The National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) says it is much more expensive to maintain legislators in the U.S. Congress and the U.K. Parliament than in Nigeria.
[Image: Director-General of NILS, Dr Ladi Hamalai]
Its Director-General, Dr Ladi Hamalai, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday, was speaking against the backdrop of calls for a massive cut in the remuneration of Nigerian legislators.
Hamalai said most of those calling for cut in the salaries and allowances of National Assembly members were not informed on how much it costs to maintain a parliament.
“If you go to the United States, United Kingdom the salaries of legislators may not be much but the budget of maintaining a single legislator in the US Congress is much.
“Each legislator has a budget for maintaining the office; each legislator is entitled to about 18 aides.
“This is apart from the many committee staff and research staff that they have at their disposal.
“We calculated the salaries of the legislator in the US Congress plus his personal aides; just this two will amount to almost N254 million in a year.
“Now this is exclusive of budget for maintaining the office. They also have claims, re-imbursables.
“You travel to do a town hall meeting – these are eligible claims. So it is not really cheap maintaining the congress in the U.S.
“Let’s even look at the UK Parliament. By the time you calculate all the expenses, it will cost between 90 and 100 million naira to maintain a UK parliamentarian.
“They have personal aides of between eight and 20 depending on the importance of the legislator. “
Hamalai allayed fears that the cost of running the legislature in Nigeria would not have a negative impact on the economy.
“One would say yes their GDP is much higher; they can afford it; then our criticism should not be that they do not deserve this amount of money (paid to them); maybe you look at the implication on the economy.
“Now if you even look at the wider implication on the economy, you (will) discover that the whole budget of the National Assembly is just three per cent of the national budget.
“If you calculate it – you have over four trillion naira federal budget in a year; the National Assembly this year has 120 billion naira; this is even less than three per cent.
“So is it the three per cent that would have so much impact as to cause so much damage to the national economy? I don’t think so.”
Also reacting to the calls for the country to adopt a unicameral legislature as a way of cutting the cost of governance, the D-G argued that that would amount to changing the Nigeria’s system of government.
She said that subscribing to a unicameral legislature could weaken the principle of Separation of Powers and make the executive arm of government dictatorial.
“We need a system whereby we will have good checks and balances.
“We need a strong legislature; we need a strong judiciary in this country to make sure that everybody does the right thing,” she said.