The nation’s federal legislature, which consists of 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, are far removed from the constituents on whose mandate the lawmakers were elected. While a few compatriots who are lucky to be employed are finding it difficult to make ends meet, the lawmakers are setting a record as the world’s highest paid legislators when compared with their contemporaries from established democracies. As if that is not enough, the lawmakers have passed resolutions in their different chambers to guarantee life pension for their principal officers – Senate president, deputy Senate president, speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. Such pension will be equivalent to what they are receiving presently.
According to a recent research by The Economist of London, the salaries collected by Nigerian legislators rank the highest of those received by parliamentarians in 29 other countries which include Britain, USA, France, South Africa, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. Incidentally, the annual salary of one of the nation’s federal lawmakers is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per person. The emolument of a senator amounts to N55,659,920 while that of a member of the House of Representatives is N48,580,084 per annum.
A breakdown of a senator’s emolument, according to data sourced from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), indicates that the annual package amounts to N35 million, accommodation N4 million, car loan N8 million, furniture N6 million, constituency N5 million, car maintenance N1.52 million, entertainment N202,640, recess N202,604 and wardrobe N405,208. For a House member, the annual package amounts to N29.280 million, accommodation N3.97 million, car loan N6.9 million, furniture N5.95 million, constituency N1.7 million, car maintenance N595,563, entertainment N198,521, recess N198,521 and ward robe N397,042.
In a country that is ravished by poverty, what is the rationale for the federal lawmakers earning such outrageous emoluments? It is even more worrisome that there are some other funds amounting to millions of naira that accrue to these lawmakers that are not officially accounted for. Most of them are the directors of the companies that are awarded contracts by government ministries, departments and agencies. These same lawmakers are statutorily entitled to severance allowance at the end of their tenure.
There is an urgent need to make public office less attractive. This will ensure that only those with altruistic motive will aspire for it. The RMAFC should quickly review the emoluments of all public officeholders. This should be replicated in the states. Concerted efforts should be made to bridge the gap between the people’s representative at all levels and the people. Besides keeping the political barometer in check, it will scale down corruption in the system.
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