AS the outburst over the alleged jumbo wardrobe allowance for members of the National Assembly, Hon. Chike Okafor has suggested that there should be a cut in overhead, salary, allowances and emoluments for all government officials in the three tiers of government.
Hon. Okafor who represents Okigwe Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, Thursday said that the economy was experiencing a serious down turn that had made it imperative to cut costs so as to save money for infrastructural development.
According to him, there was need for downward review of emolument and salary to save more funds to be able to fund infrastructure, provide security, to form and provide jobs, fund education as well as health care delivery.
The former Commissioner of Finance in Imo State said since the economic situation in the country would not allow for an increase in earnings, it was a simple economic balance to hold down cost.
He promised to sponsor a motion in the House of Representatives for the reduction of salaries, emoluments and overheads for government officers in the three tiers of government.
He said, “In trying to control our expenditures, the very first and the very critical part that we should look at is our overhead and that is where the question comes in.
“It is not just the salary of law makers, it is not just the salary of those of us at the federal level, down across the three tiers of government; from federal, state and local government areas.
“There is a need for downward review so that we can free a lot more funds to be able to fund this infrastructure, to be able to provide security, to be able to form and provide jobs, to be able to fund education, fund health care.
“Since we cannot increase our earnings, it is a simple economic balance, then hold down your cost. Cost like I said here includes overhead, salaries, emoluments of everybody.
“The president is looking at his own, the vice president is looking at his own, if and when the ministers come, and they should also be looked at. I am an advocate for a cut in overhead, a cut in salaries and wages of every political office holder.
“And if and peradventure we can deal with the labour, then we should also look at the civil servants. We are all drawing monies from the same coffers, but I know that one is a bit sensitive and it could cost a lot more controversy.”
On the alleged N9.2 billion that was reportedly said to be wardrobe allowance for federal lawmakers, he said, said that the media exaggerated the amount even as he said that he had not even been told what should be his pay package.
Okafor said, “I don’t know whether you call it allegation. I woke up just like every other Nigerian and I read in the papers, almost all the papers carried that lawmakers are taking home almost nine point something billion naira.
“And for me I just read it like every other Nigerian.As I speak to you now, there hasn’t been any correspondence between the National Assembly Commission, or National Assembly management to us to show this is what our remuneration is.
“If you ask me, I don’t even know what I am expected, just what I am supposed to earn or what I am supposed to take home, I don’t know.
And with my kind of person I can’t be bothered.
“What is important is that one has found himself in a position of service to the nation and that is what is more important. I know that a labourer worths his wage, that is true but it doesn’t quite give me problem or trouble.
“But I have also made inquiry, I am a concerned Nigerian. I went to the National Assembly and the information I got if you break down that billion, billion, billion, what a member of House of Reps should be taking on the average is about 18 or 19million.
“And that amount is not wardrobe allowance. Even my rent is built in there; even my car loan, I am supposed to buy a car for myself to use is there in that same figure.
“And if you take it from the point that we are 360 plus 109 senators, the figure that is being branded around and about, the nine billion, in fact people have already started calling me from home, our constituents are calling, oga ha, nine billion, it is alarming, it is embarrassing.”
He, however, noted that it was not his responsibility as a lawmaker to determine how much government officials should earn, adding, “there is a body, a statutory body, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, that determines what every public officer earns.
“What should bother us, or the journalists or pressmen who did this should have been go to the RMAFC to find out, is this thing part of what has been already provided for lawmakers. If the answer is no, then you can now hit the roof top.
“I think the legislative arm of government has been so much vilified, I think and I want to put it squarely, it appears that the Nigerian media don’t seem to have a good relationship or is not favourably disposed to the legislature, I think so.
“This is because any snippet of information from National Assembly especially when it has to do or concerns the welfare of the members of the national assembly, it is taken out of contest and over exaggerated by the media.”