Faced By Biting Cash Crunch, Senators Suspended Probe Of The Power Sector As They Await August Salaries
Faced By Biting Cash Crunch, Senators Suspended Probe Of The Power Sector As They Await August Salaries left the National Assembly broke. The ugly situation is also responsible for the inability of the Senate to continue and conclude the investigation into the nation’s power sector.
As at the time of filing in this report, The UNION gathered that the economic downturn, which is being experienced across the country, is equally responsible for the non execution of the oversight functions of the various committees that have already been set up at the two chambers.
Speaking on the activities of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Power, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa hinted that the much expected public hearing on the nation’s power sector cannot hold for now as a result of the non availability of funds to run it.
Ohuabunwa further revealed that the cash crunch has also prevented the federal legislatorsrom effectively carrying out their legislative functions over the months. “We cannot carry out our functions ef- fectively because there is no money in the system”, the Senator from Abia State added.
Ohuabunwa however, explained that the funding problem that is presently being faced by the National Assembly may have been as a result of the expen- sive bi-cameral legislature, as well as the presidential system of government that is being run by the country. “Part of the problems we are facing now is the problem of funding.
I want to tell you outright because he, who wears the shoe, knows where it pinches. Our major problem now is funding. “There is no money in the system. Isolate the running of the parliament from parliamentarians . Isolate the cost of running of parliament from the parliamentarians in it.
Running the parliament is expensive. “Presidential system of government in particular with (the) bi-cameral legisla- ture is an expensive part of democracy. So, you can’t eat your cake and have it. “So, now, people keep saying ‘how much is the budget of the parliament, amount of salaries of the lawmakers et- cetera?’, forgetting that there are several sub-heads in the parliament.
In fact, now, we cannot do our job effectively. We can- not do our functions effectively because there is no money. “For example, we (were) supposed to start the public hearing on the power sector on the 11th of this month, but we couldn’t because of lack of money. The idea was to have stakeholders meeting.
“The just ended interactive session for two, three days from September 8 to 10; then, 11th, we start the public hearing, which (was) supposed to end on the 15th day of September, 2015. But unfortunately, we cannot do that because there is no money in the system to run the Committee and perform our functions effectively. “So, what we have decided for now is to mellow down a bit till when the Senate resumes for (the) plenary sessions, and see how we can raise money.
But before then, we believe money must have been released into the system. “In fact, as it is today (Wednesday), we have not collected our August salary as federal lawmakers, and by extension, the entire legislative staff of the federal lawmakers. Look at me here, I’ve not had (my) August salary, and this is 16th of September, 2015. “But we don’t cry because we represent the people.
But that is the truth. I’m not telling you tale by moonlight story. I’m telling you what is actually on ground,” he said. The UNION reports that the 2,500 legislative aides of the federal legislators, who are yet to receive a single month’s salary since being employed by their principals last June, are the ones feeling the financial insolvency that is rocking the National Assembly Complex more.
It would be recalled that there was a protest very recently, following the fact that many of them are even yet to get their severance gratuity of over N7 billion, after serving in the 7th National Assembly. The unpaid allowances, according to some of them, covers both severance gratuity and duty tour allowances, which range between N1.5 million to N3 million per aide, depending on their grade levels and steps.
The aides also alleged that based on information at their disposal, the N7 billion meant for the payment had been released to the management of the National Assembly by the Federal Ministry of Finance last month without any sign of readiness for payment from them.
“Our protest is all about prolonged delay we are experiencing in the pay- ment of our severance allowances by the management of National Assembly, even weeks after payment of similar al- lowances to all the 469 federal legisla- tors who served in the 7th Assembly.
We believe that the protest, though aborted, has sent the needed message to them that we are ready for showdown with them any time from now if we are not paid the money in this month of September,” one of them alleged. But the National Assembly management, through an internal circular later issued from the office of the Director, Personal Management of the National Assembly, maintained that the money was yet to be released from the Ministry of Finance as claimed by the aggrieved aides.
The Acting Director, M. A Abubakar, who issued the circular on behalf of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, said: “I am directed to inform all legislative aides to exercise more patience regarding their payment of severance gratuity and duty tour allowances as the management is making assiduous efforts to get the monies released from the ministry of finance.
“I also urge you to maintain the existing good working relationship between National Assembly management and the legislative aides for an enduring welfare of the legislative aides. I wish to assure you that as soon as the monies are released, payment will commence without delay as all preparations have been concluded”.
– Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja