Sacked Nigerian Lawmakers Fail to Refund N61 Million to National Assembly

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Nigerian lawmakers recently sacked by the Supreme Court and asked to refund all salaries and allowances received thus far are expected to refund about N61 million cumulatively.

However, about three months after they were sacked by the apex court, there are no indications any of the three lawmakers affected has returned the monies.

The lawmakers affected are Sopuluchukwu Ezeonwuka who represented Orhumba North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State; Herman Hembe, Vandeikiya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue State; and a senator, Sani Danladi, the former acting governor of Taraba who represented Taraba North senatorial district.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how each of the aforementioned lawmakers was sacked by the Supreme Court for various reasons.
According to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, the cumulative monthly salary and allowances of a member of the House of Representatives is N791,000 while that of a senator is N1.029 million.

Although legislators are believed to earn far more than this through allowances not approved by RMAFC, tabulation of amount to be returned focuses on salaries and allowances only approved by the revenue agency, which is the one the lawmakers admit receiving.

SACKING LAWMAKERS

In April 2017, Mr. Ezeonwuka, wassacked by the apex court in a pre-election suit instituted by Ben Nwankwo who was later sworn in to replace him.

The court directed Mr. Ezeonwuka to refund to the National Assembly all monies collected by him by way of salaries and allowances since he assumed office within 90 days.

Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to ascertain whether such monies have been paid by Mr. Ezeonwuka were unsuccessful as the clerk of the National Assembly declined to furnish this newspaper with the information despite a Freedom of Information Act request.

Mr. Ezeonwuka also declined to respond to our enquiry when he was called on phone and via sms.

But according to figures available to this newspaper, Mr. Ezeonwuka is expected to refund nothing short of N17.4 million which he earned as salaries and RMAFC approved allowances for the 22 months he spent as a member of the House of Representatives.

Checks conducted by PREMIUM TIMES at the finance department of the National Assembly indicate that although it is now past five months since Mr. Ezeonwuka was removed from office, no such remittances have been made since the April 17 judgement.

TWO SACKED IN A DAY

On June 23, in separate judgments, the Supreme Court sacked the erstwhile chairman of the House of Representatives FCT committee, Herman Hembe, and a senator, Sani Abubakar-Danladi.

In both cases, the apex court directed the duo to refund all salaries and allowances they received from June 2015 to the date they were sacked “within 90 days.”

Mr. Hembe is expected to return an estimated amount of N19 million having spent 24 months in the National Assembly while Mr. Abubakar-Danladi is expected return about N24.7 million.

About 90 days after both men were sacked, however, findings show none of them has returned the money to the National Assembly as directed. Both former lawmakers declined comments when PREMIUM TIMES sought to know if they had returned the money as directed by the court. They did not return calls or respond to text messages.

After the Supreme Court judgement in June, Mr. Hembe indicated he was willing to return the funds but was not able to, according to an application he filed before the apex court.

“I have however been unable to refund the salaries I received from the House of Representatives. The salaries were received monthly and were used for the upkeep of my family and the high cost of living made it impossible for me to have any savings.

“I have tried very hard to raise a loan to enable me comply with the above order of this Honourable Court, but have not yet succeeded. I will comply with the order of this Honourable Court as soon as I am able to raise the money,” he said.

In its ruling last Wednesday, the Supreme Court emphasised that Mr. Hembe must refund all the money he earned as a lawmaker from 2015. The court also threw out his appeal.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, emphasised that the decisionof the Supreme Court to order such persons to refund monies already collected is to compel politicians to do the right thing during the electioneering process.

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