Court bars National Assembly from fixing own salaries
By Adebisi Onanuga and Robert Egbe
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday declared that it is illegal for members of the National Assembly to fix their own salaries.
Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, in a virtual judgment, ordered the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to fix the salaries and allowances of the 469 members of the National Assembly to reflect the economic realities in the country.
Justice Obiozor also held that the National Assembly Service Commission has no power to determine the remuneration and allowances of lawmakers.”
The virtual judgment by Justice Obiozor followed the consolidated suits brought by Monday Ubani and John Nwokwu on one hand and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT and Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE) on behalf of more than 1,500 concerned Nigerians on the other hand.
Ubani and Nwokwu were represented by Femi Falana (SAN) leading J. O. Igwe while Ms Adelanke Aremo represented SERAP, EiE and BudgIT on behalf of over 1,500 Nigerians.
Justice Obiozor gave the judgment after the hearing of originating summons in suit number FHC/L/CS/690/2018 by Monday Ubani and another, and suit number FHC/LA/CS/943/2019 involving SERAP, EiE, BudgIT, (suing for themselves and on behalf of 1,522 concerned Nigerians).
This development was disclosed on Sunday in a statement by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
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Justice Obiozor also held that RMAFC is the only body responsible for determining the salaries, remuneration and/or allowances of the National Assembly or Political Offices Holders.
According to the Court, “the National Assembly Service Commission has no power whatsoever to fix and determine or allocate the remuneration, allowances, salaries, emoluments or monetary values to the members of the National Assembly.”
The suit was filed on the heels of the reports that members of the National Assembly receive running costs and allowances not determined by RMAFC and that such allowances are illegal because they are far above what the RMAFC prescribed.
It will be recalled that Senator Shehu Sani had in an interview with The News magazine on the 8th of March 2018 revealed that “each senator receives N13.5 million monthly as running cost in addition to over N750,000.00 monthly consolidated salary and allowances.”
The plaintiffs, in their consolidated suits, had stated: “RMAFC has failed to do any downward review of salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly since 2007 in spite of the economic downturn in Nigeria. Yet, the commission is statutorily required to review the pay of the lawmakers in conformity with the country’s economic realities and to achieve fiscal efficiency.”
The suits read in part: “Given many years of extreme poverty in the country, and the inability of several state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions, the refusal or failure of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and cut the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly is a gross violation of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the commission’s own Act.
“The allowances of wardrobe, newspapers, kitchen traveling domestic and constituency project allowances of the members of the National Assembly are never contemplated or in the intendment of the constitution which created them and specified how they can be remunerated.
“The duty of the RMAFC to review the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly is mandatory and the Commission cannot choose not to comply. Therefore, the failure or refusal by the Commission to comply with its own Act amounts to arbitrariness.
“Unless the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs are granted, the defendants and members of the National Assembly will continue to benefit from these outrageous salaries and allowances, in breach of the law and at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in extreme poverty.
“The amounts budgeted as payment for furniture and accommodation allowance to members of the 9th National Assembly negates the oath of office under the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution by members to perform their functions in the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria.
“The National Assembly comprises of 469 members – with 109 in the Senate and 360 in the House of Representatives. These public officers form a very tiny percentage of about 200 million Nigerians.
“Members are still eligible to collect huge sums of money as monthly allowances and severance pay at the end of their respective terms.”