The Senate on Wednesday suspended consideration of the report of its Finance committee following sharp disagreements among members over the pay cut recommended by the panel.
The senators during a two-hour deliberation behind closed doors, resolved to reject the reduction of salaries and allowances as recommended by the Senator James Manager’s committee.
The senators, according to one of them who confided in our correspondent, said it was not possible to accept pay cut with other beneficiaries of the N120bn National Assembly annual budget not doing same.
The senator said that his colleagues accordingly resolved to reject the report because the recommendations were not practicable.
Some other senators who also spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity said further consideration of the finance committee report was stepped down because many of their colleagues rejected the contents of the report.
On what transpired at the closed- door session, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), said senators told themselves the truth at the session on the need to be very cautious on accepting reduction of salaries and allowances.
Urhoghide said that majority of the senators agreed that “funny allowances” like the monthly N42,000 wardrobe allowance should be cut off completely.
He said, “Yes, as recommended by the committee, all senators agreed that there must be openness in Senate budget and by extension, that of the National Assembly.
“At the same time, many reasoned that why should we further reduce our budget when already, N30bn has been reduced from the traditional 150bn that it used to be for all the seven different organs of the National Assembly.
“All of us have people in our constituencies and financial requests from them keep piling up on a daily basis, the reality of which made steps to be redirected, otherwise, some of us may stop coming here.”
The committee, it was learnt, also recommended the publication of all the payments accruable to each senator on a quarterly basis.
However, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at plenary, explained that “Senate in closed session deliberated on the report of the finance committee but agreed to stand it down for further legislative input.”
Addressing journalists after plenary, Senate spokesperson, Senator Dino Melaye, said further action on the report was put on hold because the senate budget was an integral part of the National Assembly budget being jointly shared by seven bodies.
Melaye said, “The Senate today, in closed-door session, discussed the report of the ad hoc committee on finances of the senate.
“After due deliberations by the senators, we came to the conclusion that since the budget of the Senate is not independent of the budget of the National Assembly, the budget of the House of Representatives is also inclusive.
“We have the management; we have the National Institute for Legislative Studies; we have even the Public Conduct Commission; the National Assembly Civil Service Commission, and over 3, 000 legislative aides, that are beneficiaries of the N120bn annual budget.
“Therefore, we have agreed that we should consult amongst other arms that share the budget of the National Assembly, before we would draw a conclusion on the report.
“So, the resolution is that we are going to interface with the House of Representatives so that we can be on the same page on the report as presented. This is the resolution of the Senate today in a closed-door session.”
Melaye denied reports that the National Assembly had been experiencing cash crunch despite the fact that some senators confirmed last week that they had not received salaries since their inauguration on June 9.
“I am not aware of any cash crunch, and for me, it is news from you, and I don’t think it is true,” he said.
He said that the senators had the power to reduce their own pay just like the President, the Vice President and some governors had done.
Melaye said, “It is the responsibility of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission to stipulate how much you would be paid. But you can sacrifice, as a public officer, to say: I am taking half of my salary, and then taking half back to the treasury.
“It means that it would be returned to the treasury, where it would be used for other developmental programmes.
“We would make wider consultations with the House of Representatives on the report because we have one National Assembly and whatever is going to affect the Senate, the House of Representatives should also be carried along and I am sure that after this consultation we will get back to the public.”