But the House of Representatives did not take Ezekwesili’s submission lightly. Apart ffrom insisting that there were more wastages in the Executive arm of government, they said complaints about the jumbo pay of Senators and members of the House should be referred to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, which fixed the salaries and allowances of lawmakers.
Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, who spoke on the controversial huge pay for federal legislators said, members were always amazed whenever critics attacked lawmakers over the pay package as if they fixed their own wage.
“We are tired of responding to the same issue every time; our explanations seem to be falling on deaf ears.
“We didn’t fix our salaries and allowances; that is the role of RMAFC. If you think that our salaries and allowances are too much, ask the agency to slash what they recommended,” Ogor said.
The Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene, speaking with a national newspaper in the week, regretted that the former Minister could not come up with simple calculation of what accrued to the National Assembly and the lawmakers in particular in the period under review.
“To now come up with a calculation that the lawmakers alone got over N1 trillion during the period, I think that person is jaundiced. What is the percentage of N150b in a budget of N4.9 trillion? she should tell Nigerians”.
Besides, Ogene noted that the Legislature has always been championing reduction in the cost of governance, adding that the National Assembly set precedence by cutting its recurrent expenditure which the Executive has failed to do.
He said: “If we are truly talking about cutting cost of governance, it has to be across the three arms. If that is the case, how do you explain a fleet of 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet and how do you maintain them?
“Again, how do you defend N2b spent on air tickets by a minister, and that is just one Minister, what about the rest despite the fact that there is a presidential fleet. Why do we need up to 40 Ministers in the first place?
“The legislature and the judiciary have principal officers too and they have to travel as well; how many aircraft are they maintaining?”
Ogene said as an institution, the legislature will not descend low to addressing issues raised by individuals such as Mrs. Ezekwesili but would look beyond that to her tenure as a minister and a public official.
“She was part of several reform committees that ended up being reformed themselves. In view of this, the best way to go to equity is to go with clean hands.
“It would, however, suffice for Ezekwesili to tell us what recurrent expenditure was during her tenure and what it cost Nigerian taxpayers to maintain her and her aides for a year,” he said.
On Mrs. Ezekwesili’s suggestion that the federal legislature be reduced to unicameral, the deputy spokesman noted that the advice was in bad faith, adding: “I would rather say this is akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face.
“It is more like removing a child from a private school and placing him in a school without teachers or necessary infrastructure. The legislature is the hallmark of democracy and the National Assembly is always ready and willing to do the best for the Nigerian people.
Leader of Opposition in the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said simple mathematics must have failed the former Minister.
According to him, Dr. Ezekwesili failed to comprehend the workings of the National Assembly before making her conclusion.
He said: “I think we should be objective and not dramatic about this obviously sensitive matter. From my simple mathematics if you divide N1 trillion over an eight year period, you will get an average of a little over 100billion per year.
“Now, this is for a whole and distinct arm of government and covers salaries of legislators, staff of both Houses, the National Assembly Commission, capital projects and over heads etc. When you compare this with the budget of just a single agency or Ministry which is not an arm of government, you begin to get a better understanding and a clear picture.
“I don’t think N100billion represents two per cent of our annual budget.
“If part time legislation is the panacea or antidote or solution to our myriad of problems in this country, I am all for it but something tells me it is not tenable for now,” he said.