By Tunde Opalana, Tom Okpe
The National Assembly (NASS) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are presently at daggers drawn.
The puncture arose from Labour’s claim that federal lawmakers have been settled with a minimum of N100million each by the President Bola Tinubu-led Executive from the N70 billion windfall handed the Legislature in the early weeks of the current 10th NASS, following the removal of fuel subsidy.
Labour further claimed the eye-popping sum of money was lawmakers’ share of palliatives to enable them comfortably tide over the socio-economic difficulties arising from the subsidy removal as against measly quantity of rice doled out to hundreds of hungry ordinary Nigerians in a ward to share.
National Assistant General Secretary of NLC, Christopher Onyeka, had alleged that legislators were given the princely sum of N100 million minimum, from the N70 billion.
He said: “Can you see the insult that a ward would share a bag of rice and the government calls that a palliative? It is an insult to Nigerians, whereas the government gave legislators N70billion and each of the legislators gets over N100million in a country where Nigerians are suffering.
“The FG is buying cars and houses of over N100million for each person and Nigerians are keeping quiet as if what is going on is a normal thing. NLC calls Nigerians to join hands together because they cannot do it alone.”
Consequently, The Daily Times sought responses from leaders of the NASS.
Spokespersons of both the Senate and House of Representatives dismissed the NLC claims as ”falsehood and blatant lies.”
Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, told the Daily Times that the allegation was ”very strange and unfathomable.”
In a reaction to questions put to him by The Daily Times in Abuja, the Senate spokesperson wondered what the NLC wanted to gain from such alleged falsehood and lies against the NASS.
Sen. Adaramodu claimed Labour may be acting under the influence of other political interests.
His words: “This is a blatant lie and a ploy by political machinery using the NLC to tarnish the image of the National Assembly.
“They are out to pitch the National Assembly against the Nigerian workforce and the masses.
“We don’t believe that such blackmail will satisfy the ego of anyone trying to do this.”
He expressed shock at the source of the monetary figure being bandied by the NLC, saying “where do they get such money from? Is it in the national budget or appropriated for? Where will the money come from and for what purposes?”.
Adaramodu described the National Assembly as a responsive institution that will always defend the welfare and wellbeing of the populace.
He said: “As a parliament, we are for masses, and we will continue to protect the interest of the masses.”
The Senate spokesperson said there is no N100 million anywhere given to either Senators or Reps, insisting that such exists only in the imagination of the person or body making the allegation.
His colleague in the House of Representatives, Hon. Akin Rotimi, also yesterday, in a statement he forwarded to the Daily Times, said: “The House of Representatives notes with concern news reports across multiple newspaper, electronic, and online media, of a statement credited to the National Assistant General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Christopher Onyeka.
“In the said statement, Onyeka claimed that the Executive arm had given N100million to National Assembly members as palliatives.
“This claim is baseless and devoid of any factual accuracy. Transparency and truth in public discourse are necessary for a functioning democracy.
“While we doubt that Onyeka was actually conveying the official position of the NLC on this claim, it is nonetheless important to correct such misinformation.
“First, we state categorically that Onyeka lied in his claim that National Assembly members were given N100million as palliatives. For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did members of the House of Representatives receive any money from the Executive arm as palliatives.
“We, therefore, consider this statement as malicious, irresponsible and in bad faith.
“We consider it irresponsible and most unfortunate that the NLC Assistant Secretary General would misrepresent facts in a bid to lend credence to otherwise valid demands of the NLC, while seeking to denigrate the National Assembly, and inciting the public against the institution.
“Accordingly, the House of Representatives demands an immediate retraction of this lie and a public apology from the NLC.
“The Labour union, as a critical stakeholder in the development of Nigeria has a voice and it risks delegitimizing that voice, if it is found to include fables in its legitimate agitations.
“Secondly, we wish to remind the NLC and indeed all Nigerians that in less than 100 days in the tenure of the 10th Assembly, we have demonstrated our commitment to the welfare of Nigerian workers and all Nigerians.
“In addition to other measures, the House of Representatives speedily, carried out requisite legislative action on the Executive arm of Government’s request for approval of funds for palliatives for Nigerians.
“We have also consistently advocated for the Executive to expedite these palliative measures to reach vulnerable Nigerians effectively and efficiently, as well as added our voices to the call for an immediate review of the minimum wage.”
He stressed that the House had invited the NLC to see the National Assembly as partners rather than adversaries.
“The 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives wishes to reassure Nigerians that we remain committed to advancing the wellbeing of our constituents.
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“We empathize with all Nigerians on account of the pains being experienced due to the impact of the removal of the fuel subsidy, and will continue to compel the Executive to expedite measures to alleviate the pains of Nigerians at this time, and more importantly, work with all stakeholders to rebuild our country to ensure no Nigerian is left behind,” he added.