August 9, 2013

Continued secrecy on jumbo pay

FOR the umpteenth time, the nation was again, told that Nigeria holds the dismal record of having the highest paid legislators globally.

Had this report not emanated from The Economist of London Magazine, it would have been dismissed as a none issue since the matter has been in the public domain and Nigerians seemed helpless about the situation.

The report said that federal legislators with a basic salary of $189,500 per annum (N30.6m) were the highest paid lawmakers in the world.

Quoting data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The Economist of London, the study looked at the law makers’ basic salary as a ratio of the Gross Domestic Product per person across countries of the world.

It further suggested that the lowest paid legislator in Nigeria earns N30.6 million ($189.5,000) per annum which was put at 116 times the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, per person. As a ratio to GDP per person, Kenya was second with 76 times, Ghana 30 times and Indonesia 18 times.

While the report did not add anything new to the debate on the take home of our lawmakers, it however, reactivated public consciousness about the issue.

The actual take home of the federal legislators has continued to remain in the dark, for reasons best known to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, (RMAFC).

However, the RMAFC report of 2007, said the subsisting approved packages for National Assembly (NASS) members include accommodation: (Senator N4m, Rep N3.97m), vehicle loan (Senator N8m, Rep N6.948m), furniture (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m) and severance gratuity (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m), which are due once in four years.

Other allowances, payable annually, are car maintenance (Senator N1.52m, Rep N595,563), constituency (Senator N5m, Rep N1.687m), domestic staff (Senator N1.5m, Rep N1.488m), personal assistant (Senator N506,600; Rep N496,303), entertainment (Senator N202,640, Rep N198,521), recess (Senator N202,640; Rep N198,521), utilities (Senator N607,920; Rep N397,042), newspaper/periodicals (Senator N303,960; Rep N297,781), house maintenance (Senator N101,320; Rep N99,260) and ward robe (Senator N405,280; Rep N397,4020).

The Senate and the House of Representatives, through their spokesmen, have alleged mischief in the report, saying it was a figment of imagination of the authors.

Civil society activists have denounced the legislators, saying they could bankrupt the economy, a sentiment that Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, once voiced.

Against this backdrop, we call on the RMAFC to make public the actual take home of our law makers. There is need for adjustment of the wages of the legislators to reflect the pay structure in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000.

The Nigerian public also has the right to know the actual earnings of those elected to represent them in the legislature.

We frown on any act of impunity whereby legislators, simply because they are in charge of the public purse, help themselves to jumbo packages without resort to constitutional checks and balances.