National Assembly Complex, Abuja
By Onwuka Nzeshi
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives Monday debunked the speculations that crisis was brewing in the lower chamber of the National Assembly over their quarterly allowances.
Indications had emerged at the weekend that the lawmakers had been agitating for an increase in their quarterly allowances from N27 million to N42 million. Unconfirmed reports said the aggrieved lawmakers were poised for a showdown with the leadership of the House on the matter.
But the Chairman, House Committee on Public Service Matters, Hon. Andrew Uchendu (PDP/Rivers), said he was not aware of any moves by lawmakers over allowances.
Uchendu, a ranking member of the parliament said he had neither heard about the said agitation nor had anyone approached him on the issue.
“If there are members asking for increase in their quarterly allowances, I am not aware of such agitation. There is nothing like that at least to the best of my knowledge.
“This issue has been misrepresented over time. There is nothing like quarterly allowance for members. What we have is running cost for our offices which covers transport and other costs we incur in the course of doing our jobs as parliamentarians,” he said.
Uchendu explained that the running cost is to enable members undertake various local trips to project sites on oversight and to their constituencies among other duties.
The former Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, Hon. Bitrus Kaze (PDP/Plateau), said he was also not aware of the agitation for allowances.
Kaze who is also a member of the House Committee on Appropriation, said what should be a source of agitation at the moment is not quarterly allowance but the 2013 budget which is yet to receive presidential assent.
He said that some of the reports on the budget in the public domain were strange and a source of concern.
However, THISDAY investigations revealed that the rumoured agitation over allowances may have emanated from the rather opaque manner the finances of the parliament has been handled in recent years.
A member who spoke on the condition of anonymity disclosed that an agitation may be in the offing because the budget of the House has been shrouded in secrecy.
“It's the same old story. As a member, I do not know what is in the budget. They talk about capital expenditure and you will ask what happened to the capital last year? You also talk about constituency projects where some people because of their privileged positions have as much as N1billion while others have as low as N30million. Are we not representing people too?
“This is what some people may be talking about because some people cannot be eating while others are watching,” the anonymous legislator said.