That Reduction of Councillors' Allowance by 735%
I need to first ask that this article is not misconstrued; this is owing to the fact that there has been an age long squabble as to why councilors should earn fabulous remunerations. In as much as I am not suggesting that the councilors be given jumbo pay at the end of every month, they should be given some substantial benefit that will keep them away from corrupt practices, mediocrity and possible clashes â€“ with the â€˜chairman' of their Local Government Areas.
Most arguments on this subject usually juxtapose the salaries of University dons with that of the Local Government Area Councilors. I must say at this point that there is no basis for comparing these categories of people, because the responsibilities of the University dons in the long term are more far-reaching than those of the Local Government Councilors. But in the immediate term, the responsibilities of the Local Government Councilors have more effects on the locals than those of the University dons, because they are closer to the people, hence, Local Government Councilors are entrusted with the day-to-day well being of the grassroots people.
Recent developments as reported by the Economic Confidential show that the once enviable position of Local Government Area Councilor with attractive remuneration of NGN232,773.28 per month plus other incentives has been turned into an undesirable position. Otherwise, how best can one describe a 735% slash in remuneration of this category of public office holders? One would begin to wonder the rationale behind this action. Does this class of public office holders deserve this treatment, irrespective of reasons provided?
Out of a total of 21 items shown on the Reviewed Allowance list which was computed by the Economic Confidential from the report of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, 12 of them have been withdrawn while 9 were slashed. The items that were withdrawn include: motor vehicle loan, motor vehicle maintenance allowance, special assistant, personal assistant, estacode, domestic staff, entertainment allowance, robe allowance, newspapers/periodicals allowance, severance gratuity, house maintenance and legislative aide. While the slashed items include: furniture allowance â€“ slashed by 250%, utility allowance â€“ slashed by 20% and constituency allowance â€“ slashed by 10%.
In order to effectively carry out their duties, this group of public office holders requires certain level of comfort, they are not robots, they can forget things, and they can get tired, hence they need assistants. Why should their aides be scrapped? Who will help them take notes or remind them of appointments or projects? Why should their newspaper/periodicals allowance be scrapped? Should they buy dailies and periodicals from the slashed resources? How would they get information? Why should they not be given car loans? How can they move around knowing the kind of rugged terrains that some of them may have to work in?
Talking about terrains, perhaps some of us are completely unaware of the challenges posed by the terrains in which some of these Councilors operate in. For instance, some of these rural areas do not have motorable roads, electricity and telephone services. Hence, such Councilors should be entitled to vehicles designed for rough terrains, 24 hours power supply and perhaps satellite phone â€“ Thuraya. The provision of these facilities for Councilors is not luxury, but necessity. One would argue that they are expected to provide these facilities â€“ good roads, electricity, health centres and rural telephony â€“ for their communities, but how can they work to provide these facilities, if they are not given enabling working conditions first?
The effects of this latest development are glaring: firstly, these Councilors would have to find some alternative ways of making up for this short-falls in their remunerations, call it corrupt practices, sharp practices or whatever name you may choose to call it. Secondly, efficiency will subsequently drop, don't ask me why, all you need to do is flip this old saying "to whom much is given much is expected" then you should be able to find the answers for yourself. Thirdly, it will not attract the best brains to contribute their quota to national development via grassroots development. Why should I want to become a councilor when the bank, telecoms or oil sector is more appealing? Fourthly, this development may result in strife between the Councilors and their Chairman; this is because, the Councilors may want to arm-twist their Local Government Chairman on issues of council project execution.
The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission should not be coerced by any individual or group into taking retrogressive decisions; they should critically review their position on this matter very well before taking any action that may not be in the interest of the country. This is very important as the Reviewed Allowance List has not been brought before the National Assembly and The Presidency for assent.