…Nigerians calls for reduction in numbers, slash in salaries
No fewer than 2,570 aides are engaged by members of the 8th National Assembly, totaling 469, an investigation by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has revealed.
Out of the number, 700 aides work for lawmakers in the Senate, while the remaining 1, 870 are engaged by House of Representatives members.
As provided in the National Assembly Act, each lawmaker, excluding principal officers, is entitled to five aides – one senior legislative aide, two legislative aides, a personal assistant and a secretary.
It was discovered that in the provision, President of the Senate is entitled to 45 aides, his deputy, 30 and 20 each for principal officers.
Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives has 35 assistants, Deputy Speaker, 15 and 10 each for the six principal officers.The number of aides to each legislator, it was gathered, includes those in their Constituency offices.
The monthly emolument of the aides, which ranged from N150, 000 to N250, 000, sources close to the assembly said, has been reduced to between N75, 000 and N180, 000 by the current leadership of the assembly.
The investigation revealed that in addition to the regular aides, the principal officers of both chambers have Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants and Special Advisers of varying numbers.
This category of aides, it was learnt, had a monthly salary of a minimum of N950, 000, but was reduced to N400, 000 by the current management of the assembly. All the aides are paid from the coffers of the assembly.
However, NAN gathered that some of the lawmakers, especially principal officers, have more than the statutorily approved number of aides in their employ, who also draw their salary from the assembly’s funds.
Some lawmakers, however, pay the aides from their own resources.
It was also revealed that many legislators draw the emolument of their aides from the assembly’s funds but pay them fractions. Some of the lawmakers employed only one or two aides, but are collecting the full salary for the five they are entitled to.
This act was discovered to be perpetrated more by the members through their constituency offices, which they are mandatorily expected to have in their areas, but deliberately failed to do so.
They submit names of non-existent staff in the constituency office to the National Assembly Service Commission and collect their entitlements directly.
An aide to a senator from the South-West, working with him in Abuja, told NAN that he had never heard of other aides or office his boss had in his constituency.
“All of us, his aides are here; it is only when he is travelling to the state that he goes with the senior legislative aide and his younger brother.
“The brother works with him; he is not documented, but he is in charge whenever oga (the boss) is not around.
“But, all of us are always in the office in Abuja, I do not know of assistant or aide he has at the constituency level or in the state,” he said, adding that it was the same with many other lawmakers.
The source declined to disclose his salary, allowance and pay point, but said that the emolument depends on the grade of the aide.
He, however, disclosed that the least-paid aide earned N120, 000 from the assembly commission.
The lawmakers contacted on the issue declined to comment, with some of them saying that they were complying with the rules. The Clerk of the National Assembly and officials in his office also rebuffed enquires on the issues.
Reacting to the findings by NAN, some stakeholders called for reduction in the number of aides working for federal lawmakers and a slash in their pay.
They told NAN that the reduction was necessary in view of the current economic challenges facing the country.
Mr Ahmed Haruna, a trader in Wuse Market, Abuja said; “from my own point of view, I think the number of aides assigned to legislators is much and consumes a huge amount from public funds.
“These aides are paid monthly, but if their number is reduced and their pay slashed, the money can be redirected into providing infrastructure in the country.’’
Paul Imohiosen, a civil servant, believes that the lawmakers do not need the number of aides they are officially entitled to.
He said: “Some of these aides are not useful; most of them are there for mere decoration. They are just too many.
“The country’s economy has gone into recession so this is not the appropriate time to use as much as 45 or 35 aides by one government official.”
Imohiosen also decried the number of security details attached to some government officials and other elite in the country.
According to him, Nigeria is in need of adequate security to protect lives and property, but government officials have huge number of security aides all to themselves which is not fair.
In her view, Miss Igoni Mirabel, a student, insisted that there was need to cut the number and salary, respectively, of the legislative aides by 50 per cent.
“The 50 per cent cut should serve as intervention and the remaining percentage could be used judiciously to improve the economy of the country.
“The Nigeria economy is in a bad state presently, so all expenses must be cut so that the citizens can benefit immensely,’’ she added.