Peterclaver Egbochue writes on the growing criticisms over National Assembly emoluments
Perhaps, scandalized by the avalanche of public outcry that trailed its emoluments in a country almost ravaged by poverty, the Senate has set up a committee to review the salaries and allowances of lawmakers in line with current economic realities. Setting up an ad-hoc committee, Senate President, Bokola Saraki said, “In the last few days, there have been different reports on allowances for the National Assembly members.
I reckon it to be false and reckless which has prompted the need to stir up transparency in allowances to avoid misinformation.” He said it was due to the same reason that he met with the officials of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, stressing that it was to ensure that the country gets an accurate presentation on the true state of all salaries and allowances.
However, the reactions from the general public appear to have eroded confidence in the ability of the All Progressives Congress (APC) dominated National Assembly. Many had expected that the APC change mantra would be demonstrated in their fabulous pay package. Although, it has promised to review the package in view of the dwindling revenue, reactions are still trailing the development.
In its reaction, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), has condemned the unwarranted and parasitic jumbo allowance and salaries being collected by political office holders and appointees at all levels of government and tiers. In a statement signed by its National Chairman, Mr. Segun Sango, and made available to The UNION, the party argued that the salaries and allowances were scandalously too high. According to SPN, the basic salaries of the President, Vice President, Senators and House of Representatives are N3,514,705, N2,064,400, N2,026,400, N1,985,212 respectively.
Sango said, “the yearly housing allowance for the legislators is put at 200% of their annual salaries; furniture allowance is 300% for four years while motor vehicle loan is 400%. Hence, each Senator aside the Senate President and Deputy Senate President will be paid N4,052,800 as housing allowance while each member of the House of Representatives aside the Speaker and Deputy Speaker collect N3,970,425 annually.
“Aside the 4 principal members of the national Assembly, housing allowance alone gulps a whopping sum of about N1.85 billion annually and N7.5 billion in four years. Buhari’s minister will also collect N3.9 million yearly housing allowances. While the self-serving ruling class at the federal level is getting N15.6 million and more for their housing for four years, millions are living in overcrowded rooms and detestable environment while millions of homeless persons sleep on the streets! “Aside from the fact that the Federal Government is to provide all President Buhari and Vice-President Osibajo’s need including vehicles, entertainment, security, utility, newspapers, medical, clothing, feeding etc., the president will be getting about N14 million annually in salary/allowances (comprising basic salary, hardship allowance, constituency allowance and leave allowance) and N14 million as gratuity at the end of four years while the Vice-President will receive N12 million as salary and allowances.
“Punch Newspaper of June 23, 2015 revealed that each Senator will earn about N18 million annually in salary and allowances while the House of Representatives will earn N15 million annually in salary and allowances.” The party further observed that beside housing allowances, the legislators and some other political office holders earn wardrobe allowance, sitting allowance and severance allowance in a country where many are jobless and wallow in abject poverty. Sango further said, “The wardrobe allowance for each senator is N506,000 and for four years is about N2 million; an amount that can pay 40 workers earning N50,000 for a month.
This explains why the yearly budget for the National Assembly is about N120 billion. “In the same vein, governors and the retinue of government officials and state legislators as well as the local government chairpersons are earning similar outrageous salaries and allowances. Some of these political office holders may end up earning double/triple jumbo allowances.
“For instances, the present Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who earns jumbo pension for himself and members of his families from Kwara State as former governor is currently earning another jumbo salary and allowances and may end up earning another jumbo pension as a former Senate President; former governors who are now senators now earn fabulous pensions in addition to another jumbo salaries and allowances.
“President Buhari has been earning fabulous pensions as past military president as well and now his jumbo allowances and salaries! For instance, the Lagos State Pension Law that has striking resemblance with what obtains in other states across the federation awards former governors of the state pension for life, six cars every three years; two houses (one in Lagos and the other in Abuja); furniture allowance of 300% of basic salary to be paid every two years; free medicals for the entire family; 30% of salary for car maintenance; 10% of salary for entertainment; several domestic workers; 20% of salary for utility.
“As past governors are currently earning jumbo pension while workers have been reduced to private contributory poverty pension scheme with no guarantee that they will get these meager pension as at when due. A worker on N18,000 minimum wage who has worked for 30 years is only entitled to N1,166,400 having worked for a lifetime far less than a monthly pension of a governor!” SPN frowned that many retired pensioners are owed several months of salaries and dying on the queue while being subjected to tedious verifications exercise and humiliation.
The party therefore demanded that former governors/presidents and political office holders who earn these fabulous pensions and currently earn salaries and allowances must forfeit the pension and earn average of a skilled worker while pension of political office holders must be an average pension of a retired skilled pensioners. Sango argued that this situation explains the reason political office holders in Nigeria numbering about 17,000 and cutting across all states, local governments, legislators at the state and federal level, executive at the state and national level, judiciary etc., earn jumbo salaries and allowances of about N1.5 trillion yearly.
These allowances and salaries he further argued are outrageously insane in a country where workers across the federation are being owed between seven to nine months workers’ salaries by different state governments, some federal agencies, pensioners and with growing poverty, hopelessness in the land, gross inadequacy of basic infrastructure, political office holders across the federation and levels of government are living life of opulence and waste. He lamented that many workers were still not even formally receiving the N18,000 signed into law over four years ago. His words, “The SPN demands that political office holders earn the average wage of a skilled worker while the state takes care of reasonable working expenses so that the savings should be invested into basic infrastructure.
“Any SPN member elected to a position would be expected to carry out this policy and publically donate back to the workers’ movement pay and expenses above this level. We also demand that workers’ salaries and retirees pension must immediately be increased to a living wage and pension as this is one of the means with which the growing inequality can be abridged. “In the current situation of growing crisis and demand for change, some state leaders, like in Abia and Kaduna, have announced cuts in their wages and it has recently been reported that the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is reviewing public sector salaries.
“Partly, this may be cosmetic, because without open, public scrutiny of the federal and states’ accounts no one can be certain of what is really going on. But there is also the danger that political leaders will use their trimming of their enormous salaries and allowances as a justification for cuts in the wages of ordinary workers.
Labour must not tolerate any hint of this. “The crisis facing the country has not been caused by workers, rather it is the result of the turmoil in capitalism and its inability to develop the country vis-à-vis the profligacy and waste of the anti- poor capitalist politicians. Its defense of capitalism means that, despite the change mantra of the APC and the Buhari government, nothing will fundamentally alter the growing inequality between political office holders and working masses, insensitivity, profligacy and corruption.