was by all standards meant to be an innocuous gathering as part of the
celebration of the 47th birthday of Barrister Opeyemi Bamidele, the
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy. At best,
organisers must have planned to use it as another podium to educate the
electorate in Nigeria. Hence, legal luminary, Professor Itse Sagay, a
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was invited to deliver a lecture on
"Legislating for Common Good: Contemporary Issues & Perspective." If
educating the electorate was the motive, the organisers hit the bull’s
outcome of the event has now put the Nigeria Legislature, especially,
the National Assembly (NASS) once again, on the spot light. The
questions on the lips of many Nigerians now are: Exactly how much does a
federal lawmaker earn? How much does a senator or a House of
Representatives member earn per month and per annum?
interest in knowing the exact take home of the federal lawmakers has
soared after Sagay at the event dazed Nigerians with what many could
have sworn never existed. So far, clearly more than 10 days now, nobody
has come out to controvert all the presentation by the learned gentleman
former President Olusegun Obasanjo has added fuel to the raging
inferno. On Wednesday, he slammed the federal legislators for
constituting a heavy drain on the nation’s lean purse.
argued that the amount expended in maintaining the lawmakers is a
serious burden on the nation’s coffers and must be looked into urgently.
He sang the same tenor with Sagay at a retreat organised for the Niger
State senior civil servants. The former number one citizen expressed
shock that it was difficult to fathom exactly how much a senator takes
home annually. He even marvelled at the concept of ‘constituency
the obviously well researched lecture, Sagay had announced to the
consternation of his listeners that despite being one of the poorest
countries in the world, with a per capita income of just $2,249 per
annum as against $46,350 in the United States (U.S.), Nigerian senators
are the highest paid in the world with each earning more than President
Barack Obama of the U.S.
done, the erudite constitutional lawyer declared that Obama, reputed to
be the President of the richest country in the world, earns $400,000
per annum while his counterpart in Britain, the British Prime Minister,
earns 190,000 Pounds," he had said.
reeled out even more benumbing figures. The Senate President in
Nigeria, Sagay alleged, "earns N250 million quarterly or N83 million per
month whilst his deputy earns N50 million monthly and that while N1.024
billion was allocated as quarterly allowance to the 10 principal
officers in the upper house, collectively referred to as Senate
Leadership, each of the other principal officers earns N78 million every
three months or N26 million per month," Sagay said.
other words, Nigerian lawmakers in Abuja are the highest paid in the
world. In 2009, a Senator earned N240 million in salaries and
allowances, whilst his House of Representatives counterpart earned
N203million. A senator earned about $1.7 million and a member of the
House of Representatives earned $1.45 million per annum," the lawyer
a contrasting scenario, Sagay opined that, an American senator in the
same year, earned $174,000, while his counterpart in Britain earned
$64,000 per annum. He said: "This tragic state of affairs is clearly
unsustainable. Those engaged in this feeding frenzy are endangering our
Senior Advocate added that rather than operate to protect the interest
of the nation, the lawmakers have jettisoned the interest of the nation
for self interest. "Instead of serving the people of this country, they
are engaged in the pursuit of self interest, to a degree that can only
be regarded as shocking," he said.
said by the current computation, the 109 senators and the 360 members
of the House of Representatives gulp five per cent of the total annual
budget while less than 150 million Nigerians receive about N1,000 each.
in his trademark bluntness, questioned what is called ‘constituency
project.’ He accused them of padding the budget proposals to ensure that
their interests are adequately catered for.
asked in exasperation: "They came up and say something is constituency
project, what is this constituency project? They insert it in the
budget, they would find the contractor and the contractor would work for
them, that is constituency project? They then accuse some people of
corruption, who are not corrupt.
let us talk truly to ourselves seriously. We can’t continue to have a
National Assembly that is consuming a disproportional part of our
resources and then expect that we would be able to make progress. They
pass budget that can’t be implemented, because it has to be beefed up to
satisfy their whims and caprices. Even what the ministries did not ask
for they put it," Obasanjo declared.
year, the federal lawmakers awarded themselves N60billion as
constituency fund allocation for 2009 fiscal year. They drew the ire of
opposition leaders who called it a big fraud. Beginning from fiscal year
2000, allocations for Constituency Projects have always been among the
several items in Federal Government budgets, which the National Assembly
routinely processed into Acts. But the explanation from the NASS
members for the fund and what a groundswell of Nigerian public think has
always been in conflict.
perception of many Nigerians is that senators and members of the House
of Representatives have become used to this process as an avenue for
generating money for ‘empowering’ the horde of hangers-on around them
and enjoy ostentatious lifestyle.
say very few, if any, among the lawmakers ever undertake projects of a
worthwhile value in their respective constituencies. It is also very
common for some of the lawmakers to announce plans, projects and,
sometimes, even do some foundation laying, and the rest becomes
propaganda stuff and eventually pales into history.
many cases, projects earmarked for execution overlap with similar ones
by either one or all of the three tiers of government. Besides this
duplication of efforts, proponents of separation of powers express fears
that the development blurs the almost invisible difference between the
executive and the legislature.
in many states, the constituency projects allowance has become a
potential weapon in the hands of the executive for muzzling the
legislative arm. As an instance, the Osun State government once paid N5
million into the account of lawmakers in the state which it dubbed
constituency allowance. The opposition party in the state directed its
legislators to return the ‘grant’.
importantly, anti-graft crusaders claim that funds for constituency
projects easily oil the wheels of corruption in the country. It is
therefore not surprising that lawmakers have made it a habit to fight
with the last drop of their blood during the yearly budget ritual to
ensure its retention no matter the level of public outcry against it.
the outrageous salaries and emoluments, the leadership of both the
senate and the house of representatives control a huge amount of
security votes which they dispense without any form of accountability.
live larger than life and acquire state of the art bullet proof
vehicles, virtually competing with the executive governors in the
outlandish way they live.
Speaking to The Nation
on Thursday evening, Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr.
Fredrick Fashehun, described the jumbo salary of the lawmakers in the
country as an unpatriotic act. He said it is an act that is just a
little short of armed robbery.
lambasted the lawmakers, many of whom he described as not as qualified
as the civil servants that are to earn a paltry N30,000.00 a month, nor
do some of them even know their constituencies.
think the truth is that they are just being unpatriotic. What they are
doing in the name of earning salaries and allowances is just fleecing
the nation, it is stealing. I mean what they are doing is just a little
short of armed robbery. They are using every means to feather their
nests. Is it not absurd that the minimum wage just approved would be
N30,000 and most of the people that would be going home with such
ridiculous amount are better qualified than the lawmakers? It is even
more annoying when you discover that most of them don’t know their
constituencies. If you mention some villages in the constituencies and
ask them where they are, don’t be surprised if they tell you the
villages are in China. Not that only, they don’t know the level of
poverty in the constituencies and the nation. It is so bad."
Martin Onovo, the national leader of the pressure group, Strategic
Union of Professionals for the Advancement of Nigeria (SUPA –Nigeria),
not only condemned the development, he described it as an abuse of
privilege. The oil and gas consultant told The Nation
on Thursday in a telephone interview that the lawmakers should have
applied a lot of tact in allotting to themselves such outrageous
salaries and allowances simply because they have the power to determine
what they should take home.
have the power to fix their salaries and they abused it. How can only
one person take home N2billion annually? They need to do a lot of soul
searching because it is inhuman, period!
this would not be the first time the issue of the salaries and
emoluments of Nigerian lawmakers would be an issue in the country.
Obasanjo had at a point in time confronted the late Senate President,
Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, to be bold enough to tell the world how much a
senator of the Federal Republic earned. He had expressed his
bewilderment, even as a sitting president, at his inability to know
exactly how much a senator was paid. He alleged secrecy and lack of
transparency on the salaries and emoluments of lawmakers.
will be recalled that frontline journalist and former Minister of
Information, Mr. Tony Momoh, once wrote in an article, entitled "The
Salary Time Bomb" about the bloated salaries of political office holders
in the country, arguing that unless something is done about it, Nigeria
will gradually grind to a halt.
whether the latest attention to the salaries and allowances of the
lawmakers would make them change their minds and ‘sacrifice’ a little in
the interest of the nation or not, only time will tell.
2005, a deposed senate president caused a stir when he declared that
because some of them borrowed money to contest elections, they must do
everything possible to recoup the same. When such a mind set and
perception would be exorcised from the body polity of the nation, nobody
can tell for now.