By Emma Ujah & Daniel Idonor
ABUJA — BASED on President Umaru Yar’Adua’s request to the Revenue, Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) on February 10, 2009, on the need to slash the allowances of certain political, public and judicial office holders, the Commission yesterday announced some measures in this regard including the cancellation of the 300 per cent severance gratuity allowances of the President and the Vice-President with effect from July 1, 2009.

The hardship allowance of the duo, according to the Chairman of the Commission, Alhaji Hamman Tukur, accompanied by Commissioners of the Commission, who announced the measures while presenting the report to the President, was reduced from 50 to 30 per cent of their basic salaries.

President Umaru Yar’Adua and his VP Goodluck Jonathan
President Umaru Yar’Adua and his VP Goodluck Jonathan

“For example in the case of Mr. President and Vice President, the severance gratuity of 300% was canceled because they were entitled to pensions for life by virtue of section 84 sub-section 5 of the constitution, the hardship allowance was however reduced from 50% to 30%”, he added.

The Commission was however fair to the leadership of the National Assembly as Senate President, Senator David Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole, only lost two and a car respectively thereby bringing the number of the official cars from eight and seven cars respectively to six each.

This is in addition to a reduction in the constituency allowance of senators reduced from 250 to 125 per cent while that of lawmakers in the lower chambers was reduced from 150 to 70 per cent.

He said “with respect to legislature, at the federal level, the number of vehicles to be provided to the Senate President was reduced from 8 to 6.

While that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives was reduced from 7 to 6. The constituency allowance for Senators was reduced from 250% to 125%, while that of members of House of Reps was reduced from 150% to 75%. Similarly, in the case of accommodation, the country was categorised into zones and the reduction was made based on the peculiar cost of rent within each zone”.

The Commission also disclosed that it has uncovered a huge annual national wage bill of N1.3 trillion in Nigeria, with the third tier of government (the 774 local Governments) accounting for 53 per cent of the amount, while the 36 states accounted for 32 per cent and the Federal Government including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) accounts for the remaining 15 per cent.

The Commission said the practice was unacceptable and decided to cancel allowances such as entertainment, personal assistants, severance gratuity among others, while it reduced accommodation and furniture allowances by over 50 per cent. “Mr President, permit me to draw particular attention to the review at the Local Government level.

The total national wage bill of N1.3trillion per annum can be substantially attributed to this third tier of government. 53% of that N1.3trillion is being expended by the LG.

The 36 State governments is about 32%, the Federal level is only 15%. The Commission was quite concerned with the high level of expenditure on the emolument of public and political office holders at the third tier of government which is adversely affecting the expenditure on service delivery and good governance”, he said.

According to him, “subsequently, some allowances have been drastically reduced while others have been cancelled at the local government level. For example, accommodation and furniture allowances have been reduced by over 50% at the third tier of government while allowances such as entertainment, personal assistants, severance gratuity etc were altogether cancelled”.

He disclosed that “after this presentation, the Commission in accordance with the provision of the constitution, will, with an accompanied draft review bill, forward the report on the executive and the judiciary at the federal level and that of the FCT area councils to the National Assembly for further amendment of the 2008 Act.

The volume three part of this report will today (yesterday) be presented to the Federal legislature for it to implement immediately.

“Similarly, within next week, all states and LG legislatures will also be presented with the report for implementation with effect from 1st July, 2009. However, the report in respect of states and local council executives will be submitted to state assemblies with specimen draft bills for consideration and subsequent amendment to their various remuneration laws.

He stressed that “for the immediate effect on the economy and to facilitate the review of the budget deficit of the government, the implementation of the review packages will have to be uniformly applied throughout the country with effect from 1st July, 2009, for all beneficiaries”.

This review package, according to him, automatically supersedes all the previous reports of the commission and emphasised that apart from the salaries, allowances and fringe benefits contained in these packages, no other salaries, allowances and fringe benefits are payable to any political, public or judicial office holders.

He drew the attention of all government that this downward review is to ensure that all the tiers of government are able to pay the package in view of their dwindling resources

“We are here today to present first, amongst other things, the report of the review of numeration package for political, public and judicial office holders to Mr. President.

The commission in pursuance of its constitutional role of determining the numeration appropriate for political, public and judicial office holders as enshrined in several section of the constitution, Mr President in year 2007, we reviewed the remuneration package of office holders, executive, legislature and the judiciary in the federal state and local governments.

“Whereas the package applicable to the legislative arms of the three tiers of government was automatically applied, that of the executive and the judiciary were submitted as recommendations to the appropriate legislative assemblies.

“The various state assemblies in respect of the executive arms of state and local government also passed their respective remuneration laws based on salaries and allowances as determined by the Commission. Mr. President Sir, at the material time that this was determined, the resources available to our great country was almost at its peak.

“Our foreign reserve was as high as $51b in favour of supporting over 16 months of import base, the excess revenue account on the one hand had balance of over $41b while crude oil the dominate commodity of the economy was averagely well over $75 per barrel and the quantity been produced was almost 2.2m barrel per day.”

Yar’Adua thanks RMAFC

In his response, President Yar’Adua said: “Let me extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the exercise that has been well undertaken in the best interest of this country.

Indeed, it became necessary to put in a modest request to the Commission which has the constitutional power regarding the remuneration of political, public and judicial office holders, to appeal to the commission to examine the current economic downturn which had begun sometime in the middle of last year and the dwindling resources accruing to the three arms of government, the fall in crude oil production, fall in the influx of foreign direct investments and fall in influx in remittances which totally gave rise to the dwindling revenues to the federal, states and local government.

“It became necessary at the time to request and appeal to the Commission to examine the situation, review the 2008 Act which had been passed by the national assembly and also review the remunerations of all legislatures throughout the country, so that they come out with a package that is a response to the situation the nation has found itself.

This is the first time this exercise has been undertaken and I think it has demonstrated a great sense of responsibility on the part of the commission. It needs courage to carry out an exercise like this.

“I had to consult with all stakeholders and I appreciate the fact that almost all stakeholders saw the need for the nation to make adjustment when the need arises in terms of the earning for public, political and judicial office holders, this clearly show that both holders who are holding various offices and can respond and make sacrifices for the sake of this nation when asked to do so. I think this is no mean achievement.”

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