Senator representing Borno south and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, has advocated part-time status for lawmakers in the country due to the dwindling effect of COVID-19.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Wednesday, the lawmaker who sought for the office of Senate President last June maintained that it has become increasingly necessary for the nation to cut the cost of governance in the face of dwindling revenue from crude oil earnings occasioned by the pandemic, COVID-19.
Senator Ndume said all hands must be on deck to reduce recurrent expenditure in a situation when the government has made recourse to external borrowing to fund budget. The Senator further denied making calls for the salaries of civil servants across the board during an interview he granted in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
He said: “The statement credited to me was not a complete statement and I was quoted out of context. When they asked me questions about the revised budget, I said we should fasten our belt during this pandemic due to the fall in the prices of crude oil which is the mainstay of our economy. I said the Federal Government should critically look into cutting down of the cost of governance. I called for the reduction of overhead cost, salaries of senior public servants and the recurrent expenditure. That is what I said and I still stand by it.
“Taking cognizance of the fact that the salaries of the lower cadre civil servants are too small, I couldn’t have called for its further reduction. As a matter of facts, Nigerian civil servants deserve palliative from all tiers of government, even with their salaries.
“I maintain that since most of us who are public servants across the three arms of government are not working full time, for now, our salaries should no longer be paid 100 per cent. Overhead should also not be 100 per cent again. All those travel allowances should stop because we are not travelling again. We are operating from online now, the provision for stationery should be stopped. By that, so many expenditures would have been moved.
“As far as I’m concerned, we can make the National Assembly a part-time arrangement for now since we conduct our sitting once or twice in a week these days. If we make it part-time, that means our salaries must be reduced. The reality is that we can’t continue in a situation like this where 70 per cent of the country’s budget is going to personnel and recurrent expenditure as if everything is okay. This is a time when we are borrowing to fund the budget. I didn’t say salaries of civil servants who are struggling to survive, should be slashed. If under these critical circumstances, where 70 per cent of the budget goes to recurrent expenditure and overhead, then the government should really sit down and critically look at it.
“The government should identify public officers that can work part-time and reduce their salaries. For example, even we in the National Assembly, for the period of this pandemic, I strongly advocate that the work of the legislature and other people should be made par time and therefore, pay them on a part-time basis to reduce the cost. There are jobs that are not critical, that could be converted to a part-time basis to reduce costs.
“We cannot make the jobs of medical personnel part-time. There are other essential service workers like the police and the Army part-time. However, other jobs should be converted to part-time. A director who is sitting at home working via virtual means does not deserve a full salary. The current situation is not sustainable. I even believe in the Parliamentary system of government.
“When Prof. Ango Abdullahi said Nigeria should revert to the parliamentary system of government, I said I support it because the Presidential system of government is not for poor countries like us. Today, if Nigerians demand a reversion to the parliamentary system of government, I will support it. The running cost of the government must be reduced by a certain percentage that is significant so as to create jobs for the unemployed.”