Saraki, Ekweremadu, Dogara, Lasun’s aides’ salaries hit N1bn monthly

Saraki, Ekweremadu, Dogara, Lasun’s aides’ salaries hit N1bn monthly

 

  • Equals about 3 states’ workers’ salaries
  • Officials and ‘unofficial’ aides paid from government funds

 

The huge amount of public funds deployed monthly to pay legislative aides of principal officers in the National Assembly is giving many Nigerians a source of worry even in the face of declining revenue for the nation.

One of the best craved jobs in the nation today appears to be that of an aide to a principal officer in the National Assembly.

Investigations have revealed that the country may actually be giving a comprehensive package that is close to a billion naira monthly to these hundreds of aides that is more than what is accruable to some states in the past few months especially with declining oil revenue and the inability of many states to meet financial obligations.

The Federal Government presently ‘officially’ spends over N24 billion on salaries and allowances of about 5000 legislative aides appointed by members of the National Assembly every four years. But the figure is much higher investigations have revealed.

Investigations have also revealed that each lawmaker is, by law, entitled to five aides including Senior Legislative Aides (SLA), Legislative Aides (LA), Legislative Assistants (LA), Personal Assistants (PA) and a secretary.

Presiding and principal officers can appoint a retinue of special assistants, advisers, senior special assistants, press secretaries and chiefs of staff.

The cover given by law to these principal officers has led to the employment of tens of aides to these officers many of which do not have any portfolio but draw salaries on a monthly basis.

Investigations by this medium reveals that the presiding and the principal officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives have hundreds of aides and assistants many of which actually have no specific duties to perform and hardly ever see their bosses. Yet they are paid monthly salaries and allowances which run into millions of naira collectively.

The principal offices are that of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, House Leader, Deputy House Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip among others.

An unchecked retinue

It was gathered that the both the presiding offi­cers and principal officers are actually given flexible powers by the Rev­enue Mobilization, Fiscal and Allocation Commission (RMFAC) to appoint aides and assistants who are placed on consolidated scale of remuneration.

However, attempts in the past by the RMFAC to curtail the abuse of such powers have not worked as the officers usually go ahead to appoint large numbers of aides who serve in official and unofficial capacities.

Investigations by aljazirahnews revealed that the Senate President for instance has close to a hundred (100) senior legislatives aides and legislatives assistants who are expected to perform diverse forms of duties for him. The Deputy Senate President is believed to have slightly less than that figure.

While some of these aides work closely with both officers at the hallowed chambers in Abuja, many more of them, with little or no roles work at the state levels for the presiding officers. Most are paid directly from government coffers.

For the Speaker and his deputy, the figure is no less cumbersome. A source close to the speaker said that those who work directly and indirectly with the speaker are over 70. The deputy speaker has about the same number of aides working with him, many of which he does not need to know personally.

A recent publication by a national newspaper put the figure of those working under the speaker at 170, a figure his media team quickly debunked. They claimed that the figure was actually 35.

For the other presiding officers, aljazirahnews investigations reveal that they are also on the high side but not as large as the four presiding officers

The actual number of aides employed by principal officers has over the years been a subject of conjecture as the National Assembly authorities have never been forthright about the true figure. Just like its annual budget and its utilization is always a subject of secrecy, the number of aides to principal officers maintained by taxpayers’ monies is equally a ‘top secret.’

Fat allowances, unchecked engagement

A dependable source at the National Assembly who has worked with many legislators in the past said senior legislative aides and specials assistants attached to these principal officers earn large salaries and allowances every month even though only a few of them actually perform useful roles for their principals.

Legislative aides and assistants within the National Assembly officially earn between N80, 000 – N120, 000 minus allowances. Senior legislative aides officially earn about N200, 000 minus allowances.

“It is the special assistants and aides that actually earn mouthwatering salaries and allowances. I can tell you confidently that many of them earn close to a million naira and even more on a monthly basis. All these are hidden under a multiplicity of ‘allowances’ which add up to that tidy figure,’’ he said.

He also said many of them are engaged simply for political patronage rather than for any specific function they are meant to perform.

‘A lot of them hardly meet with their principals for any assignment. You may be a special assistant to the senate president and only meet him only once during your entire tenure with him yet you will be drawing over a million naira every month. The same goes with the speaker and his deputy. All they need to do is to send your name to the National Assembly Service Commission and also influence your pay package. They mostly do this to return political favors rather than to utilize such services.’’

The source said some of the principal officers have abused the privilege so much that even some send the names of their ‘girlfriends’ and hanger-ons to the commission for engagement.

‘And this is so easy and convenient for them to do this. Rather than waste money on such ladies, why not just fix them up so that they can be collecting salaries for doing nothing and you still enjoy their favors?’’

He said many of such ladies who are special legislative assistants abound in the capital city who drive flashy cars and live in fancy houses, earn fat salaries but do practically nothing. His claim could not be verified however by aljazirahnews.

Investigations reveal that many of these aides to principal officers live lives of opulence in the capital city with many owning choice properties in highbrow areas of the city.

He however defended the fat allowances earned by these aides noting that many of them are used by their principals to ward off people who throng their offices for financial assistance.

“These aides may be earning big but most of the time they spend these monies to assist constituents on behalf of their bosses many of whom are stingy and do not like spending their own cash on people,’’ he claimed

Investigations also revealed that the privilege has equally been further abused to the level where drivers, cooks and gardeners who have served with the principal officers through the years have been upgraded to senior legislative aides and assistants as a form of gratitude from their bosses.

A tentative comparative analysis

The medium attempted to do a mild comparative analysis of the emoluments of the cash expended on these aides to principal officers and the revenue accruing to certain states in the country.

It was discovered that Nigeria may actually be spending close if not more than what it gave out to some states in the recent past as monthly allocation.

With ten presiding and principal officers and an estimated 1000 official and unofficial staff at their beck and call and using a modest average sum of N500, 000 as monthly emolument including allowances, it is believed that the nation may be expending over half a billion naira (N500m) to maintaining this retinue of staff on a monthly basis.

The sum is much higher if undisclosed allowances apart from the regular ones such as daily transport allowance, newspaper allowance, entertainment, training, research etc. are included.

Weighed against states allocation

A state liken Osun got only N6.23 million in federal allocation for the month of March, 2016. The state received less than N150 million from October 2015 till March 2016, due to the repayment obligations for the Infrastructure Programs, it has been prosecuting.

It also received N56 million in September 2015, an amount Governor Rauf Aregbesola said would not be enough to pay electricity bills for the state secretariat. Osun state is believed to have at least 30, 000 civil servants in its employ.

In the same month Zamfara got N1.6bn as funds to take care of its numerous needs. Zamfara has about 28, 000 civil servants in its fold including diverse financial obligations.

Gombe got about N1.5bn. The state is estimated to have less than 20, 000 civil servants working there. A state like Cross River got N1.06bn in the same month.

The estimated one billion naira expended in payment of the aides will pay 56, 000 civil servants who earn the paltry N18, 000 minimum wage.

A phone call put through to the media aide of the Senate President (the head of Nigeria’s legislature), Sanni Onogun was not replied or returned. A subsequent text sent to his phone for comments was not responded to as at press time.

Equally comments could not be gotten from the speaker’s media aide, Turaki Hassan before publication of the report.

 


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