The Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, Mr. Elias Mbam, drew the ire of human rights and social advocacy groups such as the Social and Economic Rights Advocacy Project, SERAP; Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC; YIAGA Africa; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC and the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, NECA, recently when he hinted of a “review” of remuneration for holders of political offices.
Mbam, whose Commission is empowered to regulate the emoluments of political officeholders said the process had already commenced and when completed, could lead to either a pay-rise or pay-cut for the politicians on government payroll such as the President, Vice President, Federal and State lawmakers, ministers, political heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, Board members and aides of the aforementioned officials.
The salaries, allowances and funds dedicated to keeping these politicians in comfort, along with the emoluments of civil servants and administrative costs, take up more than 70 per cent of the annual budgets of the Federal, state and local governments, leaving very little for physical development and growth of the social sector such as education and health.
The poor revenue profile of Nigeria and its subnational governmental units, added to the humongous pay of political officeholders is a contradiction which has, for decades, elicited calls for a deep slash in the cost of governance which has not been put to practice. Nigerian political officeholders are reputed as being among the highest-paid in the world, yet our civil servants earn among the lowest wages.
Even the newly-approved monthly National Minimum Wage, NMW, of N30,000 ($82.78) has not yet been implemented in majority of the states. Most governors claim their states cannot pay. To make matters worse, many former governors who have become senators and ministers are enjoying multiple pay packages and, apart from Zamfara, no state has yet taken steps to stop it. Politicians have turned themselves into worms that are zapping the life out of our public treasuries.
Something urgent must be done to halt this anomaly. We call on the RMAFC not to use its powers as contained in Section 32(d) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution against the people. Whatever criteria the “review” is deploying, it must be used to cut down the high cost of maintaining politicians in government. The political class which has reduced Nigeria to the “poverty capital of the world” with 15 million children out of school deserves a massive pay-cut.