Federal Legislators' Pay Rise: Reprehensible and Condemnable

The National Association of Seadogs just like many concerned Nigerians is dismayed to note that despite the very trying economic circumstances the country is going through, the National Assembly could go ahead, without a hint of consideration for the plight of the ordinary citizen, to increase arbitrarily, the salaries of its members. The speed and dispatch deployed by both houses of the National Assembly in endorsing this anomaly goes to show how desperate and to what extent our politicians could go in a bid to amass wealth at the expense of taxpayers.

It is quite troubling that despite being fully aware of the increasing desperate financial situation of average Nigerians on the heels of the ongoing worldwide financial meltdown, the lawmakers could display such insensitivity by proceeding to vote for the following increases in their salaries and sundry allowances for themselves and their presiding officers: The Senate President is to receive in addition to his salaries and other entitlements the sum of N1.6 billion annual “Constituency Allowance”. The Deputy Senate President will in addition to other benefits earn a Constituency Allowance of N600 million. Senators each will make monthly salary of N2.48 million plus allowances and annual Constituency Allowance of N380 million while, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in addition to his salaries and other benefits earns N350 million annual Constituency Allowance. Other members of the Federal House of Representatives shall earn N1.98 million monthly salaries plus N45million quarterly Constituency Allowance which translates to N182million annual Constituency Allowance.                    

Table: (A).
FEDERAL LAW-MAKERS
    
MONTHLY SALARY    
ANNUAL SALARY    
ANNUAL CONSTITUENCY ALLOWANCE

Senate President    
N278,477.28    
N3.4 Million    
N1.6 Billion

Deputy Senate President    
N259,781.26    
N3.2 Million    
N600 Million

Senators    
N2.5 Million    
N30.00 Million    
N380 Million

Speaker House of Reps    
N175,461.92    
N2.105 Million    
N350 Million

House of Reps Members    
N1.985 Million    
N23.82 Million    
N182 Million
Source: NASS  

It is curious and indeed worrisome to note that these increases were not provided for by the “Revenue and Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission” (RMAFC). The increases were not only arbitrary but flies in the face of the financial realities facing average Nigerians. This is nothing short of Treasury looting by legislative fiat. Although 70% of their countrymen and women live below the poverty level, our legislators believe the most pressing need for the nation at this time is the inflation of their already over bloated legislative perks. Where is the justification for paying a member of the House of Representatives of a developing nation like Nigeria more salary and allowances than the President of the United States of America? These obscene salaries and allowances are being approved for themselves when they will not pass legislation to pay Nigerians a living wage as minimum wage. This callous indifference to the plight of the ordinary Nigerian by the peoples’ representatives must be deplored.  

It is now open season on our nation’s coffers. A mad scramble has ensued between our politicians for a stake on what is perceived as National Cake. The unintended consequence of this financial rascality is the murderous ferocity with which aspirants to elective posts jostle for these seats.  The spoils that are innate to these legislative seats make them opportunities to die for. Our political elite through their legalized thievery have managed to turn the concept of Public Service on its head. Rather than serve the interest of their constituents, the political class have turned to scavengers of our National Purse. In between spells of their customary overseas junkets for reasons as annoying as obscene shopping sprees and treatment of minor ailments all funded with federal funds , they always find time once a year to indulge in their perennial habit of bloating the President’s Annual Budget with infusion of their perk-barreled Projects and pay increases.

Table: (B). Allowances is percentage of Annual Income
APPROVED ALLOWANCES        SENATORS    REPRESENTATIVES
Accommodation                        150%             150%
Furniture                                   150%             150%
Car Loan                                    250%             250%
Personal Assistant                        25%              25%
Duty Tour Allowance (per night) N23,000        N21,000
Estacode (per night)                   $600             $550
Domestic Staff                              50%             50%
Entertainment                              20%              -
Utilities                                         25%              10%
Recess                                         10%              10%
Newspapers/Periodicals                10%              10%
Responsibility                               10-5%           -
Constituency                               125%             75%
Severance Gratuity                      300%             3,000%
Source: (RMAFC).   

The table above shows other statutory benefits and allowances enjoyed by the members of the National Assembly. A calculation of these entitlements palpably highlights evident anomaly and the endangered status of Nigeria’s natural resources. These misplaced leakages in a nation where 70% of its citizenry lives below $1 (N150 Naira) per day is not only worrisome but despicable. It presents little hope that Nigeria can join the league of the G20 by 2020.Our political elite have provided no respite for our nation that is under a violent siege from armed robbers, assassins and kidnappers. Rather than apply themselves to finding legislative solutions to our mounting societal and infrastructural decay, our esteemed lawmakers would rather engage in episodic fist-a-cuffs on the floor of their hallowed chambers over disagreements on the modalities for splitting their legislative loot. The obscene cost of running the infrastructure of our democracy regrettably will be the greatest threat to its survival. A situation whereby a semi-literate thug who muzzles his way into a Councillorship position ends up making more money than a University Don is a sad commentary on the state of our National priorities.

We are now nearing the end of the current Assembly’s four year term and all they have to show for it is a fistful of inane legislations plus a bunch of useless self-flagellating Motions and Resolutions. The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) decries this state of affairs and aligns with legal actions taken by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Femi Falana Chambers. We hereby demand that:

•    The National Assembly should immediately reverse its recent pay rise decision to the status quo.
•    An immediate review of the remunerations of political office holders to reflect current economic realities remains fundamental.
•    An effective executive oversight unit be created to monitor the proper utilization of Constituency Allowances for Transparency and Accountability purposes.
•    A Constitutional initiative to consider whether or not the legislature should be a part-time position or not.
•    A reduction of the number of its members because, the country does not need over 400 people seating in the National Assembly.  
•    Serious consideration be given to a unicameral legislature as an alternative to our present bicameral proviso.
•    Since a single legislature works alright at the State tier of governance, there is no evidence that unicameralism will not work for the Federal Republic.
•    A review of the existing Council of State structure with a view to slightly altering its composition and by so doing utilizing it as a Nominal part-time upper legislative chamber akin to the British House of Lords.

Signed:

Oscar Egwuonwu
Pyrates’ Capn

August 2010.


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