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Controversy Trails Lawmakers’ Salaries

Controversies have continued to trail the structuring of salaries of political, public and judicial officeholders by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

LEADERSHIP investigations reveal that Nigeria’s lawmakers may be earning far more than the public knows.

Details of the remuneration package of political, public and judicial officeholders published by RMAFC on July 15, 2011, shows that President Goodluck Jonathan earns a monthly pay of N1.17 million, while Vice-President Namadi Sambo earns just about N1.01 million.

Figures released by the RMAFC indicate that lawmakers earn far more than the president and the vice-president.

While Senate president David Mark takes home N2.48 million, according to RMAFC rating, deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu pockets N2.30 million.

Each senator takes home N2.02 million, indicating that a senator earns twice the amount the vice-president is entitled to.

At the level of the House of Representatives, the speaker, RMAFC figures reveal, earns N2.47 million, while the deputy speaker earns N2.28 million.

Other principal officers of the House such as the majority leader, minority leader and chief whip, earn N1.98 million, N1.96 million and N1.98 million, respectively.

But independent sources have it that the senate president might earn up to N250 million in quarterly allowances or N83.33 million per month, while his deputy might be earning as much as N150 million per quarter or N50 million a month.

The reports say a Nigerian senator allegedly takes home at least $1.40 million quarterly (inclusive of quarterly allocation, regular salaries and allowances), as against the $0.174 million an American senator earns. This equation makes a Nigerian senator earn at least eight times as much as his counterpart in the US and three times more than the US President Barack Obama.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had earlier engaged in a war of words with the National Assembly over the true figures the legislators were earning.

He said: “We need to look closely at the legislature so that they can be more open and transparent in the way they do their work. Nobody knows in detail how much it costs the nation to maintain a senator. I believe it is more than N250 million. Compare that to 1999 and 2000; it costs about $1.7 million.”

But four legal luminaries, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Mr. Emeka Ngige (SAN), and Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in separate interview with LEADERSHIP expressed divergent views.

Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said: “The RMAFC approved revenue is not what the lawmakers’ are earning. They pay themselves contrary to the provisions of the law. There is a case already instituted at the Federal High Court in Abuja to determine whether the lawmakers’ salaries are lawful.

“Coincidentally, the speaker has promised to cut the salaries of the House members by 40 per cent and that they would be mindful of the public perception on what they do and pay to themselves. Therefore, if the law allows the senator to earn more than the president, so be it, but not in excess of what the law prescribes for them.”

For his part, Oyetibo believes the president as the number-one public office holder, should earn more than any other officer and then the sequence follows in descending order. Salaries are fixed by the commission and if their earnings are within the range of what was fixed, there is nothing wrong with that. But anything earned outside the prescribed figure by law is unlawful.”

He added: “The president, as the number-one public servant in the country stands to earn more than any other public officer and that order of protocol ought to be maintained. What makes the lawmakers’ salaries very bogus are earnings from logistics and running costs the public is yet to recognise.”

Ngige, “What is ascribed to the senators as pay package is grossly in excess of the reality. The vice-president’s travelling allowance, security votes and other forms of allowances makes his total take-home pay 20 times what a senator takes home.

“It is just a matter of paper work of what you are talking about and not the reality.”

But expressing his view on the ongoing controversies trailing the take home package of senior office holders, Malami, disagrees with the thinking of the RMAFC current allocations, saying it is abnormal.

The senior advocate said: “By the public servant order of protocol, the president, vice-president, Senate president, and the speaker of the House of Representatives, are the number one, two, three and four citizens of the country. And for the senators to earn more than any of the above officeholders is abnormal.”

Reacting on the issue, the public relations officer of RMAFC Mrs. Theodora Onyebuchi, told LEADERSHIP in a telephone conversation that the commission only provides the guidelines and policy for the remuneration, stressing that it was the duty of the accountant-general’s office to monitor implementation of lawmakers’ salaries and allowances.

On why senators earn more than the vice-president, RMAFC explained that the senators don’t really earn more than the vice-president but that the vice-president receives some allowances in kind while senators receive all their allowances in cash.

Meanwhile, some financial experts have called on the RMAFC to address the disparity in the salaries between the executives and the legislature, especially that of the vice-president and the senators.
The experts who spoke to Leadership yesterday frowned at a situation whereby the salaries and other allowances of a senator in the National Assembly is higher than that of the vice-president of the country, describing it as a ‘misnomer ‘.

The managing director, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu in a telephone interview said it was a shocking news that salaries and allowances of a senator was higher than the vice president who is the number two citizen of the nation.

“It is a misnomer; there is no reason why the salaries of even the senate president should be more than that of the vice president who is the number two citizen of the country. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission should address this disparity,” he said.

The chief executive officer of Proshare Nigeria, one of the leading investment management firm, Mr. Femi Awoyemi, in the same vein said it was a misnomer when legislators earn more than a country’s vice president, adding that he doubted if such strange situation could be obtained in any country.

Awoyemi noted that countries pay salaries to their executives and legislators in relative to the country’s earning capacity but it was unfortunate that the reverse is the case in Nigeria where public office holders are paid above the country’s earning strength.

He called on the authorities in charge to review the ugly situation and come out with a harmonize packages that will make public office less attractive.

What Top Public Officers Earn
Official – RMFAC                Unofficial – Ex-Prez Obasanjo
1. President                 -N1.17m
2. Vice-President             -N1.01m
3. Senate President             -N2.48m
4. Deputy Senate President     -N2.30m
5. Senators                  -N2.02m
6. Speaker House of Reps         -N2.47m
7. Deputy Speaker House of Reps -N2.28m
8. House of Reps members     -N1.98m

-Leadership

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Posted by on Jul 17 2011. Filed under House, Legislature, Senate, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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