My salary of N600,00 is not enough — Iduma-Enwo


The House of Representatives member for Afikpo-North/Afikpo-South Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State, Igariwey Iduma-Enwo, spoke to Punch on his legislative efforts.

The interview reads:
Why must the National Assembly and the Executive quarrel over the budget every year?

It is difficult to put a finger on it. You must look at it from various angles. One is a reflection of where our democracy is presently. We still don’t have developed institutions where every segment knows what it is supposed to do. This is a democracy that is rooted in separation of powers as clearly defined in the constitution. Sections 80 to 84 of the constitution clearly spell out the duties of the legislature as the arm of government to decide how money should be spent.

That is why the Executive takes the budget to the Legislature for vetting before it is returned to the executive again for implementation. In Sections 88/89, the legislature still follows up on how this money will be spent. What creates the conflict is when the executive thinks it should do both the work of the legislature and that of the Executive. In other words, they want the legislature to be a rubber stamp. When the legislature objects to being a rubber stamp, that is when there is always a squabble.

Does the power of appropriation also include inserting projects not contained in the original proposals by the executive?

Every aspect of our governance is covered by the constitution and it is not true that the legislature doesn’t have the powers to introduce new projects. When people who have interests want to read meanings into the provisions of the constitution, it doesn’t stand. As for whether we can remove or add, it is only the courts — the Supreme Court — that can interpret it. Let the court say, ‘Look, legislature, you have no power to go beyond this point.’ So far, that is not the case. The budget comes from the Budget Office, prepared by persons who think that these are the projects that should be implemented. So, we can’t just allow it pass without scrutiny. We have a duty as National Assembly, representing the whole country, to introduce new things for the purpose of balance in all the geopolitical zones.

Why is it difficult for any of the sides to approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation?

It is the executive that is challenging some aspects of our constitution, not the National Assembly. The burden is on the executive. We are saying, these are our powers and we know them. If the executive feels that it is its prerogative to introduce budgetary proposals and also determine how the proposals come out in terms of a prepared budget, it should go and seek the interpretation of the court. There is serious apathy in going to court these days, unlike in the years of the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, so many issues were tested and determined in court.

Nigerians think there is no justification to raise the budget of the National Assembly from N115bn to N125bn….

There is more than enough justification for it. One is that we must work with statistics. If you talk of N125bn, it looks like a huge sum of money to a layman. But, you ask yourself, what is that money meant for? This is the money that is devoted to an arm out of the three arms of government. This component is not up to three per cent of the budget. Again, this money is not just for senators and members alone, except if you want to be mischievous. The National Assembly is made up of several organs with its own departments and thousands of staff (members). They all draw from the N125bn. There are security votes for chief executives, but people are not talking about that. The legislature is grossly underfunded in Nigeria.

Do we need a South-East Development Commission? The issue threw up at lot of dust at the House.

Why not? The attitude of people to that bill has not ceased to shock me. We were simply trying to do our duty as legislators. We are people from the South-East and the aim was to aggregate the interests of our people. We came together to say: how best can we formulate governance of our place? We felt we needed a system that allowed for more interaction and more synergy between the five South-East states. Left on their own, some states will fall backwards. So, the idea of the commission is to bring these states together for development. The states can now bring their funds together for integration. There is nothing wrong in that. But people opposed it. We can’t deny that we are people from the South-East and that we once engaged in an armed conflict with the Federal Government.

The Civil War was cited as a reason for thinking of such a commission after 47 years. People say it is belated….

Anybody who thinks that we can’t link the present with the past is in denial. The Civil War is not even ancient history; it happened not too long ago. That we are saying roads in the South-East are bad, maybe because of the conflict, is not a lie. If you go to my village, you will still see standing buildings with bullet holes. We have said as a community that there is no need plastering the buildings, let them remain as a reminder that the war actually happened. So, if we are thinking of a commission and we anchor it on underdevelopment by that conflict, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

But the bill was ‘killed’ by the House.

Well, bills don’t die. Unless you are no longer interested in that bill. A bill can suffer hiccups or delay. It’s something that we can still go back to the drawing board and bring it back. We are going to consult more with our colleagues and address any possible areas of concern. As you know, the Senate has passed it. So for us, we will also look at it. The bill is not dead.

You are in your 50s. How do you keep up with your schedules?

Biologically, I am ageing and, every minute, every second, with every breath I draw, I age as a result of it. It’s a natural phenomenon. What things do I do? I eat well, but I don’t pile up so much food in my system. I watch my weight and I try to do some exercise.

What is your best food?

My best meal remains eba and soup. What makes the difference is the quantity of (eba) that I eat. I used to indulge much in it when I was younger. These days I go for that soup that I find quite irresistible, which most of the times is something that “draws.” Ordinarily, I am not picky; I eat virtually everything. I like to experiment with lots of food.

What is your ideal way of relaxing?

I am a thorough family man; my friends know this about me. I spend much time in my house and with my family. I don’t travel much. There is the economic aspect of travelling, which is quite expensive. It is not easy for us too; people will not believe it, but it is true. I watch TV a lot and I can cap it up by just having my wife and children around me.

Lawmakers too can’t afford to travel? People assume that you have a lot of money and can afford a lavish lifestyle.

The truth of the matter is that if I am left with my salary at my age of over 50, I don’t need too many things in my life. I am not thinking of building houses or buying cars. So, with my salary, I will manage with my children. Already, some of them are graduating. But, I must service a constituency that looks up to me. When you put all of that together, you will find out that at end of the month, you are constantly asking your colleagues whether they have received alerts. I am not speaking for just myself. I have a good number of friends here. I know that it is a very big pain surviving the last few days of every month.

Are you saying your jumbo pay comes late?

You wouldn’t believe it that today is the 12th and members only got paid yesterday. Members were relieved that they got their salary. How much is even the salary? My salary is slightly above N600,000. That is what they pay me for 30 days.

That is minus allowances, you mean?

Any other allowance is already tied to outgoing expenses. You have stationery to buy, do repairs on equipment in this office etc. So, you will find out that what I really rely on is the salary that doesn’t take me home.

A man who stays at home with his family most of the time hardly has time for other women, right?


I don’t want to speak for myself. I am known to be a thorough family man. It is not that women are not beautiful out there. The thing is that they come with a lot of problems — baggage. The baggage content is too much for a normal person who wants to live a normal life. I won’t say I don’t see women who are beautiful. You see them but you can’t go and kidnap them. Are you ready to do the needful? A responsible person must live within his income.
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