Gbajabiamila Wants Disclosure Of Legislators’ Salaries, Allowances
At an interactive session with reporters at the National Assembly complex yesterday, he said it would serve the interest of his colleagues if the issue is made open, and subjected to public scrutiny in the interest of accountability and transparency.
The House leader said that contrary to notions held in certain quarters, legislators salaries and allowances is not as over bloated as perceived by both the public and media practitioners in the country.
According to him: “On the burning issue of salary, let me say this I believe and I have always believed and I have said over the years, and I would continue to say that the debate for me is two step; you cannot begin to talk about whether or not a legislator’s salary is too small or too much until you open up your books and let them look at what you have had and break it t down into sub-heads and what each payment is for.
“It is after you open that up that the debate on whether it is too much or too little can now begin. For instance if you break it down and say for transportation, this is how much a lawmaker gets then the public can determine whether that X amount is too much for transportation or not. But to roll everything up in a ball pack and say we earn, you hear a lot of different figures.
“So, you leave yourself vulnerable as a legislator to speculations if you are not transparent and if you don’t open up your books. So I am for the National Assembly to open up its books to the public, the public should know how much a legislator earns and the breakdown.
“You may be surprised that the objective man out there will look at the breakdown and say ‘this is not what we thought, what is wrong with this breakdown’. You may be surprised, but if there is no breakdown and openness, you are opening yourself to speculations, which could not work for.
“This is an important issue and I hope and pray that in this current dispensation we will open up the books. You know that naturally there is tendency for human beings no matter who you are whether you are a parliamentarian in England or Japan or America or whether you are a journalist or a medical doctor working for government to limp towards the law of privacy that is guaranteed under the constitution.
“There is a natural tendency to make secret you monthly pay. But in the circumstances we are in, I think that should be set aside because there is a public interest in this case. If I ask you what is your pay you wont tell me. So legislators are also people like you but I believe under the circumstances we have reached a point where those things must be disclosed and then let the debate begins as to whether or not the amount you receive for your rent is too much or too little.
“I have heard all sort of ridiculous allowances for wardrobes that I had to look at my wardrobes whether I actually earn this kind of allowance just to make sure I have not been cheated. So it is important there is full disclosure.”
Gbajabiamila who described his narrow loss to the Speaker Yakubu Dogara as an act of God, expressed optimism that he would live up to expectations in the discharge of his role as the House leader.
He promised to ensure that the issue of non-implementation of the budget that affected the relationship between the legislature and executive becomes a thing of the past noted: “It is the leader of the House that pushes those things and brings them to the floor for debates on government policies which may or not be popular, but that may be good for the party and for the country, so it is your ability and your capacity to be able to articulate the vision on the floor and push that on the floor it determines how much you able to convince your colleagues because you are not expected to convince members of your party, you need to convince others.
“The role of the House leader is not for the APC, but for the whole House and they must carry every body along across party lines to those who even oppose your view to carry them along according to their understanding. There is going to be a lot of negotiation, a lot of convincing to be done on a lot of issues and I believe and I hope that it is not an easy road. I believe we will be able to do that to the best of our ability,
“ I have let the opposition for 8 years in the House and I think I led them to a point where we took over the majority of the House and I think we did that without issues without any problem and veritably we all did very well with ourselves and we will pull through to the Majority position.
The Majority Leader said: The issue of change and the change mantra the platform might have been the one, which the APC came into power, but because we got a mandate an overwhelming mandate from Nigerians 3, 4 million votes difference is a lot. For me change is not an APC thing. APC started it, they initiated it, it may have been their mantra but Nigerians took ownership of it so the change that we are talking about is a Nigerian thing, but it is being driven by APC.
“I believe that a lot of elements within the opposition party, within the PDP would also key into it, this is what Nigerians have asked for. If you are relating it to the context of budget implementation compared to what we had in the past, we had budget in the past implemented 30 40 per cent.”