funds as their Christmas allowances, consistent with three senators who briefed PREMIUM TIMES thereon . The senators spoke under anonymity as of the time they interacted with PREMIUM TIMES to avoid a possible backlash from their colleagues, but one among them said they’ll eventually go public with their complaints if their anger boils over.

“They said we should always use the cash to require care of our families and constituents,”one senator said. “I was just standing there without knowing what to mention for several minutes.”

The senator decried “the failure” of Senate President Ahmed Lawan to know the size of responsibility that sometimes confronts them whenever they visit their constituency.

“There are many government areas under my district,” the senator said. “How do I tell them that I only came back home with N2 million?”

“Even once I am travelling for an occasion or simply to go to my constituency, I usually hold a minimum of N50 million,” the senator added.

Another senator said lawmakers usually received far larger amount in Christmas allowances, wondering why the present assembly that has maintained a cordial relationship with the chief now finds itself receiving much less.

“We are struggling in poverty since we came on board months ago,” the senator said. “I asked my distinguished colleagues why we’ve to be the one suffering the excesses of past assemblies.”

“We have given this administration every support and other people on social media are angry and calling us a rubber stamp Senate,” the senator said.

“We have started gathering ourselves and that we will make our position known to the leadership,” the senator said. “Otherwise, we might not have a choice left but to publicly call out the leadership and provides them some headache once we resume plenary.”

Two former senators who served in seventh and eight assemblies told PREMIUM TIMES they received Christmas allowances overflow N2 million, but couldn’t recall the specifics.

“We received allowances for Christmas and Sallah holidays during our time within the Seventh Assembly,” a former senator from Ogun State said. “I am struggling to recollect what proportion we received then, but i’m very sure all was much more than N2 million.”

The second former senator confirmed that he received quite N2 million in Christmas bonus, but warned that members of the present assembly should consider their activities instead of complaining over payment.

“The N2 million may look small,” the senator said. “But i will be able to advise them to recollect the many Nigerians who cannot even earn a fraction of that quantity throughout the year.”

The former senators insisted on speaking off the background to avoid offending their serving senators, many of whom they identified as friends and political associates.

Trust issues

While the senators were unable to categorically say what proportion they ought to have gotten as Christmas bonus, they expressed deep suspicion that the share of every member of the 109 body was quite N2 million.

“I are struggling to reconcile the quantity we received as National Assembly budget with the small-small stipends we’ve been getting from the leadership,”one senator said. “Unlike the Senate President, we aren’t entitled to several official benefits like private jets and free fuel for our vehicles.”

The National Assembly received N125 billion in 2019. Although down considerably from the N140 billion it received the previous year, many Nigerians were still highly critical of government’s priority during a llocating such a huge amount to 469 people in a population hovering around 200 million. About 90 million Nigerians still languish in abject poverty, per official estimates.

Their appropriated budget aside, lawmakers also are seen because the primary beneficiaries of the so-called constituency intervention projects whose allocation usually suppasses N100 billion per annum . Although the projects are implemented by federal agencies, lawmakers are often accorded sufficient deference in choosing contractors.

The opaque atmosphere under which contractors are nominated for constituency projectects allows lawmakers to push their own fronts who would then channel an outsized chunk of released project funds back to them — all done under the radar with little or difficult-to-prove written record .

But the lawmakers who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES about the N2 million Christmas bonus said the Nigerian parliament had seen better days.

“Senators within the past left office as billionaires,” one senator said. “But things are not any longer the way they wont to be.”

Another senator said the growing awareness of their expenses by everyday Nigerians and civic groups has made it difficult to spend with none sense of accountability.

“It is becoming more and harder by every passing assembly,” the senator said.“I predict fewer people would have an interest during this office within the next few years.”

As of 2018, senators were drawing N13.5 million per month in controversial running cost, amongst a slew of other consistent allowances known and unknown to the general public .

‘Shameful sense of entitlement’

Ola Awoniyi, a spokesperson for the Senate President, told PREMIUM TIMES he wasn’t conscious of the complaints and will not immediately speak on whether or not his principal was aware either. Godiya Akwashiki, the chief spokesperson for the Senate, didn’t return calls and messages seeking comments about the grumbling senators.

While requesting for extra pay might not be inherently objectionable under labour principles, the way with which the senators are going about their complaints could cast them as shamefully entitled, a political analyst said.

“It strikes me as a shameful sense of entitlement for senators to be complaining of receiving N2 million at a time of economic woes for the country,” Tola Adekoya, a former university lecturer, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Adekoya said it had been provocative that senators would be complaining about N2 million when a huge majority of the population could barely feed.

“This are some things that you simply hear and your brain would respond love it was hit with a hammer,” he said. “Do they need any idea what percentage Nigerians cannot even feed themselves for once per day?”

“They are out of touch,” he said. “Let us hope they desist from disrupting the activities of the Senate due to their selfish interest.”

Yet, Mr Adekoya said the Senate leadership should check out the complaints of the lawmakers so as to avoid undue drama that would hamper the progress of critical national assignments.

“They were elected to figure for our collective interest,” the analyst said.“Efforts should be made to minimise complaints that they might use to sabotage the larger interest of Nigerians.”


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