Classic Buhari: As He walks out on ministers

Don’t annoy him! Stick to the rules or get the stick. Some ministers serving under President Muhammadu Buhari are said to be living flats, rather than duplexes. The President had earmarked 4 million naira as annual housing allowances for each cabinet member.

According to some ministers in Buhari’s cabinet, the said amount can only rent flats and not homes giving the need for security since renting flats will mean having other neighbors in the same building.

Previous administrations typically accommodates their minsters and other political aides quickly so that they can settle down and resume official responsibilities. Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’ Adua and Goodluck Jonathan did this right after being sworn in.

THISDAY reports that the ministers are concerned that it would be next to impossible for them to get accommodation befitting their offices with N4 million in Abuja and have repeatedly appealed to Buhari to review it upwards to N20 million per annum, but their request has been turned down.

One civil servant reports that “In a bid to make their case, some of the ministers who had formed a committee on the issue of their accommodation met with Buhari last week Wednesday, but he rejected their request because his hands are tied by the Remuneration Act, even though he empathizes with their situation. The president excused himself and left the ministers sitting idly by.

“They were asking for N20 million per annum for their accommodation. But prior to last week’s meeting, several other options had been proposed, including buying an estate or the FCDA (Federal Capital Development Authority) building one, but these were considered expensive and dropped.

“The final option was the request for N20 million per annum, because some ministers are squatting in Abuja and the situation is impacting on their jobs. The N4 million approved by the president was in line with the current remuneration package for public office holders in the ministerial cadre set by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) under the Remuneration Act of 2007.”

Under RMAFC stipulations, housing allowances are pegged at 20% of a minister’s annual remuneration with a four year furniture allowance of about 6 million naira (300% of annual pay).

An aide to one of the ministers disclosed that “By virtue of their office, some ministers such as those in charge of foreign affairs, budget and national planning, finance, trade and investment, health, and education, among others, often host foreign dignitaries from missions, embassies and international or multilateral donor agencies. Accordingly, they would need befitting accommodation.

“It would not be in our interest for such dignitaries to be hosted in tiny flats or in far flung suburbs outside the metropolis, which is what the N4 million can afford at the moment. Besides, there might also be security concerns about allowing ministers to live in such suburbs or even hosting foreign dignitaries there.

“And with the N4 million approved by President Buhari, it is next to impossible for the ministers to rent anything decent. Today, the FCDA is spending billions of naira building another set of official residences for the National Assembly’s principal officers. Had the government retained them, billions could have been saved in building a new set of residences for the leadership of parliament.