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THE FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE – OF MONEY, OF VALUE

This post was first published via The Scoop. See link here: The ScoopNg

Nigeria’s nascent democracy, as commonly though inappropriately described, has been laden with several opacities and ambiguities through its 14 years of existence. Apart from the deep mysteries of how fuel subsidy is estimated and paid, how much the Federal Government is worth and whether the country is actually ‘broke’ or not, one major uncertainty has been around remuneration for Federal Legislators. Simply put, how much are Nigerian Senators and Representatives paid?

The economic concept of money provides the understanding that it is what buyers/sellers give in exchange for goods and services. As such, money is exchanged for value! Where value is perceived to be of high levels, a commensurate measure of money is expected to be exchanged for same. So, prior to debating the issue of transparency around legislative remuneration, it must be ascertained that the office of a federal senator and/or representative provides value to the extent that money may be given in exchange for it at the end of a fiscal month/year. There are 109 senators and 360 representatives duly elected/selected to serve the people of Nigeria. These legislators were elected or re-elected in 2011 and have served for at least 2 years to date. What has been their value to the people they represent? What has each senator and/or rep done to make life better for the citizens and areas they represent? What they say in response to this is one thing, and what the people confirm to be true is another. How much value have they added to the Nigerian experience? This concept of value is paramount and must be deciphered before proceeding to question the level of remuneration being given. There are quite a number of exquisite recreation facilities in the country where fun lovers go to spend weekends and holidays. These places and facilities may cost a fortune but more often than not, a common phrase is used to justify the cost incurred – “it was value for money”. Perhaps if we are able to qualitatively and quantitatively describe the value added by our legislators, the issue of money paid will take a back seat?

In 2009, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) concluded a decent effort to review, define and ultimately educate the public on exactly how much is due/had been paid to federal legislators. The report titled “Remuneration Package for Political, Public & Judiciary Office Holders: Feb 2007 – Jun 2009”, was a follow-up to the initial 2007 review, determination and recommendation of remuneration due to the legislative, judiciary and executive. Their recommendations were signed into law and adopted in 2008.

“The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in pursuance of its constitutional role of determining the remuneration appropriate for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders as enshrined in Sections 70, 84, 111 and 124, as well as 32(d) of Part One of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had, in the year 2007, reviewed the remuneration package for the Office Holders in the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary at the Federal, State and Local Government levels. However, the Commission received a letter from Mr. President dated 10th February, 2009 on the need to review the 2008 Amendment Act, in view of the impact of the current global economic crisis and financial meltdown on the Nigerian economy particularly, the dwindling Government revenue

The2009 report was widely published and lauded, throwing light on a previously opaque aspect of government. The report findings and recommendations are summarized below:

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According to the Table II (D) of the 2009 report, the annual basic salary (ABS) for a Federal Senator was/is expected to be about N2.03 million (approx.). This figure applies to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, Chief Whip and Committee Chairmen. ABS for the Senate President and Deputy is a bit higher valued at N2.48 and N2.30 million respectively. ABS of N1.98 million was valued and recommended for House Representatives, their Majority and Minority leaders, Chief Whip and Committee Chairman. The Speaker and Deputy have their ABS pegged at N2.47 and N2.28 million respectively. Computing an estimate of the total remuneration burden for 109 senators and 360 reps (assuming N2.03m for all senators, N1.98m for all reps), including regular and non-regular allowances specified in the report, yields a figure of N5 billion/year. Including the cost of ‘Optional Allowances’ (Vehicle Loan) for all legislators yields N7 billion/year. Adding on the burden of paying Gratuity at the end of service, an additional N2.8 billion is included (300% ABS for 4 years, approx. N0.7 billion/year), yielding a total annual burden of N7.7 billion. This total excludes the cost of Duty Tours and Estacode/Per Diem which are paid as applicable. Also, the much touted Security allowance was conveniently stated as ‘TBP’ – To Be Provided. No value was assigned to it in the report. These are the 2009 remuneration recommendations. Now, the whole country probably wonders, what is the 2013 remuneration reality?

Is there a clear distinction between how much is due/recommended/was being paid (2009), and how much is actually paid currently (2013)? From the 2009 report, a Senator earns N17 million/year while a Rep earns N15 million/year (including Vehicle Loan). However, in 2013, there is a general perception that Federal Legislators earn far more than recommended. It is believed that a Senator takes home anything between N180 – N400 million/year while the Rep goes with about N130 – N300 million/year. These 2013 perceptions are said to be inclusive of basic salary and allowances. With 109 senators and 360 reps, the burden per these figures comes to about N66 – 150 billion/year. It is unfortunate that no effort has been made to clarify and validate these 2013 figures. As such, barely 4 years after a little light shone on our path via the 2009 remuneration review, the opacity in governance has reinstated itself. Darkness, indeed, gross darkness covers the face of such matters. The RMAFC website still holds only the 2009 report. Will they wait for another letter from Mr. President before conducting another review? Is this remuneration review conducted periodically or at random based on executive fiat? Will President Jonathan follow the steps of his predecessor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to demystify this ambiguity? One easy clarification –there are a couple of legislators’ special assistants and personal assistants who are prominent and respected on social media today. We should find out if their annual remuneration is N506,600 (N42,000/month approx.) for those working with Senators or N496,303 (N41k/month approx..) for those working with Reps according to the 2009 report. Doubtful? Unbelievable?

Many more questions therefore remain: How much remuneration is really being paid to our Federal Senators and Representatives? What does it cost the average tax payer to keep 109 Senators and 360 Reps in the National Assembly? What value is being felt at the grassroots owing to their Senator/Rep? Is there value for money?

So much opacity… let the light shine!

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