Why we need to pay Nigerian Senators more money
Nigerian Senators do so much more for the country than we give them credit for.
The one about Nigerian lawmakers has been a touchy subject for a long time now.
Despite all the public inquiry into uncovering how much federal lawmakers make in their 'service' to the country, there'd been no reliable source to shed proper light on the figures.
Like a father who constantly shelves having the sex talk with his teenage son because of all the awkwardness, lawmakers have themselves, several times, evaded questions on the subject for years.
Much of the back and forth over the subject is as a result of the public belief that lawmakers earn too much money at the detriment of the country, especially as they are perceived to do very minimal work.
This informs why they're uncooperative in making the figures public because of the inevitable backlash as Nigerians clamour for a slash of their jumbo package.
Despite their best efforts to bury the topic, there have been some interesting discoveries along the way.
In a 2009 interview, before he joined the upper legislative chamber in 2011, Senator Sola Adeyeye revealed that lawmakers have a fraudulent system of earning more than they actually should.
According to him, lawmakers dubiously manipulate the allowance system to get away with earning a lot of money that they don't put to its proper use, such as in the case of stationery and travel allowances.
He said, "The real problem in Nigeria is that much of the money politicians take home does not come in the form of salaries; it comes in the form of barefaced looting called allowances.
"When we got to the National Assembly (House of Representatives), we were given money for stationery, and I thought perhaps that was the money for all the stationery I would need for one year or throughout my stay in the National Assembly. So, I went ahead and bought the stationery. I later realised that I was naïve. The funny thing was that I did not use half of the stationery till I left the National Assembly.
"But the real tragedy was that, almost two months later, we were given money for stationery again. And that must have repeated itself about twice every quarter throughout my stay there.
"I am saying that the money they paid us for stationery was probably 20 times what they should have paid us."
In the most recent high profile exposure, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay claimed in September 2017 that each Nigerian Senator earns N29.5 million per month.
While delivering a lecture at the Nigerian Society of International Law (NSIL) Public Lecture in Lagos, he disclosed that besides a basic salary of N2.4 million per month, Nigerian Senators earn allowances such as hardship (50% of basic salary), newspaper (50%), wardrobe (25%), entertainment (30%), recess (10%), and leave (10%).
They are also paid allowances for furniture, accommodation, utilities, domestic staff, personal assistant, and vehicle maintenance.
Unsurprisingly, Sagay's claim got pushback from the Senate as he was called "a senile, jaded, outdated Professor of Law" in a press statement signed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Abdullahi, who accused Sagay of spreading falsehood about the Senate in public, and damaging the integrity of the federal legislature.
The Senate's official statement accused the PACAC chairman of releasing "false and exaggerated figures about the salaries and allowances of legislators" while still neglecting to put out the correct figures.
"Let us make it clear that our salaries and allowances are open books and the details can be taken from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) by any interested party," the statement read.
A dark knight rises
In a rare moment of 'honesty' not usually expected from a Nigerian politician, the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani, revealed that Senators receive N13.5 million monthly as "running cost" alongside a N750,000 consolidated salary as well as other allowances.
He explained, "I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month.
"But what I am saying is that that money must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without any accountability is N750,000."
Senator Sani also disclosed that every Senator gets N200 million as a constituency fund which he admitted is sometimes fraught with fraud as projects are not done despite receipt of the money.
Senator Sani's revelations, as well as his reservation about all the allowances, is the closest any reliable party has made about the earnings of Senators in Nigeria; and even though the figures don't come close to Sagay's figures, he might not have been far off with his estimation.
What do Senators do to earn so much?
The general feeling among the Nigerian public is that lawmakers do the bare minimum amount of work for a disproportionate amount of reward.
So what exactly have they been doing to be coasting home with the millions?
While the constitution empowers lawmakers to make laws and appropriate budgets and consent to executive appointments, Nigerian lawmakers, especially Senators, have gone over and beyond to do more than those things to earn their keep.
Just over the past year alone, several Senators have dabbled in other things such as viral songs; danced in viral dance videos; engaged in self-absorbed Twitter rants; engaged in tweet fights with other politicians; entertained a Nigerian audience at a foreign carnival; engaged in a war of words that spilled onto the streets; engaged in a public feud over the uniform of a federal appointee; set up committees to investigate issues that should best be left to more relevant agencies; took time off their busy schedules to attend to fraud trials in courtrooms; and general serious activities like attempting to suppress freedom of expression that inconveniences them.
This is a whole lot of extra-curricular activities for the legislative arm of government and they deserve to be paid more for doing more than their job descriptions require.
Whatever they are currently getting paid monthly, whether N14.2 million or N29.5 million or even N50 million, is not nearly enough.
In his 2009 interview, Senator Adeyeye had said, "If Nigerians know how much we in the National Assembly were making, they would come and stone all of us."
I beg to differ. Our lawmakers do so much for the sake of the country that I suggest the only thing we should be stoning them with is more money.
More money to tell us what we already know is wrong with the country; more money to engage in embarrassing antics to rival 10-year-olds; more money to buy data for Twitter rants; and definitely more money to defend themselves in courtrooms.
Long live the Republic.
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