Members of the National Assembly have come under pressure to donate their one month salary for the fight against the novel coronavirus spreading across the country.
The federal lawmakers have been criticised for their silence on making personal donations after ministers donated 50 per cent of their March 2020 salaries to support government’s efforts in combating the deadly virus.
Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, who announced the ministers’ donations, said it was a gesture of solidarity and support for the federal government’s efforts at tackling the disease.
Before Mohammed’s announcement, many wealthy Nigerians had donated billions of Naira to strengthen the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Recall that Rep. Mansur Manu Soro, Ganjuwa/Darazo federal constituency (Bauchi State), had asked his colleagues to sacrifice their March salaries and raise N360 million for the cause.
The lawmaker, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, urged his colleagues to contribute N1m each to buy ventilators and other medical consumables needed to fight the coronavirus and treat victims.
The convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr Tunde Salman, said the COVID-19 pandemic requires all efforts to stem its spread and eventually get a solution.
“Measures like the lawmakers being asked to donate their March salaries are not out of place,” Salman added.
Also, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said the lawmakers do not seem to have impressed Nigerians and that donating their March salaries and allowances to fight the COVID-19 virus is not out of place.
Lawmakers disagree on personal donations
Some lawmakers who spoke to our correspondents expressed diverse views on making personal financial commitments to the fight against COVID-19.
While some support the call, others said donating half or whole of their March salaries would make no difference as members were already spending much on their constituents.
Senator Betty Apiafi (Rivers West) said taking 100% of their salary would amount to nothing as the country was dealing with a pandemic, stressing that the federal government needed to make funds available.
Senator Apiafi, who is also the deputy chair, Senate Committee on Health, told our correspondent that “donating 50 per cent of our salary is not a problem, but we are already spending much more because of the level of hunger in our various constituencies.”
She, however, expressed worry over lack of adequate testing facilities and isolation centres to contain even an expected number of patients.
The senator said both the federal and state governments needed to, as a matter of urgency, start importing hospital consumables and necessary equipment, and start massive emergency response.
Without consumables, she said health workers would run away and leave patients to their fate.
Similarly, House spokesman, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia), said asking for members’ half salaries is “shortchanging our constituents from the magnanimity members want to show and are already showing.”
Kalu, in a WhatsApp message to our reporter, said, “If Nigerians knew our salaries, they will not be asking for half of it. What will half of our salaries fetch for our constituents?
“That’s the easiest sacrifice to make and why Nigerians are asking for the easiest sacrifice from their representatives is what I am not aware of, especially when the representatives are willing to do more and are actually doing more than 10 salaries put together.”
Senator Muhammad Adamu Bulkachuwa (Bauchi North) declined to comment on the call on National Assembly members to donate their March salaries but said he would “personally contribute and lead a fundraising”.
The senator said he was also working with some state governments to intensify awareness campaign against the COVID-19.
“We picked Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi and Gombe, where we would make special sensitisation programmes on the coronavirus. I will personally contribute and lead the occasion for fundraising, and we will make essential supplies that include face masks, sanitisers and some other materials,” he added.
Senator Bulus K. Amos, (Gombe South) urged his colleagues to support their various state governments in ameliorating the effects of the coronavirus lockdown on the people.
The senator, in a short statement sent to our correspondent, said as lawmakers, they could not afford to remain complacent when their constituents face an imminent threat of annihilation in the face of poor health infrastructure.
Reps mull donations
It was learnt, however, that members of House of Representatives had started discussing the possibility of donating whole or part of their March salaries to raise funds towards the fight against the novel COVID-19.
Sources said most of the members were in touch with one another on the next line of action to be taken on a personal basis after the passage of the “Economic Stimulus Bill 2020” and the motion to provide palliative measures to Nigerians over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House Chief Whip, Muhammad Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), said members had discussed the matter before they went on the two weeks’ recess last Tuesday.
“We are willing to donate to this cause. Our salaries have not been paid until today (Saturday, March 28). If we decide on any amount to be donated and all of us agree, it can be deducted at source.
“Members are ready to meet on anything that warrants our attention. That is why we remained here; because it is a time like this that we are mostly needed to help in taking measures that require legal backing and prompt passage of laws for the president to take measures that will safeguard Nigerians,” he said.
Another member of the House, Abubakar Makki Yalleman (APC, Jigawa), said members were ready to abide by the decision of their leadership because it was an issue of national concern.