The House of Representatives on Wednesday resisted a motion seeking to cut the amount spent by federal and state government officials on foreign travels.
The sponsor, Mr. Eddie Mbadiwe, had kicked against the practice by Nigerian government officials to travel on First Class tickets or chartered flights out of the country.
He argued that such foreign trips were a burden on tax payers and only increased the cost of governance.
Mbadiwe had suggested that besides the President, Vice-President, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, Governors and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, no government official should travel on a ticket above Business Class.
This year, he recalled that the Presidency budgeted over N900m for travels, while in 2013, the figure had been projected to jump to N1.2bn.
He noted that such “unnecessary” spending was one of the reasons Nigeria often had a huge budget deficit.
The lawmaker asked government officials to use such funds to provide services that would be beneficial to ordinary Nigerians.
Some lawmakers, apparently sensing that the motion indirectly indicted them, did not like the prayers of the motion.
The Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, noted that it was the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission that fixed the entitlements of officials on travels.
Tambuwal advised Mbadiwe to amend the motion to call on the commission to review the entitlements on travels.
“These entitlements on estacode and travels are determined by RMAFC.
“So, we should be mindful of this as we proceed,” the Speaker stated.
Another member, Mr. Musa Serkin-Ada, backed Mbadiwe.
“It is only in Nigeria that the First Class and the Business Class are fully booked in aircraft for government officials.
“In most cases, the business people are relocated to the Economy Class because there is no space for them,” he said.
“Left to me, no government official should fly on a ticket above economy class,” he added.
But murmurs heightened in the chamber, suggesting opposition to the motion.
Mbadiwe, reading the mood in the chamber, moved from seat-to-seat to consult with some of his colleagues, but it was not clear what he discussed with them.
One of the lawmakers he consulted with was the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa.
On returning to his seat, Mbadiwe applied to withdraw the motion to the relief of his colleagues.
Responding to Mbadiwe’s action, the Speaker remarked that the message had been sent that public officials should be “more patriotic, especially as it concerns foreign travels.”
But for the decision to withdraw it, the motion would have been rejected outright by the majority of members.