The Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Elias Mbam, recently announced that the Commission would review the remuneration of political office holders to reflect the present economic realities in the country. Mbam stated this at the inaugural meeting of the reconstituted board of the commission in Abuja. However, he did not give details of the proposed review. Considering the bogus salaries and allowances of political office holders, the review is coming at the right time.
Recently, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, was quoted as saying that the era of jumbo salaries for the national lawmakers under his leadership would soon be over. But how much the lawmakers in the country earn remains a matter of conjecture. It has been speculated that each Senator receives about N13.5 million monthly, while each member of the House of Representatives goes home with not less than N11.5 million a month. This excludes sundry allowances. But what is public knowledge is that at least N120billion is budgeted as its expenditure.
Section 84(1-3) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates the remuneration and other entitlements of the National Assembly members as determined by the RMAFC. Specifically, Section 84(1) says, “There shall be paid to the holders of the offices mentioned in this section such remuneration, salaries and allowances as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, but not exceeding the amount as shall have been determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission”. Section 84 (2), states that “The remuneration, salaries and allowances payable to the holders of the offices so mentioned shall be a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation”.
Therefore, this is the right time to carry out a detailed review of the emoluments paid to our lawmakers and other political office holders. Nigeria’s legislators are reported to be among the highest paid in Africa. For instance, a legislator in South Africa’s parliament earns $147,000 (about N53m per annum or N4.4m per month, inclusive of all allowances). In Kenya, the total emolument of each lawmaker is $78,000 per annum. There is no justification to continue to pay outrageous salaries and other pecks to the nation’s political office holders when the economy is wobbling and many Nigerians are living below the poverty level. Therefore, to reduce the cost of governance, the salary of political office holders must be reviewed urgently. No doubt, a downward review of the emoluments of the lawmakers and other political office holders will release funds for other projects. We urge the leadership of the National Assembly to cooperate with the RMAFC in the review process.
It is good that the review is also coming at the same time the RMAFC has given assurance to revisit the revenue sharing formula. An attempt to do this in 2014 was inconclusive.
Under the extant formula, the federal government gets 52.68 per cent, states, 26.72 per cent, local governments, 20.60 per cent and derivation, 13 per cent.
Except there is a downward review of the emoluments of political office holders, the essence of public office might be lost. This is why the call for part-time legislative duty is receiving public support across the country. President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did the right thing in 2015 by voluntarily slashing their salaries by 50 per cent. Other political office holders should emulate them.
While the new board of the Revenue commission is working on the review of the emoluments of political office holders, it is also necessary for government to expand the productive base of the economy and explore more avenues for revenue generation. The economy must grow far beyond the present two per cent if our democracy must be sustained.
The economy needs diversification in critical sectors. These should be prudent management of the financial resources available. It is, therefore, expected that the RMAFC must substantially reduce the salaries of political office holders. This is one of the best ways to reduce the cost of governance.