by Adedamola Adejobi
At the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly, the Senate President made a very profound statement saying that ‘‘the change that our people voted for is a change from a life of poverty, misery to a life of prosperity, happiness, security and comfort, accountability and respect for democracy.’’ Truly that is the aspiration of every Nigerian towards the new government both at the Executive and Legislative level, but one thing as always been a major source of concern to the general public and that is the issue of remuneration for public office holders most especially Federal legislators who are the main focal point of this article.
The remuneration of the National Assembly has always caused a public stir among Nigerians and the Assembly itself has not helped matters with the incoherent figures it always reels out to the public to defend itself against allegations, coupled with some arguments that hold no water as to why the payment is justified.
The Senate President, in his early days as Senate President, hinted that his leadership would review the perceived bogus salaries and allowances of senators, saying his decision was in line with the mood of the nation. The words of the Senate President was backed up by the constitution of a 10 man ad-hoc committee on the review of the finance of the senate for the purposes of cutting cost of governance which was chaired by Senator James Manager, PDP Delta South.
It is no longer news that the report of the committee has been generating issues, with the recommendation of a 10 percent cut in the allowances and salaries of all senators. The report which was deliberated on the floor of the house was eventually stepped down following a closed session. The Senate President said that the senators agreed to step down the report for further legislative input without giving any solid reason. This brings up the question of how much are our legislators willing to sacrifice for the development of this country, most especially when we are having financial challenges, with states being unable to pay salaries with some up to 7 months, a state like Osun comes to mind hurriedly, some even unable to WAEC fees resulting in the withholding of results, not also forgetting Resident Doctors on strike.
An infograph was released by BudgIT on the performance of the National Assembly, which painted the picture as follows;
It was indeed alarming when this was released to the public. The question on the lips of everyone is why are we paying so much for nothing and yet when the talk of reduction in the remuneration comes up they attack vigorously. Do we really have people who are sensitive to the mood of the nation or people who have seen the office as a means to an end?
The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), released a new table for the annual take-home (excluding estacode, Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and some sundry allowances which they are paid as necessary), of each of the 360 members of the House of Representatives which stood at N18.26 million while each of the 109 senators earns a bit higher pocketing N19.66 million each a year.
According to an analysis by the PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, each senator collects N1.01 million a year for his or her domestic staff, while each member of the House of Representatives collects N1million for the same purpose. Each lawmaker gets N202,640 as Newspapers/Periodicals allowance per annum.
Based on the approved pay schedule, N1.4billion is spent on the 469 lawmakers as furniture allowance annually, while their car loan stands at N2.34billion per annum.
These figures taken together, the 360 members of the House of Representatives gulp N6.58 billion from the nation’s treasury in annual salaries and allowances, while the 109 Senators cost the nation N2.14 billion in similar emoluments.
Cumulatively, the country shells out a hefty N8.72 billion every year in salaries and allowances to lawmakers in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
The N7.8 billion the federal lawmakers will pocket this year is almost the sum total of 2015 capital allocation to the Power Sector (N4.24billion), the Ministry of Women Affairs (N1.25billion), the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (N500million), the Federal Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission (N500million), the Ministry of Science and Technology (N500million), the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (N500million), the Ministry of Labour and Productivity (N200million) and the Ministry of Police Affairs (N150million).
This new remuneration table by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is actually a good development, compared to where we are coming from, if it will actually see the light of the day, and not just be another paper work just to pacify Nigerians. Also I want to believe the Senate President will keep to his inaugural statement, where he said that “Nigerians expect that the new senate must make laws that will reform the oil sector, the security systems, diversify our economy, create jobs and make doing business in Nigeria more competitive.”
I sincerely hope the 8th Assembly will gear up to work and stop wasting precious time which could have been deployed to debate bills that will affect lives of ordinary Nigerians who bought into the change mantra and not consequently end up like the 7th Assembly passing 50 bills in a day.
There is still enough legislative time to correct the wrongs and achieve the reasonable.
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