Reducing salary by 50 percent but appointing a horde of aides, including those who would carry telephones and those who would attend to the first lady, either at federal, state or local levels, still leaves the public reeling under heavy financial burden
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state made a very remarkable first day impression on governance when he announced a 50 percent cut in his salary. He also announced same cut from the salary of hid deputy. Following suit, Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi state, also announced a 50 percent cut in his salary and that of his deputy.
These cuts came in answer to the demand by most Nigerians for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance. Prior to May 29 power pendulum shifts, there had been a plethora of voices clamouring for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance from the federal to the local government levels.
Indeed, Nigerians have become conscious of fact that annual budgetary provisions for overheads far outpace what is left for capital developments. Immediate past Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had expressed concern, severally, about Nigeria’s budgetary projections where 70 percent is spent of recurrent while a paltry 30 percent is reserved for capital development.
In her explanation, the reverse ought to actually be the case if Nigeria was to develop at desired pace that would land it among the 20 top developed economies by the year 2020.
It is therefore interesting, and heart-warming, to see some governors take the lead in the attempt to reverse the trend. We therefore commend Govs Nasir El-Rufai and Mohammed Abubakar of Kaduna and Bauchi state for these gestures though they come to nothing when put against the drain pipes on public financials.
According to the last salary schedule fixed by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), and which came into effect on July 1, 2009, the annual basic salary of a state governor is N2.223,705.00 while that of his deputy is fixed at N2,112,215.00. This means that total basic salary expected to be earned by a governor in four years is N8,894,900.00 while his deputy earns N8,448,860.00.
What El-Rufai and his deputy would have forfeited in four years amounts to about N8,671,880. This is same for the Bauchi state governor. These figures obviously do not represent reason Nigerians want a drastic cut in the cost of governance.
Having been a Minister, El-Rufai obviously, may be aware, that a governor’s salary does not constitute any drain on state resources.
Senator Gbenga Kaka, who had at a time been deputy governor in Ogun state, had in an interview said the security vote of governors range from N200million to N1 billion. We are inclined to believe him because he had been there. Recall that late Lamidi Adedibu, in his fight against Gov. Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo state, as he then was, argued that the governors Security vote was N60million. These two are the closest Nigerians have come to know exactly, what governors take home every month as security votes.
Therefore, in making effort to address the cost of governance like El-Rufai and Abubakar had done, attention should go beyond 50 per cent reductions in salary. Though good gestures, they amount to nothing when compared to what goes from public resources into maintaining all elected and appointed officials of state from the federal to the local levels.
The fact of salary reduction also does not impact on the life of society in any way because those, whose salaries are either forcefully or voluntarily reduced, don’t live on the salary. Recall too that at the height to the January 2012 Subsidy Protests, then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had forced a 25 percent cut in the salary and emoluments of all members of his cabinet and even appointed aides.
Impact of that action, was immaterial just as the impact of El- Rufai and Abubakar’s decisions are. We therefore call on government to, in the bid to be more transparent and accountable to the electorate, make public what every state governor, deputy governor, state assembly speaker; local government chairman takes home every month in the name of security vote.
Government should, in this matter, also lead from the top by making public what the presidency gets every month as security vote alongside what the service chiefs, advisers and ministers take home as security vote.
The public, whose tax is being spent in this guise, should also be entitled to know what elected officials of state, beginning from the presidency to the lowest level, statutorily get every month as imprest. The details may not just be shocking, but earthshaking.
We think this necessary because it is often too easy to overlook the most problematic aspects of public life and address the mundane in the quest to impress the gallery. Reducing salary by 50 percent but appointing a horde of aides, including those who would carry telephones and those who would attend to the first lady, either at federal, state or local levels, still leaves the public reeling under heavy financial burden.
We know that electoral victory, in our clime, comes with a burden –to settle all those who worked for the victory. But a good manager of human and financial resources does not need to accommodate all in a cabinet that ought to be lean and more effective.
Good things, remember, they say, comes in small packages. The drain in public finance is not in a governor’s salary. The governor knows where it is.