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National Assembly broke, borrows to pay workers

By Alifa Daniel, Segun Olaniyi and Otei Oham (Abuja)
18 October 2016   |   4:36 am
Cash-strapped National Assembly has resorted to bank facilities to pay its staff their monthly salaries and allowances.
National Assembly

National Assembly

Cash-strapped National Assembly has resorted to bank facilities to pay its staff their monthly salaries and allowances.But the facilities do not include the controversial running cost paid to lawmakers, as well as the salaries and allowances for their aides.

About N4.5 billion is spent on the running cost of lawmakers in the two houses of the National Assembly. The sum of N13.5 million is paid to each senator while a member of the House of Representatives gets a little above half of this. The balance is paid out to legislative aides. In anger last week, legislative aides rose in protest against the non-payment of their salaries and allowances.

Several sources yesterday confirmed the resort to bank overdrafts to pay salaries of “strictly National Assembly staff,” but the Director of Information to the National Assembly, Mr. Ishaku Adamu Dibal, said he was not aware of the development that had happened at least twice in the past. It was gathered that August and September salaries were paid through overdrafts.

“What do you expect him to say, that the second arm of government has gone so broke, they now take loans to pay staff salaries?” another official asked, adding, however that the National Assembly had been prompt in returning the loans whenever money is remitted to the Assembly’s account by the Federal Government.

Last week, several legislative aides in the National Assembly clustered around the entrance of the complex, protesting against the delay in payments of their allowances by the management.

They are believed to be owed nearly N1.5 billion in allowances.Carrying green-white-green Nigerian flag and placards and expressing their grievances, the protesters, who were at the gate as early as 9:00a.m. last week Wednesday called on the management to settle all their outstanding allowances or face rebellion from them.

It was not clear what they planned to do if what they were being owed was not quickly paid them. They said that they were already compiling a formal complaint to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Omolori.

“The reason we are doing the letter late is due to the crisis rocking our leadership- National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF). Two groups are currently contesting the control of the association,” said one of the aides, who preferred not to be named.

He explained that the assembly management was specifically owing the aides Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) for the first three quarters of this year, plus the last quarter of the last assembly.

Most Senior Legislative Aides (SLA) in the two chambers are yet to receive their 28 days allowance, usually given them in their first month in the service to cover transportation, documentation and processing of relevant documents, according to the source. He said the commission fixed N250,000 as the allowance for each of the 2,345 aides in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Another aide, who also participated in the protest, Taiwo Olaniyan, expressed regret that the issue was being shrouded in secrecy, noting that each time NASSLAF approached management on the matter, they would always be told that the allowances had been released accordingly for payments.

In his reaction, the National Assembly Director of Information and Publications, Ishaku Adamu Dibal said the delay in the payments of the allowances was unfortunate and attributed it to what he described as the epileptic flow of funds to the legislature.

“It’s a major factor and it’s affecting every aspect of the economy. Therefore, it calls for patience on the part of every Nigerian. There is currently a shortfall in the funding of the National Assembly to the tune of between N400 and N500 million, and it’s most worrying now that the funding is coming monthly and no longer quarterly,” Dibal said.