Non-release of lawmakers’ allowances may stall National Assembly’s resumption

Contrary to general optimism among Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet may not be constituted before October, especially with the threat by federal lawmakers to keep away from the National Assembly until their allowances are paid.

The Guardian learnt that two weeks after the inauguration of the Senate and House of Representatives, the National Assembly’s commission has not paid the allowances and entitlements of the lawmakers.

According to findings, the situation has compounded the logistic challenges facing the lawmakers, most of them first-timers at the National Assembly.

Sources within the two chambers confided in The Guardian that despite media reports of jumbo allowances and welcome packages, nothing had been given to any lawmaker.

A first-timer lamented that the impression given to them shortly after the induction was that monies would be released to them immediately after the inauguration to take care of logistic concerns.

He said: “They have not paid us any farthing. We were assured that immediately after inauguration the so-called welcome package would be given, for us to sort ourselves out. But as I speak, nobody has received any alert.

“Most of us new-comers feel the pinch more. Banks have being offering facilities, and knowing how these things go, their tempting offers may end up plunging us into deep debt.”

A first-term senator, who expressed dismay at media reports about lawmakers’ allowances, said: “I have not seen the large figures you journalists bandy on the pages of newspapers. It has been tough these past two weeks.”

The lawmakers stressed that unless something is done between June 25 and July 2 (expected resumption date), the only option open to them was to show up on July 2 and proceed on a long vacation.

The Ninth National Assembly is made up of more freshmen. Out of the 109-member Senate, only 43 (39 per cent) are returning, while 66 (71 per cent) are coming for the first time.

In the House of Representatives, almost half of the 364 members are first-timers. Precisely, 165 (45 per cent) are lawmakers coming into the Green Chamber for the first time, while 199 (55 per cent) are old-timers.

The implication of the delay in settling the lawmakers, especially the senators, is that even if President Buhari sends in the list of his cabinet nominees, it would take the next two months before they could be screened.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had assured Nigerians that the president’s nominees would not take as long as it did in 2015, stressing that the ruling party would make input in the selection of his aides.