Since there has been no denial from the National Assembly as to their scandalous wages, kept from the public consumption, their intended imbedding pensions for life for its principal officers into the Constitution; and now the Federal government's reports that the National Assembly have spent N1 trillion from 2005 to 2013; we could go by the popular believe that members of the National Assembly are drying up Nigeria's economy. It would not be criminal if to believe and publish figures from all available sources on the Nigerian National Assembly members' remuneration.
The Economist magazine revealed that Nigeria federal legislators, with a basic salary of $189,500.00 per annum (N30.6m), are the highest paid lawmakers in the world. It looked at the lawmakers' basic salary as a ratio of the Gross Domestic Product per person across the world. According to the report, the basic salary (which excludes despicable allowances); of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country's GDP per person of $1,600.00.
In another report, the 469 federal lawmakers (109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives) cost Nigeria over N76 billion on annual salaries, allowances and quarterly payments. Each member of the 54 standing Senate committee, receives a monthly imprest of between N648 million and N972 million per year, while, a member of the HOR receives N35 million or N140 million as quarterly or yearly allowances; which means conservatively the 25 per cent of the overhead of the nation's budget goes to the NASS.
The heavy pay for the members of the National Assembly has turned up the quest to defraud across Nigeria public services. On March 8, 2013, a 45-year old driver with a New Generation Bank allegedly stole $100,000 and 10,000 Euros amounting to N18.1m while off-loaded bags of foreign currencies from the bullion van which he had driven earlier in the day, into the bank's vault. When arrested, the Armed Robbers stated, "I'm not an armed robber...We have a lot of senators looting and we also need money. There are many thieves in Nigeria and most of us are jobless youths, we have nothing... There is no big deal in robbery. We are all robbers, including journalists..." He advised the police to focus on politicians, especially Senators and House members, whom he described as the "real thieves."
In as much as a decent Nigerian does not condole social ruffians on Nigeria streets, the armed robbers, or swindlers, though made wrong choices, justified the inevitable corrupt-laden average Nigeria politician, most especially the legislators, across board. The legislators are not honestly transparent in their wages. Definitely, they are the real legal robbers using their law making process as weapons to defraud the public service.
Is the National Assembly bold enough to go China way of death sentence law for any official that steals from the national treasury? Why are they hiding their salaries and allowances from the public?
Going by the altercation of Chief Mathew Aremu Obasanjo, that Nigeria is jinxed and cursed with poor and irresponsible leaders; he could join that club of irresponsible leaders because no one speak well about his administration. Nigerians are not unappreciative species. Obasanjo is of the opinion that if Nigerians could not commend a leader after 53 years of its independence, "then we are jinxed and cursed; we should all go to hell."
Possibly, Obasanjo would lead his supporters to hell, especially some members of the National Assembly, specifically the Senators for their outrageous pay. It will be very easy for Nigerians to conclude that 'the jinxed and cursed leaders' that led the country to this crippled static stage would definitely rot in hell.
Unfortunately, the curses on Nigerian past leaders are now gyrating to the generations that are governing the country today (August 2013); even though one of the cursed leaders is still looking at 2015 as his destined year to govern Nigeria. Since they cannot modify the curse on them, because an average Nigerian does not commend them for their atrocities, they might all rot in hell.
Nigerians do not have to go too far to find reasons for the cursed poor and irresponsible Nigerian leaders. The younger generation of leaders without integrity and probity representing their communities are at the National Assembly. PDP could feel 'the hand of Saul and the Voice of Jacob' in its crises while APC is warming up to take the FULL advantage at the Central Government.
Let us take a look at a Senator's salary and allowances in Nigeria.
The Basic Salary is N2,484,245.50;
Hardship Allowance: 50% of Basic Salary = N1,242,122.75;
Constituency Allowance: 200% of BS = N4,968,509.00;
Furniture Allowance: 300% of BS = N7,452,736.50;
Newspaper Allowance: 50% = N1,242,122.70;
Wardrobe Allowance: 25% = N621,061.37;
Recess Allowance: 10% = N248,424.55;
Accommodation: 200% = N4,968,509.00;
Utilities: 30% = N828,081.83;
Domestic Staff: 35% = N863,184.12;
Entertainment: 30% = N828,081.83;
Personal Assistance: 25% = N621,061.37;
Vehicle Maintenance Allowance: 75% = N1,863,184.12;
Leave Allowance: 10% = N248,424.55;
Severance Gratuity: 300% = N7,452,736.50;
Motor Vehicle Allowance: 400% of BS = N9,936,982.00;
Total per month = N29,479, 749.00 [$190,192.00].
In effect a Senator earns N498, 630.13 a day, which a University Professor does not make in a month; N20, 776.28 per hour; and N346.27 per minute. A member of the House of Representatives earns N347, 945.00 per day, N14, 497.00 per hour and N241.00 per minute. In other words, a Senator's daily pay is two times more than the annual pay of the least paid Nigerian worker, with the House of Representatives stands at the monthly pay of the least paid Nigerian worker is slightly above the hourly pay of a member of the House of Representatives.
In addition, Nigeria Senators and House of Representatives members are entitled to N500, 000.00 per night for their local trips.
According to some reports, when compared to other countries, the $189,500.00 earned annually by each Nigerian legislator is 52 per cent higher than what Kenya legislators, who are the second highest paid lawmakers, earned.
India, $11, 200.00;
Hong Kong, $130,000.00;
and Singapore, $154,000.00.
The minimum wage in the United States is $1, 257 (N191, 667.00) and a US lawmaker earns $15,080.00 (N2.3m) per month. In theUnited Kingdom, a lawmaker earns $8,686.00(N1.3m) monthly while the gross national minimum wage is $1,883.00 (N283, 333.00) per month. Thus, the percentage of a UK lawmaker's pay, that is the salary of the least paid UK worker is 21.68 per cent. In France, the minimum wage is $1,805.00 (N275, 433.00) per month and a legislator earns $6,754.00 (N1.03m) monthly. Thus the least paid worker in France earns 26.73 per cent of the pay of a lawmaker in that country as against Nigeria's 0.13 per cent/ 0.18 per cent.
Another Nigerian Newspapers put it that about 17,500 public officers at all tiers of government, draw N1.21 trillion allowances every year from the public coffers. Which amount to 93 percent of the N1.3 trillion that it costs the economy to retain their services every year. The balance of 7% or N90 billion, represents basic salaries payable to Nigeria public officers; it means N1.3 trillion is paid out to maintain 0.0125% of the nation's population.
It has been argued in some quarters as well that in spite of Nigeria's position as one of the world's poorest nations, with a meagre per capita income of $2,249.00 per annum as against $46,350.00 of the US, Nigeria federal lawmakers were the highest paid in the world, with each earning more than President Barack Obama of the US. In 2009, the Senate President earned N240m in salaries and allowances while his House of Representatives counterpart earned N203.8m. The amount is enough to pay the annual salary of more than two civil servants at the rate of N18, 000.00 a month, which several states has refused to pay.
As one House of Representative member, Jerry Manwe (PDP/Taraba), justifies their salaries, a Senator, Sola Akinyede, Ekiti, confesses its outrageousness, states that "Honestly, l think it's unfair. I'm also guilty of it because l benefitted from it as a senator. It's unfair for us elite to arrogate so much of the country's resources to ourselves and still expect economic development."
One of the justifications of the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Jerry Manwe, is the high cost of elections. In his little world, he believes that the citizens should bear the brunch of their election campaigns, in addition to the marked-up government supplementary towards their campaigns. Is that a welfare package for a job seeker that the government has to pay until he finds job? On the other hand, does that mean every job seeker in Nigeria has to be paid on the basis of the salary base of the job sought after?
Lack of a social security system is another excuse, meaning that the social security package is meant for the Senators with that heavy pay. What about the severance pay for the Senators after their services? Ironically, they are planning to make the pensions for its principal officers for life imbedded into the Constitution.
Is this the appropriate way of working a welfare package for an average Nigerian worker, and a peculiar political culture that thrives on patronage? Why should most Nigerians bear the brunch of patronage of the politicians while majority Nigerians go hungry?
Possibly this might be one of the challenges of the APC when it takes over the Central Government in 2015, courtesy of Nigerian voters, to drastically slash all legislators' salaries and allowances, making it less attractive for those that are draining the national treasury. Make both State and Local legislative bodies part time positions; and seriously slash the National Assembly Staff pays. Those who will serve the country with honesty would go to the National, State or Local Assemblies with the right set of mind with unblemished services to the progress of Nigeria.
If and when the system is in place, there will be no need for the constituents asking for money to roof their houses, money to sponsor the marriage of their sons and daughters; money to take their wives to the hospital and to organise the naming ceremonies of their newly born babies. The legislators are not Santa Claus or welfare providers for their constituencies; they are to make laws to create jobs and essential services; not enough justifications for their salaries which pass USA President's salary.
Nigerian politicians should put on their thinking cap, go to the field, and raise campaign funds, not the public taxes. Fundraising, through their positive campaigns on their intended programs for their communities, would yield some dividends for their elections.
Nigerian politicians allow their supporters to queue in their houses begging for alms for their refusal to make provisions for where they could fish not providing them with fish. In Europe and America their governments created ample opportunities and made provisions for their livelihood; good roads to transact their businesses; good health facilities for their medical tune-ups; good and regular power supply, regardless their locations cities or remote areas; very efficient communication lines, unlike the Nigeria system of cancer infected cell phones, meant for emergencies, as the main source of communication, without working landline for Internet, that brings the world into the four corners of their homes; and good emergency services like fire, health, and rescue operations. It will be wrong for any legislator to justify their pay with the crippled services the politicians refused to establish for an average Nigerian.
The age of Nigeria democracy is no excuse for their acts as Nigeria could easily learn from the United States without much efforts, to resolve an issue which such countries have passed through. The mentality of the 'Oga on Top', distances many Nigerian leaders from their people. Eighty percent of legislators' salaries, especially the Constituent Allowances diverted to community projects, not cars, motor-cycles, food items from Legislators as gifts.
Despite receiving more than 13 billion in salaries, allowances and benefits that clearly positions members of the Nigerian Senate as the world's best paid lawmakers, it was reported that at least 35 serving senators have not listed a single Bill in their name since taking office in 2011.
In spite of the humongous challenges facing the country today, the National Assembly, as of date, August 2013, in addition to its motions and resolutions on the pressing national issues, confirmation of appointments, as well as oversight duties on the other arms of government, been abused; has been able to walk through 342 Bills. The Executive Bills to Senate is at 41; House Bills to Senate have been 23 (this figure does not include all House Bills, but those passed and sent to the Senate for concurrence). Senate's own Bills are 273. The two relatively important Bills passed by the Senate, considered landmark were the executive sponsored Terrorism and Money Laundering amendment acts.
The legislators have usurped the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) powers so also the power of the executive in their haughty oversight powers, and the judiciary through imposition of fines on foreign airlines without trial. The oversight responsibilities should be left with the Government Agencies, not the legislators.
Unfortunately, the Nigeria Court system has not been helping private citizens from stopping the jumbo pay to the legislators, and also stopping the legislators from fixing scandalous emoluments for themselves. They are not entitled to receive any payment outside the salaries and allowances determined and fixed for them by the RMFAC pursuant to Section 70 of the Constitution.
Despite their non-productivity level, Nigerians still worship the designated 'armed robbers' under the cover of being a legislator. When they travel abroad, Nigerians give them red carpet treatment; regardless of their annual heavy remittances to Nigeria to maintain their families on certain services, the government ought to provide: the steady power supply, good roads, functioning clinics, security, and infrastructure in all ramifications. Hero worshipping of these cursed leaders changed.
The calamities of legislation turned into "legislooting," as legislators designated as 'armed robbers' without the lawmakers justifying their pay, is a national embarrassment. Nigerians need to be educated on the various unconfirmed Newspapers reports on the National Assembly jumbo pay, the irregular allowances of estacodes, duty tours, and the illegal quarterly allocation not provided for by the RMFAC. It should confirm the actual and total payments made to each member of the National Assembly in salaries and allowances annually.
Lawmakers must shred the secrecy surrounding their salaries and allowances by making it public in order to dispel the mystery and misconceptions surrounding it.
Femi Ajayi is a Professor of Policy, Management & Conflict Resolution, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State