The news of the confirmation of the humungous amount of money collected every month by members of the Senate as running expenses hit Nigerians like a thunder bolt. In the past, there have been unsubstantiated rumours about the exact amount pocketed by members of the National Assembly. But this is the first time that a serving legislator will openly declare the precise sum they collect. Senator Shehu Sani told Nigerians that every senator takes home N13.5 million as running costs which is not part of the monthly salary and other allowances such as housing, transport, assistants, etc.
Section 70 of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that a member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) may determine. Thus, it is not for the legislature to fix its own remuneration. In the 2007 review of the provisions of the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders(Salaries and Allowances, etc) Act No. 6 of 2002, being the law regulating the remuneration and allowances of political, public and judicial office holders as at that date, RMAFC stated that it took the following into consideration: “(a) Changes in the basic fundamentals of the Nigerian economy; (b) External reserves; (c) GDP Growth rate; (d) rate of inflation; (e) correct placement of some category of public office holders who were wrongly placed in the old package; (f)need to modify old salaries and allowances and introduce new allowances that were not included in the old package; (g) need for a living wage to ensure honesty and dignity of the office holders and (h) need to ensure compliance with the provisions of sections 84 (3) and 124 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which states that the remuneration and salaries payable to the office holders and their conditions of service, other than allowances, shall not be altered to their disadvantage after their appointment”.
From the review, members of the Senate and House of Representatives are entitled to a basic annual salary of N2,026,400.00 and N1,985,212.50 respectively. They also get the following as a percentage of their basic salary. Accommodation (200 per cent); furniture (300 per cent); motor vehicle loan (400 per cent); vehicle maintenance (75 per cent); personal assistant (25 per cent); wardrobe (25 per cent); domestic staff (75 per cent); entertainment (30 per cent); utilities (30 percent); recess (10 per cent); and newspaper (15 per cent). However, the constituency vote of the senator is 250 per cent of the basic salary whilst the honourable member gets 100 per cent of the basic salary.
Working with the above figures, in the first year of their being sworn in, the total emoluments of 109 senators comes up to N3.390 billion. In the second and third year, when furniture allowance and motor vehicle loan will no longer be due, the total emolument of 109 senators amounts to N1.844 billion per year. In the fourth year, when the severance package is included, it will amount to N2.506 billion. Thus, the normal allowances of a Senator, excluding the once and for all furniture allowance,vehicle loan and severance gratuity is 735 percent of the basic salary every year.
Again, working with the above figures, in the first year of their being sworn in, the total emoluments of 360 Representatives comes up to N9.898 billion. In the second and third year, when furniture allowance and motor vehicle loan will no longer be due, the total emolument of 360 Representatives amounts to N4.895 billion per year. In the fourth year, when the severance package is included, it will amount to N7.039 billion.
Thus, for the four years, the total emoluments of 109 senators amounts to N9.586 billion whilst the 360 Representatives collect N26.728 billion; bringing the Senate and Representatives together gets the overall personnel vote to N36.314 billion. However, these exclude medical allowance which is to be provided as a service, special assistants on grade levels 12 and 14, 3 legislative aides, Duty Tour Allowance, estacode, responsibility allowance for principal officers and security. Thus, the cost of these excluded items should not be more than 25%of the total remuneration of National Assembly members which adds an extra N9 billion bringing the four year cost to about N45 billion. Also, it is understandable that the bureaucracy that services NASS has to be paid. But this cannot escalate the budget to current reality of between N125 billion-N150 billion every year. Generally, the personnel allocation of NASS is about 10 percent of their vote whilst overheads take up about 80 per cent-85 per cent. The remaining 5% is usually for capital expenditure.
There is a consensus of opinion in Nigeria that this package of emoluments is extremely generous in a poor country where the bulk of the population live in extreme poverty; the infrastructure is in poor shape and all major human indicators are headed south. To now add N13.5 million per senator every month amounts to extra N17.658 billion every year totaling N70.632 billion over four years. We are yet to get the details of running cost of the Representatives which will definitely be higher than the figures in the Senate considering their number of 360. This is not only outrageous but an affront of incalculable proportions on the majority of citizens who find it difficult to eke out a living.
For the Senate spokesman to affirm that the running cost is already contained in the federal budget and as such, there is nothing new to it is the height of mischief. For so many years at the Citizens Wealth Platform, we have been pointing out these frivolous, inappropriate, wasteful and illegal expenditure proposals but no one seems to be listening. The fact that legislators have the power of appropriation and they abuse it for their personal gain, rather than for the peace, order and good government of the federation does not justify, legalise or make right this N13.5 million monthly disbursement. It is simply authority stealing, using the legislative process for ignoble purposes and an abuse of power.
It is interesting that every senator and legislator takes home this money quietly and calmly without highlighting the fact that he is Christian or Moslem, Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, etc. Thus, there is unanimity of purpose in their resolve to pocket this money without due process. And the fact that this has now become public knowledge is something that most of the members of NASS regret. It is up to Nigerians to decide on how to react to this heist. Impunity rules where men are fearful and refuse to stand up for their rights