Ex-Senate President, David Mark has denied the allegations that budgets and salaries of Senators and members of the House of Representatives in the 6th and 7th assemblies were kept secret.
“The National Assembly budget is in the open. Anybody can access it. We don’t fix our salaries. What we earn is open. I think we should put an end to this cheap blackmail,” Mark declared.
Senator Mark’s claims came amidst growing speculation that Nigerian lawmakers were the highest earners across the world with much of its pay packages and overhead budgets kept in secrecy. The Benue-born lawmaker is rather angry over the speculation. “How can anyone claim that the National Assembly budget is secret? Or that our earnings are secret. The National Assembly’s budget is part and parcel of the Federal budget. It is not a separate document. If anybody is in doubt, he or she should get a copy of the National budget and clarify. It is a public document,” he claimed.
Senator Mark who was until last June the President of the upper chamber parliament added that the Senate under him made a lot of sacrifices for the Nigerian people and was the first to cut its 2015 budget. “I make bold to say that the National Assembly under my leadership was bold, courageous, steadfast and truly patriotic. We stood on the side of the people, the truth, transparency and above all in the interest of the nation.
“We were the first to cut our budget in 2015. People should appreciate what we are doing. We tightened our belts more than any other ministry or parastatal today. I can put my hand on my chest without fear of contradiction to say we make a lot of sacrifices in our budgetary systems.
According to Senator Mark, parliamentary practices and procedures dictate that all issues are carried out in the open, even as he described as sad and ridiculous, impression by people that the National Assembly budget had continued to increase annually, adding “this is not correct. It is unwarranted and needless accusation.”
Senator Mark boasted that in 2008, the National Assembly, under his leadership, returned N7 billion unspent funds to the national treasury during late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration, which would have been stolen by some. Senator Mark maintained that such allegation was borne out of deliberate mischief, blackmail or outright ignorance.
By Olisemeka Obeche