BUKOLA KOMOLAFE

President Mohammadu Buhari has taken a swipe at the nation’s lawmakers for unilaterally fixing their own salaries and allowances in violation of the nation’s constitution.

The president also lambasted the commission saddled with the task of fixing the salaries of public officials, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), for abdicating its

responsibilities by allowing the lawmakers and some political office holders to approve excessive remunerations for themselves.

The visibly angry president who bashed the lawmakers after meeting with the chairman and members of RMAFC at the State House, Abuja, yesterday, ordered the commission to immediately seek a proper

interpretation of its powers and address the public outcry against the unreasonably high payments.

Buhari also blamed past administrations for the current situation in which Nigeria is forced to spend billions of naira annually on alleged subsidies for petroleum products.

He expressed the view that the escalation of petroleum subsidy payments in recent years was due to the deliberate neglect of the nation’s refineries, oil pipelines and other related infrastructure to allow the importation of petroleum products and corruption to thrive.

The president, who restated his huge disappointment with the way Nigeria’s oil industry has been run since he left office as petroleum minister and military head of state, said that he was convinced that

if the development of the country’s domestic refining capacity and petroleum products distribution network had kept pace with national demand, there would not have been any need for the huge subsidies currently being paid to importers.

“They allowed the infrastructure to collapse so that their cronies can steal by bringing in refined products from overseas,” Buhari said.

The President urged the chairman and members of the RMAFC, who availed him of their view on the vexed issued of petroleum subsidy payments, to go “back to the drawing board” and come up with more humane proposals to rescue ordinary Nigerians from the “wicked manipulation” of the country’s oil industry by corrupt operators.

Buhari also warned that severe sanctions will be visited on any individual or organisation that violates the directive on the payment of all national revenue into the Federation Account.

The President said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Nigerian Ports Authority and other MDAs which previously relied on the laws establishing them to retain all or part of revenues collected by them, did so illegally and must now comply with the Nigerian Constitution by paying all revenues to the Federation Account.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of RMAFC, Mr. Elias Mbam, has said that a new remuneration package for public office holders including members of the National Assembly would be ready in September.

Mbam disclosed this to State House correspondents shortly after briefing President Buhari of the commission’s activities inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The public outcry became more pronounced recently when Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinabajo offered to take only half of the salaries approved for them throughout their four-year tenure.

Many Nigerians had called on the federal lawmakers to take similar steps. Mbam, however, claimed that the figures being peddled on the remuneration packages of lawmakers are not known to his commission.

He explained that based on remuneration packages determined by the RMAFC, no federal lawmaker should earn up to N1million per month.

This notwithstanding, Mbam said the commission was almost concluding work on new remuneration packages that will reflect the current socio-economic realities in the country.

He said the draft would be ready before the end of September.

“Presently, we are currently reviewing the subsisting remuneration packages and it is going to reflect the socio-economic realities of today.

“We expect that before the end of next month, it will be ready. But it will go through a process, it is not something that you will just say ‘yes or no.’

He said the review would affect all cadres of public office holders at all arms of government including the executive, legislature and the judiciary

When asked whether the National Assembly members will accept pay cut as being planned by the commission, Mbam said, “They (the federal lawmakers) do not have a choice. We are guided by the constitution and we are going to be guided by such laws that are provided for in the constitution. They swore to obey the laws of the country.”

He said the President’s advice for the commission during the meeting was that they should ensure that they use all legitimate means to see that all public office holders took home the remuneration as determined by the commission.