Sun Newspaper Editorial.31st July 2013.
It is no longer news that Nigerian legislators are the highest paid lawmakers in the world. When this fact was first revealed a few years ago, the federal lawmakers tried to justify the jumbo pay package without any success.
The matter is once again on the front burner of public discourse as the respected international magazine, The Economist of London recently affirmed that Nigerian lawmakers, with a basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 million) yearly, excluding allowances, are indeed the highest paid lawmakers in the world. As the magazine noted, it is unfortunate that Nigeria is running the costliest democracy in the world. Even Kenya that comes second on the dishonourable ranking of costly democracies does not pay even half of Nigerian lawmakers’ salaries to its legislators. The disparity widens more down the line out of the 28 countries investigated. The magazine had also, in an earlier report, declared our national legislature as the “filthiest arena of the most corrupt politicians in the world.”
The jumbo pay of Nigeria’s lawmakers raises some salient questions. For example, what does lawmaking in Nigeria entail that ours should be the most exorbitant legislature in the world? Is it that our lawmakers do more than their counterparts elsewhere or that our representatives are just greedy? Should the country be shouldering their excesses and wastages on platoons of aides? With members of the National Assembly, in particular, also collecting tens of millions of naira as quarterly allowances, what we have in the country is simply a bazaar of public finance expenditure without commensurate output.
We call on our lawmakers to review their battery of emoluments downwards in realistic appreciation of the need to commit more funds to development programmes. They should de-emphasise agitations for unrealistic constituency allowances and reduce their expenditure.
Our lawmakers, oftentimes, engage in unnecessary brawls, fisticuffs and free for all. At other times, they engage themselves in debates over issues that are not critical to the people’s needs and aspirations. If it is not same sex argument, it is upping of legislative allowances. There is hardly any seriousness in debates. The National Assembly chambers are usually half-filled, with some of those in attendance dozing off amid debates, under the full glare of television cameras. There is a dearth of robust debates, laudable and enduring contributions from lawmakers and evidence of research on legislative matters. If our lawmakers are not on prolonged and, at times, indeterminable holidays, they are busy hopping from one social event to another with irrational passion.
As we have had cause to point out in the past, there can be no rationalization for the huge cost of legislators on the public purse. This is one of the reasons why some people have advocated the making of legislation a part-time affair in the country. This way, a lot of public funds could be saved. A situation where lawmakers are required to sit for only 187 days in a year, while receiving full time salaries, speaks volumes of the level of mediocrity in the national legislature.
The current legislators’ pay is not just alarming, it is scandalous, especially in a country as relatively poor as Nigeria. Our current socio-economic milieu does support this kind of flagrant deployment of scarce resources to meet the inexplicable wants of lawmakers who make up an insignificant percentage of our population. Nigeria is at the bottom of everything when compared to the developed world. The country’s educational sector, technological endeavours, healthcare and other social infrastructure are in a shambles.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had also sometime ago decried the outrageous pay our lawmakers receive, pointing out that a large chunk of public funds go down as outlay for lawmakers’ pay and gamut of allowances. Sanusi declared that 16 per cent of the country’s national resources is spent on lawmakers who constitute less than one per cent of the population. It is amazing that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has not deemed it fit to do anything reduce the legislators’ indefensible pay.