General News

Apprehension, disquiet over nearly 3,000 aides for Akpabio, Abbas, lawmakers

Barring any last-minute change, members of the National Assembly (NASS), may end up having more than 2, 563 legislative aides at a time Nigerians are demanding a reduction in the cost of governance to survive the current economic crisis.

 

With the size of its membership, including aides, NASS is one of the institutions that consume a large portion of the national budget yearly, the Sunday Vanguard reports.

 

The bloated number of aides comes with a high cost of public sector expenditure and impacts negatively on the development of the country.

 

Specifically, the Senate is made up of 109 members while the House of Representatives has 360.

 

Since 1999, the outrageous number of appointees by the 469 members of NASS has been an issue of concern, especially given what it costs taxpayers to maintain them.

 

At a time like this when the nation battles dwindling oil prices, 22.41 percent inflation, decreased Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, acute unemployment rate and high debt portfolio among others, many expect a lean bureaucracy at the NASS.

 

Pressure

 

But findings by Sunday Vanguard show that members of the 10th NASS are not departing from the culture of appointing numerous legislative aides who are to be funded under the 2023 Appropriation Act.

 

Notwithstanding, the pressure it places on the country’s poor finances, the National Assembly Act empowers lawmakers to appoint aides.

 

Sunday Vanguard learnt the aides are recruited by the National Assembly Service Commission on the recommendation of each lawmaker.

 

And their appointments are valid so long as they remain appointees of senators and House of Representatives members.

 

However, according to the Act, each of the lawmakers, excluding principal officers, is entitled to five aides.

 

The number comprises one senior legislative aide, two legislative aides, a personal assistant and secretary.

 

The Act provides a different number of aides for the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

 

The office of the Senate President is entitled to 45 appointees, Deputy Senate President, 30, House Speaker, 33, Deputy Speaker, 15, and Principal Officers, 10 each.

 

2, 563 appointees

 

The Senate and House of Representatives have eight principal officers each, making it 16 for both chambers.

 

They are Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip, Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.

 

A breakdown shows that 451 members, excluding two presiding officers and 16 principal officers of both the upper and lower legislative houses, would have no fewer than 2, 255 aides by the time they conclude their appointments.

 

The total number of aides of the presiding officers and principal officers is 363, making the total of all aides statutorily provided is 2,563.

 

Since their inauguration on June 10, 2023, the legislators have been appointing aides, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, leading so far with 33 appointees.

 

Abbas, two weeks ago, announced the appointment of 33 aides, bringing the number to 35.

 

Implications

 

He had earlier appointed Musa Abdullahi Krishi as his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, and Dr. Jerry Uhuo as Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy.

 

The Speaker said the appointments would ensure effective delivery of his legislative agenda for the House. The last occupant of the office had no fewer than 33 aides.

 

Further findings reveal that Senior Legislative Aides are placed between Salary Grade Level, SGL, 14 and 16, Legislative Aides, SGL 10 -12, Secretary, SGL 7-8, Personal Assistant, SGL 8 and Legislative Assistant, SGL 9.

 

The financial implication of this on the nation’s finances has been on the increase as the lawmakers sometimes exceed the numbers approved by the NASS Act.

 

For instance, then-Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, revealed that a whopping N12 billion had been expended on 2,563 legislative aides during his time.

 

Also, as far back as 2016, an investigation by NAN revealed that 469 members of the 8th National Assembly had at least 2,570 aides.

 

Of the number, 700 worked for lawmakers in the Senate while 1,870 were employed by House of Representatives members.

 

Since 1999, the cost of running the legislature has been on the rise, leading to nationwide sustained calls for a reduction.

 

As of 2020, it was reported that the country spends N8.72 billion yearly on salaries and allowances of lawmakers and their legislative aides.

 

For instance, in the 2023 budget, N228.1 billion was allocated to the NASS including N30.17 billion severance package for the immediate past lawmakers.

 

N7 billion take-home

 

The take-home for the immediate past lawmakers increased by N7 billion from the N23.7 billion severance gratuity in 2019. Out of that amount, about N8 billion was reportedly paid to legislative aides.

 

Last year, the lawmakers had increased their 2023 budget from N169 billion earlier proposed by then-President Buhari to N228.1 billion.

 

The budget showed an increase of about N59.1billion.

 

This estimate was meant for recurrent expenditure for the retinue of aides and overhead expenses.

 

Over time, questions have been raised on what the nation spends in maintaining its large bicameral legislature.

 

The expenditure on the lawmakers, especially what they earn, had been shrouded in secrecy until 2018 when then-senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, disclosed that they received N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.”

 

He said the running cost did not include N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also received.

 

Sani further revealed that each senator was entitled to N200 million in constituency project funds in any of the ministries.

 

In 2020, then-lawmaker Kaltungo/Shongom Federal Constituency, Simon Karu, disclosed that each member of the House earned N9.3 million monthly.

 

According to his breakdown, a member of the House received N800,000 monthly in addition to N8.5 million in running costs.

 

It was, however, learnt that the running cost is managed by the management of NASS.

 

Funds are released upon presenting evidence of expenditure.

 

Nonetheless, so far, there is no official disclosure on the salaries and emoluments of NASS members.

 

Sunday Vanguard’s efforts to get Speaker Abbas’ Chief Press Secretary. Like Bayeiwu, to comment on the issue of cost of governance vis-a-vis the number of appointments his principal has made were unsuccessful while Senate President Akpabio had yet to appoint a spokesman.

 

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