Nigerians have reacted angrily to reports that outgoing lawmakers in the National Assembly have allocated N23.7 billion as severance pay to themselves.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, had on Tuesday, while presenting the Appropriation committee’s report, said such package comes up only once in every four years.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that the National Assembly had jerked up the 2019 budget proposal by N90 billion before passing it to accommodate the N23.67 billion severance package and other matters.
The lawmakers had passed N8.916trn as the budget instead of the N8.826trn earlier proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, reacting to the huge severance package for the legislators, the president of United Labour Congress (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero described it as a huge looting of the nation’s treasury.
He told LEADERSHIP Sunday in a telephone interview that the political leaders in the country are just toying with the life of the electorate by making life difficult for the common people.
Ajaero stated that the N30, 000 monthly minimum wage is not enough to feed a common man, saying it comes to only $83 per month.
“If you look at what is being spent on monthly basis by our political office holders as bonuses and other expenses, we need to stand up for our right in the country, our political leaders have failed us,” he said.
He said that the retirement benefits for the political leaders is so huge and if something is not done to reduce it, “we are just deceiving ourselves in this country.”
Some lawyers in the country also joined in condemning the over N23 billion severance package the outgoing lawmakers allocated to themselves in the budget.
According to them, it is outrageous considering the level of poverty in the country.
An Abuja-based lawyer and founder, Egalitarian Mission Africa, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, said the figure is absolutely outrageous even though it may be within the law.
‘’The truth must said, I’m a lawyer and despite our condemnation, it is legal. We need to note that Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission is empowered by the Constitution to determine such allowances to be given to political office holders with regards to present realities.
‘’Thus, the payment of severance package to lawmakers is in accordance with the law. see OMOKOLO & ORS V. RMAFC & ORS [2017 CA]),
‘’However, considering the present realities, the payment of over N23.7 billion as severance package to lawmakers is not desirable and the law should be amended considering the GDP of the country,” Ajulo said.
Another lawyer, Barrister Hammeed Adi, shares Ajulo’s view. He said the law backing the payment of outrageous severance package was made out of selfishness.
‘’The resolution of the Senate concerning the payment of such outrageous severance package confirms the belief of many Nigerians that our leaders are selfish.
‘’If the decision of the Senate is not selfish and wicked, then I don’t know what it is. How can you tell me that in the midst of poverty and lack such insensitive action is not wickedness against the people? I disagree’’, he said.
Angela Wukeh, a lawyer also based in Abuja, said the country cannot progress unless the leaders get their priorities right.
She said for the Senate to allocate such huge amount to themselves shows “we are not ready for development in this country.
‘’Nigerian cannot make any progress with this kind of laws in place. A law that further enriches the already rich people in the country is anti-people. We cannot continue to further impoverish the poor to feed those who have already eaten and are satisfied,’’ Wukeh said.
Some other respondents wondered why even lawmakers re-elected to the 9th National Assembly should collect severance pay when they are still serving.
“If the few of them take all these billions, what is left for the rest of us?” one Sunday Mbam, an auto electrician asked.
“It is all these rapacious appetite of our so-called leaders that is driving many people to hopelessness and forcing them to take to crime to survive,” he added.
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