Representatives from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, will on Thursday visit the National Assembly to meet with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to discuss issues relating to details of annual salaries and allowances of lawmakers.
"We are pleased to accept the invitation from the Senate President to visit the National Assembly to discuss matters of public interest following SERAP"s letter to Saraki to disclose details of salaries and allowances of members of the Senate," said Timothy Adewale, SERAP deputy director. "We will use the opportunity of the face-to-face meeting to ask pertinent questions and seek detailed information and clarifications on the exact salaries and allowances that each senator receives monthly or yearly."
Mr. Adewale said that the Office of the Senate President contacted SERAP on Tuesday to set up a meeting for Thursday. The meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the National Assembly Complex follows SERAP's request to Mr. Saraki to "urgently explain to Nigerians if it is true that a Nigerian Senator gets N29 million in monthly pay, and over N3 billion a year."
Bamikole Omishore, the Special Adviser to Saraki on New Media, had said on Sunday in Abuja that he would contact SERAP and other CSOs for a meeting to give more details on the yearly earnings of senators.
Mr. Omishore said, "The attention of the office of the President of the Senate has been drawn to demand for more details regarding the earnings of senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having released the breakdown of the National Assembly budget, the most comprehensive in the history of Nigerian Senate, it seems the release of pay slips is yet to clarify earnings of Nigerian senators.
"The Senate President has agreed to a roundtable with SERAP and other CSOs to enlighten them and answer genuine questions regarding the matter. I will make contact with SERAP and other CSOs for a date convenient for all parties in the next few days."
It would be recalled that Itse Sagay, Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), had alleged that a Nigerian Senator gets N29 million in monthly pay. But the Senate has so far refused to clarify this or disclose the details of salaries and allowances of its members.
Subsequently, SERAP wrote Mr. Saraki stating that, "The 'sky will not fall' if details of a Nigerian Senator's salaries and allowances are published on a dedicated website. SERAP believes that releasing the information on salaries and allowances of members of the Senate would encourage a nuanced, evidence-based public debate on what would or should be a fair salary for a member of the Senate."
The organisation said that, "It is by making transparency a guiding principle of the National Assembly that the Senate can regain the support of their constituents and public trust, and contribute to ending the country's damaging reputation for corruption."
The statement read in part: "Transparency is a fundamental attribute of democracy, a norm of human rights, a tool to promote political and economic prosperity and to curb corruption. For the Senate, practising transparency should start with the leadership being open to Nigerians on the salaries and allowances of members."
"SERAP strongly believes that it is by knowing exactly how much their lawmakers earn as salaries and allowances that members of the National Assembly can remain accountable to Nigerians and our citizens can be assured that neither fraud nor government waste is concealed."
"If the Senate under your leadership is committed to serving the public interest, it should reaffirm its commitment to openness by urgently publishing details of salaries and allowances of members. But when the Senate leadership routinely denies access to information on matters as basic as salaries and allowances of our lawmakers because some exceptions or other privileges override a constitutional and statutory disclosure requirement, open government would seem more like a distant, deferred ideal than an existing practice."
"The continuing refusal by the Senate to reveal concrete information about the salaries and allowances of their leadership and members could ultimately endanger the healthy development of a rule-of-law state."
"SERAP is concerned that the Senate seems to consider releasing concrete information about salaries and allowances of members to be at best a burden and, at worst, a threat to their legislative functions. Releasing information on your salaries and allowances would not interfere with your law-making functions. In fact, doing so would improve public confidence in the ability and legitimacy of the Senate to perform those functions and make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation."
"By permitting access to information on your members' salaries and allowances long shielded unnecessarily from public view, the Senate would be moving towards securing the confidence of Nigerians in the legislature. The Senate would also be establishing a more solid political base from which to perform its legislative duties and to fulfill its role in the balance of power within the Nigerian constitutional order."
"Transparency is necessary for accountability, and helps to promote impartiality by suppressing self-interested official behavior. It also enables the free flow of information among public agencies and private individuals, allowing input, review, and criticism of government action, and thereby increases the quality of governance."
The details of the salaries and allowances as provided by Mr. Sagay, a professor, are as follows: basic salary N2,484,245.50; hardship allowance, 1,242, 122.70; constituency allowance N4, 968, 509.00; furniture allowance N7, 452, 736.50; newspaper allowance N1, 242, 122.70. Others are: Wardrobe allowance N621,061.37; recess allowance N248, 424.55; accommodation 4,968,509.00; utilities N828,081.83; domestic staff N1,863,184.12; entertainment N828,081.83; personal assistant N621,061.37; vehicle maintenance allowance N1,863,184.12; leave allowance N248,424.55; severance gratuity N7, 425,736.50; and motor vehicle allowance N9, 936,982.00.