Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The House of Representatives wednesday said that none of its members was against the donation of their two months’ salaries to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, had announced that the Green Chamber agreed to contribute their salaries for March and April to support the federal government’s efforts amid the pandemic.
But, a lawmaker representing Niger State, Hon. Lado Suleja, was reportedly quoted as saying that lawmakers were “forced” to donate their salaries of two months to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, while responding to THISDAY enquiry, the Spokesman of the House, Hon Benjamin Kalu, said that the debit authorisation for the month had gone out in line with the standing debit order from the management of the National Assembly to the banks handling the payroll before the approval of the leadership to donate was issued According to him, “it is being rectified by the management of National Assembly and we are committed to our pledge to donate 100 per cent of our two months salaries because we saw the need to do so which the speaker specifically identified and chose for its application”.
Kalu recalled that the speaker had said the contributions by members would support provisions for the welfare of frontline medical professionals and health workers, and other interventions to provide for the wellbeing of all Nigerians through these trying times.
He added, “if there are administrative technical hitches, it is not due to the fault of the members but a minor payment system error that will be corrected to effect our unanimous decision that supports the federal government during this trying times.”
“I am certain Nigerians are happy with the magnanimous record breaking outing of ours – the first of its kind in the history of parliamentary practices around the world. So, the directives of the leadership on our salaries still stand and was never shifted.”
Also, the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House, Hon. Kingsely Chinda said that members are not refusing to donate their salaries.
He added that some members felt that they were not informed prior to the commitment by the speaker.
He noted that consultation was not widely done before the pledge was made, but noted that it could have been because of the circumstances and urgency of the time.
Chinda stressed that the members should have been made to understand because they have a right to know and give express consent, adding that, “aside that, no member is against making any sacrifice for our people.”
“Some others, where I belong, feel that the deductions should be sent directly to the various states. In fact, if possible to the communities, as we do not have confidence in the manner the fund is handled at the federal level. The opaque criteria adopted by the federal government team is inequitable, both in disbursement of funds, equipment and palliatives.
“Every part of the country should be equipped; we don’t wait until there is crises and we start a fire brigade measure. There are poor citizens in every part of the country and they should be considered in distribution of palliatives.
“The entire exercise is anything but transparent. So, members reasonably will be reluctant putting in funds there. Aside these, members are happy to make any sercrifice that will put smiles on the faces of Nigerians, particularly the man on the street.”
On his part, Hon. Segun Odebunmi said he was not aware if some members were against the donation of their two month salaries to the fight against the pandemic.