The worry about jumbo salary
SINCE the return of democratic governance in 1999, salaries, allowances and other emoluments of members of the National Assembly had remained a sort of mystery. The more inquiries Nigerians make, the more confused they become.
Not even the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the body saddled with the constitutional responsibility of determining the remuneration appropriate for political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers the and legislators, has helped matter. The Commission has over the years behaved as partner in crime with public office holders in the country. They have barked, but lacked bite.
With all its constitutional powers and responsibilities, it is assumed that the commission at every given time should know more than any other body or person the financial status of the country, and is expected to constitutionally and transparently work towards the financial survival of the country at all times. But whether the Commission has been diligently discharging its responsibility or has been compromised by politicians in the last 16 years is a different ball game.
The then Chairman of the commission, Hamman Tukur, had at a retreat for members in Kano on May 30, 2005, titled, “Challenges Before the Revenue Commission,” lamented three thwarted attempts by the organisation to submit its reports on a new revenue allocation formula between 2002 and December 2003.
He captured the impediments being faced by the commission in carrying out its constitutional roles which somewhat leave it at the mercy of the members of National Assembly.
Till date, while the annual salaries and allowances of public office holders as packaged by the commission and backed by the law are known to Nigerians, other bogus allowances not captured in the package are not disclosed or known to the public. Its secrecy has for years made remuneration a conduit pipe to siphon public funds.
Former President Jonathan, once, promised a downward review of salaries and allowances of public office holders. But the government only succeeded in paying lip service to the issue, lacking, as it were; the political will to push for the review. Details of the latest reviewed salaries and allowances of public office holders prepared by the commission have recently attracted outrage of Nigerians in the face of current economy realities. More than 18 states have not been able to pay workers’ salaries for months. Yet, N9 billion would be paid into the accounts of members of the eighth National Assembly as wardrobe allowances. This is besides their furniture, vehicle, housing and other obscure allowances. This development is a continuation of the financial profligacy being witnessed in the National Assembly since 1999. Some citizens have thus advocated for a part-time legislature. This is where the present government of Muhammadu Buhari is expected to take the bull by the horn. A few privileged individuals cannot continue to hide under the dubious provisions of law to corner the country’s collective patrimony.
Obviously, the revolution will not be easy considering the extravagant life styles the legislators had lived over the years. It is high time the commission acted to save the country from total financial collapse. Annoyingly, some ex-governors who are now in the National Assembly will benefit from the jumbo salaries, whereas they owed workers’ pay for months while presiding over their states.
To act patriotism, the lawmakers should borrow a leaf from Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who, upon assuming office, slashed salaries and allowances of public office holders by 50 per cent and pruned the machinery of state; a line recently towed by his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
Nigerians, no doubt, expect more public office holders to make sacrifice for the survival of the country.
•Ezea is an associate of The Guardian