How Legislators Bilk The Nation
We now know why the Central Bank of Nigeria cried out: each senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria earns N15.18m in salaries and allowances monthly, just as each member of the House of Representatives takes home N10.59m a month. For the Senate, each senator (excluding the Senate President and his deputy) takes home about N198.54m annually (N16.64m per month). This translates into a total of N21.243bn. The figure, staggering as it is, still excludes the lawmakers‘ constituency votes, which are not paid directly to them.
To keep the federal lawmakers in office for one year, the Federal Government spends a staggering N67.32bn on their salaries and other allowances. There are 469 federal lawmakers, comprising 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
The amount includes each senator‘s N45m quarterly allowance, which amount to N180m annually for the four quarters of the year, and the official N18.54m that goes into their individual accounts annually as salaries and other emoluments.
An investigative report by Punch reveals that every member of the House of Representatives takes home about N127.18m annually (or N10.59m per month).
The amount includes N28m quarterly allowance for each member, which translates into N112m annually for the four quarters of the year. It also includes the official N15.18m annual salary and other emoluments of each member, contained in a document obtained from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
This implies that at N127.18m per member (excluding the Speaker and his deputy), N45.466bn is being expended as wage bill annually on 358 legislators in the House of Representatives.
According to available statistics, the Speaker takes home N117.20m annually (N9.76m per month), while his deputy gets about N116.80m annually (N9.73m per month). The seemingly lower pay for the leadership of the House is explained by the fact that the officers are entitled to full provision of some items that had been monetised for other members.
The allowances that are not monetised are for vehicle maintenance and fuelling, personal assistants, house maintenance, domestic staff, entertainment, utilities, wardrobe, newspapers and periodicals.
When the wage bill of these principal officers of the lower chamber is added to the total take-home (N45.466bn) of the other 358 members, the total wage bill of the entire House of Representatives adds up to N45.699bn.
Further analyses of the RMAFC document revealed that the Senate President gets N188.94m annually (N15.74 per month), while his deputy takes home N188.31m annually (N15.69m per month) as salaries and allowances.
As with the leadership of the lower chamber, the amounts exclude other allowances, which are not monetised.
When the wage bill of the Senate President and that of his deputy is added to what the other 107 senators earn, the total take-home for the entire Senate becomes N21.621bn.
But some of the legislators have insisted that the quarterly allowances are for running their offices and so, should not be included in their take-home.
However, there are other earnings not captured in the above figure because they are not fixed.
For instance, each senator is entitled to a severance package of N6,079,200 upon successful completion of a term; duty tour allowance of N23,000 per night when they travel within the country and estacode of $800 per night when they travel out of the country. Should they desire, they are also entitled to a car loan of N8,105,600 each. This is, however, refundable.
Each member of the House of Representatives is also entitled to a severance package of N5,955,637.50 upon successful completion of tenure; refundable vehicle loan of N7,940,850; N21,000 duty tour allowance per night when they travel within the country and $550 estacode per night when they travel outside the country.
However, senators who obtained car loans at the beginning of the legislative session had, through the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, reportedly made an official request that the loans be converted to grants since they were not told at the onset that the money would be repaid.
A source at the RMAFC told one of our correspondents that any earning by the legislators outside what was approved by the commission and ratified by an Act of Parliament was illegal.
He, however, added that the commission was not in the position to monitor such illegal earnings that members of the National Assembly could appropriate to themselves, noting that it could not also penalise them for such illegal earnings.
The earnings of legislators and other political office holders had been controversial, especially in recent times. The controversy reached its high point when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, alleged that 25 per cent of Nigeria‘s annual total overhead cost was spent on lawmakers.
The worry of Nigerians, however, has not been about the official earnings, as the legislators are constantly accused of appropriating huge amount of money to themselves as constituency project funds on a quarterly basis.
It is alleged that these funds, which run into billions of naira, end up in the pockets of legislators as the constituency projects are hardly executed and the exact amounts of money collected are hardly known.
The Federal Government has yet to implement the reduced emoluments of political office holders and judges recommended 18 months ago by the RMAFC.
Sources close to the commission confirmed to THE PUNCH that the recommendation had not been implemented because it lacked the force of law.
The commission had forwarded a bill, titled, ”Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc) (Amendment) Act, 2008,” to the National Assembly through the Federal Executive Council to legislate upon.
If the bill had been passed and implemented, the official emolument of a senator would have reduced to N12,209,060 per annum, while that of a House of Representatives member would have been N10,273,474 annually.