Former Vice-President of the World Bank (African Region), Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, yesterday, dared members of the National Assembly to publicly declare their remuneration package, after some lawmakers described as baseless her claim that the National Assembly’s eight-year spending of over N1trillion is a huge drain on the economy.
Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education who was guest speaker at a Civil Society Roundtable on “Cost of Governance,” had proposed that the federal legislators should serve on part-time basis to save cost and allow government to re-channel the chunk of resources to other critical sectors of the country, a proposal greeted with a lot of criticisms and condemnation from some lawmakers at the National Assembly.
In a swift reaction, Ezekwesili took an exception to some of the criticisms that trailed her proposal, saying many of the lawmakers chose to haul verbal assaults and threats at her rather than addressing the issues at stake.
She therefore challenged the lawmakers to an open debate to determine the actual pay package of legislators and ascertain whether it had not become a burden to the economy.
Ezekwesili, in a statement released yesterday insisted that the National Assembly was taking more than its fair share of the “national cake” contrary to the position of some lawmakers.
She said that her presentation at the civil society platform was meant to draw attention to the “fundamentally unsustainable economic structure” that made Nigeria lag behind over the last 53 years.
“I provided eight years data on budgetary allocations or transfers to the National Assembly. The data in question is publicly available information from the Ministry of Finance which reveals that the allocations to the National Assembly known as Statutory Transfers between 2005 and 2013 were approximately N1 trillion as follows: 2005- N54.79 billion; 2006-N54.79 billion; 2007-N66.4 billion; 2008-N114.39 billion; 2009-N158.92 billion; 2010-N150 billion, 2011-N 150 billion; 2012- N150 billion; and 2013-N150 billion.
“I also provided information available in a recent global comparison of legislators’ remuneration across the world recently published by the United Kingdom based The Economist magazine. I stated that the report alleged that Nigerian federal legislators with a basic salary of $189,500 per annum (N30.6m) were the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
“In reaction to various versions of news media report of my speech, a number of members of the House of Representatives and Senators speaking as spokesmen of the National Assembly and perhaps without the benefit of my full speech, strangely chose to haul verbal assaults and threats at me,” she said.
Ezekwesili argued that it would have been more dignifying if the spokesmen of the National Assembly used the opportunity of their reaction to offer their own data to contradict her claims or clarify falsehood conveyed in her speech to the civil society groups.
She noted that the issue of public finance management remained at the core of good governance and so, too important to be reduced to politics.
“I wish to state with absolute respect for our lawmakers and our institution that it will be more valuable and enriching for our democracy if instead of the abusive language of their recent reaction, the National Assembly immediately offered me and the rest of the Nigerian public, the opportunity of a public hearing on their budgetary allocation and the very relevant issue of their remuneration,” she said.