By Habeeb I. Pindiga
Nigerian federal legislators receive much higher salaries than their counterparts in wealthier countries and key developing nations, according to an analysis published by the Economist magazine.
A Nigerian legislator receives an annual salary of about $189,000, equivalent of N30 million, which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per person, says the publication which was posted on the magazine’s website on Friday.
The figures put salaries collected by Nigerian senators and members of the House of Representatives way ahead of those received by fellow parliamentarians in the 29 countries whose data was analysed by the Economist.
In terms of volume of cash earnings, the Nigerian legislators beat their counterparts in Britain who take $105,400 yearly, as well as those in the United States ($174,000), France ($85,900), South Africa ($104,000), Kenya ($74,500), Saudi Arabia ($64,000) and Brazil ($157,600).
According to the data, only Australian lawmakers, with $201,200 annual salary, receive higher amounts compared to Nigerian legislators, but their salaries are only 3 times their country’s GDP per person.
Other yearly salary details published by the Economist are those of lawmakers in Ghana ($46,500), Indonesia ($65,800), Thailand ($43,800), India ($11,200), Italy ($182,000), Bangladesh ($4,000), Israel ($114,800), Hong Kong ($130,700), Japan ($149,700), Singapore ($154,000), Canada ($154,000), New Zealand ($112,500), Germany ($119,500), Ireland ($120,400), Pakistan ($3,500), Malaysia ($25,300), Sweden ($99,300), Sri Lanka ($5,100), Spain ($43,900) and Norway ($138,000).
The National Assembly has been secretive with the specific amounts members collect in salaries and allowances, refusing to provide information to journalists and activists even when requests are made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
A total of N150 billion was voted for the National Assembly in the 2013 national budget but there is no breakdown, which should have shown at least a summary of the legislators’ earnings.
Months ago, Daily Trust wrote a letter under FOIA requesting for the National Assembly’s budget breakdown but this was refused.
However, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) documents in possession of Daily Trust show that a senator is entitled to N35 million and member of the House of Representatives N29.28 million in the first year of each legislative session when they receive allowances that are payable once in four years–accommodation, furniture and car allowances.
In terms of lawmakers’ salaries as a ratio of GDP per capita, the gap is even much wider. While the salary of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person, that of a British member of parliament is just 2.7 times.
The report said Britain’s legislators pay is “relatively parsimonious” when compared with that of their counterparts in poorer countries, including Nigeria, who “enjoy the heftiest salaries by this measure.”
The annual salaries are supposed to be lower for the next three years of a parliamentary session.
But given the secretive nature of the parliament’s finances, there have been claims, including by RMAFC leadership, that the lawmakers receive much more than this amount in padded allowances.
Based on the RMAFC documents dated February 2007, which are the subsisting approved packages for National Assembly members, the lawmakers’ allowances include accommodation (Senator N4m, Rep N3.97m), vehicle loan (Senator N8m, Rep N6.948m), furniture (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m) and severance gratuity (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m), which are due once in four years.
Other allowances, which are payable every year, are car maintenance (Senator N1.52m, Rep N595,563), constituency (Senator N5m, Rep N1.687m), domestic staff (Senator N1.5m, Rep N1.488m), personal assistant (Senator N506,600; Rep N496,303), entertainment (Senator N202,640, Rep N198,521), recess (Senator N202,640; Rep N198,521), utilities (Senator N607,920; Rep N397,042), newspaper/periodicals (Senator N303,960; Rep N297,781), house maintenance (Senator N101,320; Rep N99,260) and ward robe (Senator N405,280; Rep N397,402)
There are also estacode (Senator $600, Rep $550) and duty tour allowance (Senator N23,000; Rep N21,000) payable per day when a lawmaker is on official trip.
In February 2009, then-President Umaru Yar’Adua initiated a process of reducing the pay packages of public office holders on the ground that the amounts were untenable in view of government’s finances.
Months later, then-chairman of RMAFC Engr. Hamman Tukur presented a report to Yar’Adua, containing reviewed pay packages for federal, state and local government political, public and judicial office holders.
In the report, Tukur said the affected government organs were flouting the remuneration provisions made by the commission through frivolous foreign trips, arbitrary appointment of aides and use of excessively large motorcades. He warned that this must stop.
Based on the constitution, RMAFC has the final say on the remuneration package of National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly members, while a law needs to be enacted based on the commission’s proposals regarding the pay packages of executive and judicial office holders.
But Daily Trust understands that the National Assembly and other arms of government have refused to implement the reduced packages on the grounds that the constitution says earnings of political officers should not be reviewed to their disadvantage.