Pay Cut May Not Reduce The Cost Of Governance’

Ugbodaga-pix-18-7-15-CopyDr. Philip Ugbodaga is the Executive Director, Registered Voters Association of Nigeria and former Edo State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), he spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU in Benin City on the recent 50 percent pay cut by President Buhari, his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and some state governors.

What is your view on the recent 50 percent pay cut by President Buhari, his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and some state governors?
There has been a great deal of hue and cry over the grossly exorbitant cost of governance in Nigeria for quite some time mainly to the ostentatious and exuberant lifestyles of public office holders as well as political appointees who depend on our resources to oil their greed.

The decision therefore by President Muhammadu Buhari and some state governors to effect a 50% salary cut may be a demonstration of their resolve to instill accountability, servant leadership and also show empathy with the average Nigerian who is scandalized that while our leaders live in unimaginable affluence, the majority of us are sadly left to wallow in abject poverty. If the intention is to send a signal of frugality as the new state policy, then it is welcomed in principle.

However, it appears to be too cosmetic, and amount to playing to the gallery. It may really not go far in reducing the cost of governance in Nigeria. Recall that the problem has never really been the salaries of public office holders, but rather the stupendous allowances and other perks of office which in most cases are not supported by legislation. In this wise, one wonders if they will also effect a fifty percent cut in their security votes and other allowances that drain the resources of the country. We need a radical new approach to fighting poverty in Nigeria. We clearly need a paradigm shift in how we perceive the poor and treat poverty. Things must change for the better in this country.

How possible and legal is the reduction?
This is another dimension to the entire pay cut razzmatazz. While the intention may be salubrious, the action is patently an illegality. The provision of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is quite clear on the governmental organ, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which is vested with the power to fix the salary of public officer holders and by extension effect an increment or reduction. Any arbitrary pay cut that does not enjoy the blessing of the RMAFC is illegal, unconstitutional and untra vires of the clear provision of our subsisting laws. This constitutional conundrum can be cured by the President sending his proposal for a pay reduction to the RMAFC for it to have any legal effect. The salary of the President was not fixed by the former President and so cannot be slashed by President Buhari. If President Buhari has the power to unilaterally reduce his salary now, he can equally choose to increase it at a later date creating a precedent which is subject to abuse by any other President in the future.

How will Nigerians be sure that salary cut is carried out?
There are three steps to achieving this. First, we need an innovative leadership that is knowledgeable about our mega problems as a nation anchored on facts and a leadership that is irrevocably committed to financial discipline. Second, the legislature needs to wake up to its responsibilities because it has a significant role of overseeing the expenditure of government especially the frivolous spending by the executive arm. Third, there must be a new synergy between the new government and informal organs like civil society organizations to break free of the countervailing experience of the past where our leaders ran aground our national economy, while the rest of us looked on with disinterest and indifference.

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