Many Nigerians have complained that the salaries of senators in the Red Chambers are bogus. For many, they do not reflect the socioeconomic realities of the economy. Many have also accused government of heavy spending in the disbursement of salaries to public service holders, while abandoning the real and active sectors of the economy to recession, strikes and problematic depression. The yearly estimate put forward noted that Nigeria’s senators may be one of the highest paid in the world as their annual earnings amounts to $475, 000 a year. This is higher than in Tanzania ($230, 931 a year), Singapore ($253, 469 a year) and the USA ($174, 000 per year).
During the #EndSARS protests, many youths made additional demands to the existing 5 for 5 demands. They made fresh demands that the huge salaries and allowances of the members of the National Assembly must be reduced. They also advocated for part time legislative work in order to effectively reduce the allowances of the lawmakers. The Nigerian Senators responded to the #EndSARS protesters by stating that they were on the side of the people, and were not meant to be the scapegoats of the nascent protest. They informed the protesters that they have long been in the forefront of making laws towards major police reforms, which was part of the 5 for 5 demands.
Recently, Senator Shehu Sani, a senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District told the press that the ‘running cost’ of each member of the senate is estimated at about N13.5m. This is inclusive of the monthly consolidated allowance of over N750, 000. He asserted that the allowances of senators should be scrapped so that men of ideas would dominate the National Assembly instead of those who are interested in the money alone. Shehu Sanni noted that the ‘jumbo pay’ collected by Senators on the monthly basis help fuel the desperation to win seats at the National Assembly during elections.
Senator Sani, a former activist, who is seen as a rabble rouser by his colleagues has been countered by Senator Ajibola Bashiru, representing Osun Central. Senator Ajibola told journalists that the salary of a serving senator is N700, 000, and he is accessible to a car loan of over N8 million, which is being deducted from his or her 700, 000 naira salary. He stated that, ‘As a senator, you are entitled to six aides who are paid by the National Assembly Service Commission and they are paid directly into the account. Will you count that as my salary?’
The lawmaker asserted that if the National Assembly is scrapped, the country would only make marginal savings, if at all any savings, in the cost of governance. This is further corroborated by Senator Teslim Folarin who reacted to the issue: ‘Can you tell me one politician that left the national assembly as a very rich person? I think there is a lot of confusion with the salary and running cost of offices?’ He therefore charged Nigerians to shift their gaze from the National Assembly to the lavish lifestyles and earnings of the governors.
In 2015, President Buhari promised Nigerians that salaries of lawmakers and public office holders will be slashed. The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) also said that it will work assiduously to reduce the basic salaries of senators to N1million. In November 2020, Elias Mbam, Chairman of RMAFC, informed the House of Representative Committee on Finance that it has started the initial processes of reviewing the salaries of all political office holders. He later told journalists that the purpose of the review was to align the renumeration of the leaders with the ‘current realities’ in the county. He noted that the resolution of their review will determine whether it would culminate into an upward review or a downward one.
According to a document obtained from RMAFC website, the monthly basic salary of a senator was indicated as 168, 866.00NGN (2, 026, 400.00 yearly), alongside additional allowances and loan options that must be payable at the expiration of the tenure of the senator in 2007-2009. The RMAFC website failed to provide an authoritative detail on salaries and allowances that was limited to 2009. It stated that Utilities, Entertainment and Personal Assistance, Medical, Accommodation and Furniture would be provided by the government to the senators. It also revealed that funds for Duty Tour Allowance, Estacode and Medical are made available on application. We are also unaware whether these aforementioned wages are deducted from the Senator’s Salaries. The 2007 RMAFC document showed that senators are entitled to a car loan which amounts to 400% of a senator’s annual basic salary, payable at the expiration of his or her tenure. We could not ascertain whether the operational culture of the Senate concerning these aspects of the allowances have changed over the years. The available 2015 web document pegged a Senator’s Basic Salary at N2,484,245.50 (2.5million), alongside allowances like Hardship Allowance, Leave Allowance, Utilities, Entertainment allowances; appellations that have annoyed Nigerians.
Below is a table showing full details of the basic salary and allowances of a serving Nigerian Senator, thus:
|BASIC SALARY & ALLOWANCES||AMOUNT|
|Hardship Allowance (50% of BS)||N1,242,122.75|
|Constituency Allowance (200% of BS)||N4,968,509.00|
|Furniture Allowance (300% of BS)||N7,452,736.50|
|Newspaper and Periodicals Allowance (50% of BS)||N1, 242,122.70|
|Wardrobe Allowance (25% of BS)||N621,061.37|
|Recess Allowance (10% of BS)||N248,424.55|
|Accommodation Allowance (200% of BS)||N4,968,509.00|
|Utilities (30% of BS)||N828,081,83|
|Domestic Staff (35% of BS)||N863,184.12|
|Entertainment (30% OF BS)||N828,081.83|
|Personal Assistance (10% of BS)||N621,061.37|
|Vehicle Maintenance (133% of BS)||N1,863,184.12|
|Leave Allowance (10% of BS)||N248,424.55|
|Severance Gratuity (133% of BS)||N1,863,184.12|
|Motor Vehicle Allowance (400% of BS)||N9,936,982.00|
|TOTAL||N29, 479, 749.00|
- Reported Current Annual Salary for Senators in the Red Chambers
Senator Ahmad Lawan, Nigeria’s Senate president, in reaction to the demands of the masses against the wages of senators asked Nigerians to demand for accountability, coupled with the output of the lawmakers, as well as the legislature as a whole, instead of questioning the ‘jumbo pay’ they receive.
He said, ‘I’m not advocating for more than necessary but what we have today is inadequate and you find members of the National Assembly struggling to do almost everything by themselves. That does not get the best out of us.’
It is clear that there remain silences in the engagement of allowances paid to serving senators in the country. This silence is caused by RMAFC who have failed to clearly describe and publicise the current wages of the serving senators. This has heated the polity by making the populace conclude that the senators are only interested in the coveted seat in order to have a chunk from the national cake at the detriment of the entire national well-being. The necessity of the National Assembly to engage the public consistently to ascertain the concerns of their constituents, while boldly revealing with ample evidence their wages, will help douse the tensions that disinformation has stirred in our polity
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