By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—SENATE President, Bukola Saraki, appears to be currently in a state of confusion, as his plans to considerably reduce the salaries and allowances of senators apparently hit a brick wall yesterday.
Saraki had, in his early days as Senate President, hinted that his leadership would review downward, the perceived bogus salaries and allowances of senators, saying his decision was in line with the mood of the nation.
The Senate President had constituted an ad-hoc committee on the review of the finance of the Senate for the purposes of cutting cost of governance through downward review of salaries and allowances of senators.
After weeks of deliberations the 10-man committee, chaired by Senator James Manager, PDP Delta South, submitted its report to the senate last week Thursday with recommendations on a slight reduction in the salaries and allowances of senators.
The report, according to a source, recommended a 10 per cent cut in the allowances and salaries of all senators.
The report which was to be openly debated on the floor of the Senate yesterday for possible adoption, was stood down for further legislative input after about two hours of closed door session by all the senators on it.
At the resumption of sitting yesterday, Senator Saraki following a closed door session, said that senators agreed to step down the report for further legislative input without giving any reason.
But some senators, who later spoke to Vanguard on the issue on the condition that their names must be kept secret, said the report was stood down due to its total rejection by the majority of the senators.
Senators it was learnt, warned that the matter must be cautiously handled.
One senator said that though majority of the senators agreed that funny allowances like the monthly N42,000 wardrobe allowance should be cancelled or cut off completely but that many reasoned that substantive statutory emoluments should be sustained in the face of increasing financial requests from constituents and other Nigerians on daily basis.
He said: “Yes, as recommended by the committee, all senators agreed that there must be openness in the Senate budget and by extension, all beneficiary organs of the National Assembly but at the same time, many reasoned that why should we further reduce our budget when already, N30billion has been reduced from the traditional N150 billion that it used to be for all the seven different organs of the National Assembly.
“All of us have people in our constituencies and financial requests from them keep pilling up on daily basis, the reality of which made steps to be redirected, otherwise, some of us may stop coming here.”
However, the Chairman, Senate Ad- Hoc committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, at a media briefing, explained that the stepping down of the report was done in order to carry the House of Representatives and other organs of the National Assembly along.
According to him, the budget of the Senate was not independent of the entire National Assembly.
He said: “The Senate today, in closed door session, discussed the report of the ad hoc Committee on finances of the Senate, and after due deliberations by the senators, we came to the conclusion that since the budget of the Senate is not independent of the budget of the National Assembly, where the budget of the House of Representatives is also inclusive.
“We have the management, we have the NILS, we have even the Public Accounts, we also have the National Assembly Civil Service Commission, we have agreed that we should consult amongst other arms that share the budget of the NASS, with the House of Representatives before we would draw a conclusion on the report. So, the resolution is that we are going to interface with the House of Representatives so that we can be on the same page on the report as presented. This is the resolution of the Senate today in closed door session’