The newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and his Deputy, Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun, have vowed not to be cowed by the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to step down as presiding officers of the Eighth Assembly.
This is coming against the backdrop of speculations that the Dogara-led Eighth Assembly of the lower chamber is being pressurised to resign following their emergence against the APC’s choice of Femi Gbajabiamila during the Speakership election penultimate Tuesday.
Fielding questions on the sidelines shortly after inaugurating a 37-member ad-hoc panel tagged ‘Committee on welfare’ at the National Assembly yesterday, Lasun retorted: “It is not correct, that is speculation. Why will I resign when I went through election?”
Besides, Lasun yesterday rose in defence of the N120 billion National Assembly budget, saying it was not overblown as widely thought.
The Deputy Speaker spoke against the backdrop of moves by the management of the National Assembly to pay next week about N9 billion to the newly-inaugurated lawmakers in both the upper and lower chambers of the federal parliament as allowances covering their accommodation, furniture and vehicle allowances next week, representing 850 per cent of their basic salaries for four years.
Lasun, while fielding questions from reporters after inaugurating a 38-member welfare committee of the lower legislative chamber at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, said that N120 billion budget is not out of proportion in view of the enormous responsibilities of the National Assembly as the third arm of government.
He said unknown to many, the National Assembly budget, which constitutes 2.6 per cent of the N4.49 trillion federation budget, is utilised to cater for the needs of legislators, members of staff and technocrats who are employees of the National Assembly Commission.
The membership of the committee drawn from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and chosen by their state caucuses is to provide a convenient working environment for members of the Eighth Assembly of the parliament to discharge their legislative responsibilities.
The committee, headed by Nasiru Baballe Ila, is tasked with the mandate to facilitate the allocation of offices as well as determine the seating arrangement for members based on ranking, provision of working materials and office equipment, payment of members’ entitlements such as car loans, accommodation and work out sitting allowances for members of the panel, among others.
Inaugurating the committee at the National Assembly yesterday, Dogara, represented by the Deputy Speaker, regretted the constraints being faced by members to settle down for serious legislative work.
His words: “As we all know, the House of Representatives under our watch, all members are equal and none is more equal than the other. As do-equals, it is the same constitutional mandate we carry on behalf of our various constituencies and for which we must remain accountable at all times.
“We should, however, be guided by existing precedents in sitting arrangements in the chambers and office accommodation. I charge this committee, therefore, to act swiftly but judiciously to ensure a minimum level of convenience and comfort to enable members discharge their functions without inhibitions.”
Justifying the need for the current legislators’ salaries and allowances, he said Dogara, in conjunction with development partners, is embarking on a needs assessment initiative for lower legislative chamber aimed at, among others, putting the nagging issue of salaries and allowances of members in proper perspectives.
He said: “First and foremost, I know that what the National Assembly members earn has generated a lot of discussions in the last 16 years. Those who have written on it don’t even know the working of the National Assembly. It is the third arm of government and it is to be treated as such. We are not just people who were voted for the sake of election. We are the third arm, which is the most important arm in any democratic setting all over the world because that is the arm that interfaces between the public and the govern