Fred Itua, Abuja
Former Leader of the Senate and Chairman of Army Committee, Mohammed Ali Ndume, has called for part-time lawmaking by members of the National Assembly, as part of measures to cut down on public expenses.
The senator, speaking during an interview he granted in Maiduguri, additionally called on the Federal Government to slash the salaries of civil servants across the board.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Ndume said since the National Assembly has already resorted to periodic sittings following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, he suggested that lawmaking should be undertaken on a part-time basis, as he advocated that salaries of senators and members of the House of Representatives be slashed.
He said the proposed part-time arrangement would save costs for the Federal Government and make more funds available to execute the capital component of the federal budget and provide succour to families in need.
‘As far as I’m concerned, we can make the National Assembly a part-time arrangement for now since we conduct our sitting once or twice in a week these days. If we make it part-time, that means our salaries must be reduced. The reality is that we can’t continue in a situation like this where 70 per cent of the country’s budget is going to personnel and recurrent expenditure as if everything is okay.
‘This is a time when we are borrowing to fund the budget. I didn’t say salaries of civil servants who are struggling to survive, should be slashed. If under these critical circumstances where 70 per cent of the budget goes to recurrent expenditure and overhead, then the government should really sit down and critically look at it.
‘The government should identify public officers that can work part-time and reduce their salaries. For example, even we in the National Assembly, for the period of this pandemic, I strongly advocate that the work of the legislature and other people should be made par time and therefore, pay them on a part-time basis to reduce the cost. There are jobs that are not critical, that could be converted to a part-time basis to reduce costs.’
Denying claims that he called for the reduction of salaries of civil servants, Ndume explained: ‘The statement credited to me was not a complete statement and I was quoted out of context. When they asked me questions about the revised budget, I said we should fasten our belt during this pandemic due to the fall in the prices of crude oil which is the mainstay of our economy.
‘I said the Federal Government should critically look into cutting down of the cost of governance. I called for the reduction of overhead cost, salaries of senior public servants and the recurrent expenditure. That is what I said and I still stand by it. Taking cognizance of the fact that the salaries of the lower cadre civil servants are too small, I couldn’t have called for its further reduction.
‘As a matter of fact, Nigerian civil servants deserve palliative from all tiers of government, even with their salaries. I maintain that since most of us who are public servants across the three arms of government are not working full time, for now, our salaries should no longer be paid 100 per cent. Overhead should also not be 100 per cent again.
‘All those travel allowances should stop because we are not travelling again. We are operating from online now, the provision for stationery should be stopped. By that, so many expenditures would have been moved. We cannot make the jobs of medical personnel part-time.
‘There are other essential service workers like the police and the Army part-time. However, other jobs should be converted to part-time. A director who is sitting at home working via virtual means does not deserve a full salary. The current situation is not sustainable.’