The senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Rochas Okorocha, yesterday said that he had not received a dime as salary since he was inaugurated.
Okorocha, a former governor of Imo State, said Nigeria should not be allowed to descend to a deeper crisis, warning those beating the drums of war to stop it forthwith.
He made the disclosure at a news conference he addressed in Abuja yesterday, arguing that the salaries of senators are not out of place considering the standard of living in Abuja.
The allowances and salaries of federal lawmakers have been a subject of debate in the country amid worsening poverty index and infrastructure deficit.
On March 7, 2018, a senator in the eighth National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani revealed that a senator was entitled to monthly expenses of N13.5 million (£27,000; $37,500) in addition to their monthly salaries of more than $2,000.
At the conference yesterday, Okorocha justified senators’ jumbo allowances and salaries on the unprecedented standard of living in the Federal Capital Territory.
He, further, explained: “As I speak to you as a Senator, I have not received a dime as salary since I became a senator. If you look at the allowances given to the senators and break it down for accommodation, transportation among others, it is definitely not out of place.
“You cannot bring somebody as a Senator and expect him to be a pauper, who cannot afford a decent meal. I do not know how much information Nigerians get leading to the conclusion that senators receive so much.
“How much is a house in Abuja in a year befitting a senator? I have proposed that if we cannot carry the welfare of senators, we should make laws and cut it down. I had suggested one senator and three House of Representatives per state,” Imo’s former governor explained.
He, however, lamented that nobody listened to him when he advocated a senator per state, wondering how the federal government “will bring a senator to Abuja without a car or an okada to ride. The situation now calls for national sacrifice from the leadership.
“Even if we are going to turn the senators to live in hostels, let everybody cut down 50 to 70 percent of his or her income so that the youths will also have a sense of belonging that the leaders are making sacrifice.
“The truth is that our lifestyle provokes the youths. We must call on leaders, the legislatures and executives, to change our lifestyle as a mark of sacrifice.
“It is not necessarily because they are comfortable with what they get. Even when they get, they have thousands of people that supported them in addition to the extended family system in Africa,” Okorocha said.
He, thus, urged the legislature and the executives “to make sacrifices from their salaries and allowances as a way of ameliorating the situation the youths are facing.”
On #EndSARS protest, Okorocha condemned the ugly situation in the country arising from the #EndSARS protest, saying the protest had culminated into violence, anarchy and civil unrest with many people losing their lives.
The former governor said this was not the time “to apportion blames or claim, who is right or wrong because there must never be a victor or vanquished in this battle. There is an urgent need to give peace a chance in the country.
“What started a few days ago as a peaceful protest has escalated into losing many souls and burning property with people living in fears. This situation is very unfortunate and highly regrettable. I want to sympathise with those that have lost their loved ones due to the protests.”
Okorocha, however, described it as a wakeup call by the youths of this country to the leaders of this nation. He, also, said it was a pointer that the elite “have been selfish in handling the affairs of this country.
“There has been a track record of unfair leadership for a long time. The protest “is not just targeted at police, but a disappointment over economic issues in a nation where we have joblessness and poverty for the youths.
“While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for the actions taken so far, especially in reassuring the youths of meeting up their demands, we must also act quickly under this present situation to prepare for the future.
“Today, we have millions of out of school children in the country. It is another time bomb for tomorrow. While the situation is getting under control, government and leaders must rise to their responsibilities to ensure that such future occurrences do not happen again,” he explained.
Okorocha observed that the Nigerian youths “are not against the police, but against a certain segment of the police formation. So, killing innocent policemen/women and military personnel is really uncalled for.
“The social media have not helped matters in this period, especially when people are posting old pictures and making them look like current ones with people believing in it and acting otherwise,” he said.
He said Nigeria should be protected, asking the president “to ensure that the protesters are treated as their children, as they have no other nation to call theirs.”