Knocks, Kudos, Over President, Governors’ Pay Cut
SINCE 1999 Nigerians have consistently complained and criticised the practice of huge public fund being paid to political office holders as salaries and allowances. Even in the face of these criticisms and agitation, nothing seems to have changed.
Rather beneficiaries of the jumbo salaries and allowances, and even the body that is constitutionally responsible to determine what is paid has always tried to justify the outrageous packages.
The jumbo package continued unabated and people desperately fought to occupy political offices to benefit from it. No wonder Nigerians witnessed several unresolved political killings in the quest for political office, especially from 1999 – 2007.
With the recent sudden crash in the price of crude oil, which is the major source of income for the country, political office holders quickly started announcing pay cut.
That was how two weeks to the last presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan in what looked like a political gimmick, directed a 30 percent pay cut for all political appointees in the executive arm of the government.
Also, on assumption of office as governor of Imo State in 2011, Chief Rochas Okorocha had during a thanksgiving church service organised in honour of his new administration at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, the state capital announced the reduction of his annual security vote from N6.5 to N2.5 billion to make provision for the free education programme of his administration.
Many Nigerians received such pay cut announcements with a pinch of salt, knowing full that it may end up as a mere political rhetoric as usual. And since then, no Nigerian has either confirmed the implementation of the pay cut or otherwise. Not even the political office holders that announced their pay cut or the body responsible for its implementation, that is the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RAMFC) have informed Nigerians how it has been implemented since then.
With Muhammadu Buhari’s assumption of office as President on May 29, many public office holders, especially the state governors, and even President Buhari and his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo announced 50 percent cut in their salaries.
Setting the ball rolling was the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who announced 50 percent salary cut during his government’s inauguration in the state. Since then other governors have joined the fray and the list is becoming endless.
Even the new Senate leadership has promised to take a pay cut, but it is yet to announce the percentage. This is even as the Ebonyi State governor, Mr. Dave Umahi has said that pay cut syndrome is not the panacea to the current financial challenges facing the country.
While many Nigerians have questioned the legality, transparency or otherwise of the pay cut without following due process, others have described it as mere political grandstanding by political office holders.
Some believe the pay cut syndrome is hypocritical, considering that looting and financial profligacy in public office is not through the monthly salary, but bogus allowances, security votes, contract inflation, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), and other slush funds that accrue to the government.
The question that is begging for answer is; why has it become too difficult for these same political office holders to cut down their security votes and other allowances by 50 percent and ensure its implementation?
For instance, under the existing package for political office holders by RMAFC, the annual take home salary for the President is N14.058 million, the Vice President’s is N12.126 million, that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is N7.801 million, while Ministers receive N7.6 million. These figures are, however, nothing when compared with the very high allowances and sundry perks of office that they receive. These allowances are a drain on the economy with majority of Nigerians bearing the brunt, while few privileged ones in the corridors of power enjoy it.
It may be recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration had made a provision of N348,342,741 as its proposal for honorarium and sitting allowance for the State House in the 2015 budget.
The breakdown of the expenditure on travel and transport showed that the president will be spending N1, 306,834,350 on local travels and transport and the sum of N621,067,913 on international travel and transport.
The travel bill of the president for 2015 was higher than the provision for 2014. The 2014 budget made a provision of N2, 378,862,017 for the office of the president for local and international travels.
For foodstuff/catering materials supplies, a provision of N142,472,537 was made for the office of the president.
The 2015 budget proposal included a provision of N131,911,315 for fuel and lubricants for the State House. The breakdown showed that plant/generator fuel would consume N35,344,855; motor vehicle fuel will consume N85,843,802 while cooking gas/fuel will consume N10, 102,858.
A provision of N60,847,647 was made for the office of the president for advertisement and publicity.
For the State House, N287,514,283 provision was made for welfare packages; N174,537,975 for refreshment and meals; N215,635,715 for food stuff and catering services; N31,582,475 for medical expenses; and N35,495,233 for publicity and advertisement.
The situation trickles down to the state government, and even the council areas. That is why many Nigerians seem not to be too enthusiastic of the ongoing pay cut syndrome by political office holders.
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