Members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday launched an agitation for a N7m increase in their quarterly allowances, barely 24 hours after resuming from a two-month recess.
Each member of the House currently enjoys N27m per quarter as allowances but the lawmakers want the sum jerked up to N35m, The PUNCH learnt.
Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, reportedly had a hectic time calming frayed nerves at an executive session on Wednesday.
Some of the lawmakers, in seeking an increased allowance, at the closed door session, reportedly raised questions of financial impropriety against the leadership of the House.
They reportedly questioned how the “N5m” budgeted for each member’s medical expenses and insurance was utilised by the House.
One of the lawmakers at the session told our correspondent that “transparency and accountability were the main issues discussed at the executive session.”
“There are 360 members; we have funds budgeted for medical allowances and insurance.
“If you put aside some funds for these sub-heads, which is about N5m, we have to know how this money is being utilised.”
Tambuwal was said to have used the session, which lasted for over two hours, to explain to his aggrieved colleagues that the leadership was transparent in the running of House accounts.
A source said he explained that the delay in the payment of pending allowances was caused by paucity of funds.
The speaker reportedly tried to convince members that there was the need to prudently manage resources.
He reportedly called for the account books of the House in a bid to convince his colleagues that no lawmaker’s funds had been taken for any unofficial purposes.
The PUNCH had stumbled on a text message circulated to members before Wednesday’s session by some lawmakers, who said they were launching a project to clean up the House.
The text message had invited members to a meeting originally scheduled for the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Thursday (today).
Investigations revealed that the House quickly went into an executive session on Wednesday in a bid to stop the meeting and use the opportunity to clear the air on any misgivings.
The text reads, “This is inviting all first term members of the House of Representatives to an urgent meeting and launching of the Project “OPERATION CLEAN.” Date; 20th Sept. 2012. Venue-Transcorp Hilton, Abuja Time: 11am prompt.”
However, following what a member described as “the elaborate explanations by the Speaker”, the conveners of the meeting were reportedly “satisfied and saw reason to call off the meeting.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, however denied that issues of increased allowances and use of the House funds were mentioned at the executive session.
“It is not true; there was nothing like that as far as I am concerned,” Mohammed said in a reply to The PUNCH enquiries.
He said the executive session deliberated on a meeting held between President Goodluck Jonathan, the President of the Senate, David Mark, and Tambuwal on Tuesday night.
Mohammed claimed that the Speaker used the session to inform members on what transpired between the three leaders at the Aso Rock Villa.
According to him, Jonathan raised the opposition by the National Assembly to the planned introduction of the N5000 note by the Central Bank of Nigeria with Mark and Tambuwal.
“He (Speaker) told members that the President was under the impression that the National Assembly queried the Executive on the policy”, Mohammed stated.
But, he said Mark and Tambuwal took time to explain to Jonathan why the proposed N5000 note was not necessary.
He added that the two leaders of the National Assembly told Jonathan that they had a constitutional responsibility to protect the wishes of Nigerians, whose suffering would be worsened by the N5000 denomination.
However, a separate source, who attended the meeting, confided in The PUNCH that Jonathan hinted that he would direct the Governor of the CBN, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, to stop the proposed policy, having heard the position of the National Assembly.
“It is a good thing that Mr. President has promised to ask Sanusi to stop this N5000 issue.
“He gave Mark and Tambuwal the assurance”, the source disclosed.
The Chairman of a major committee of the House, also said, “take it from me; Mr. President has said he would stop the policy.
Source: PUNCH Newspaper