There was no constituency allowance during our time
– 2nd Republic Senator
Senator M. A. E Onunkun (OON), a Senator in the Second Republic under the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) representing Ondo South, in this interview with FASUSI MARTINS bears his mind on the National Assembly of today compared with that of the Second Republic, the legitimacy of the constituency allowance among other issues of interest.
The National Assembly of today and that of the Second Republic, what are the differences?
The differences are colossus because during our period in the second republic, I never earned up to one million naira in my tenure even till now that I have retired. Because at that time, our salary was N15,200 per year out of which tax was deducted. After this deduction, our take home was N648 monthly. We fixed the salary of the President, it was N50,000 per year. The salary of the entire National Assembly members were the same, our salary was just a little higher than that of members of the House of Representatives, we later agreed to earn the same salary because we are both members of the National Assembly. My salary at that time for a year could only buy one Peugeot car.
Sincerely speaking sir, what are the legitimate duties of lawmakers?
The duties of lawmakers are stated in the constitution, we know our duties, during our time, we worked day and night even on Saturday to consider Bill, raised bills, we dissolved into committees, that was what we were doing and we didn’t have much recesses like they have now, we only had two to three recess in a year unlike the one they are having every two weeks now. During our time, when we go on recesses, we calculated three kobo per kilometer as our allowance, there was never a time I took up to N60 as allowance .
Sir, the issue of constituency project allowance, is it legitimate?
There was no constituency allowance during our time. The only thing we had was a little money to buy few things otherwise there was no constituency allowance, they only give us little money to furnish the senatorial office.
Are our present lawmakers justifying the huge salaries and allowances?
What they are receiving now is devastating, it is unthinkable. What are they doing with millions of naira every month and still receive constituency allowance. They should sit down and cut down their take home by themselves because the president cannot do it, they should do it themselves. How can someone explain it, a country where minimum wage is N18,000 and someone is receiving up to N15 million as allowance in a month? What will they do with such money rather than to live a flamboyant life? So, it is a terrible thing, they should be the one to think about all these things and cut down whatever they are receiving.
What system of government would you recommend for the county to bail us out of this quagmire?
There is nothing wrong with our system, America practice it and they are doing fine, we have no problem with our system, it is ourselves that we must look inward and readjust. The present system is okay.
What is your assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government?
President Buhari is doing his best , he can’t do more than his best . Before now, the situation in the county was terrible, so he needed time to fix the country.
What will be your advice to the government?
I will advise the government to sit up. I will advise the government not to waste money on frivolities, they should allow elections to be free fair and transparent. The money we are spending on elections is too much, how can you imagine that before an aspirant could get the ticket of a party, he is already spending billion, what then do you expect. The issue of insecurity should be tackled headlong, look at the herdsmen, where do they get guns, all what we believe here is that, most of these guns are owned by the military men and they are giving it to them because most of the cattle belong to them. Security is a thing that government must face squarely.