The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has announced the imminent upward revision of salaries of public servants in Nigeria. The Chairman of the Commission, Mohammed Bello Shehu, mentioned this recently when he visited the Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State. He lamented the situation where the salaries of some government agencies far exceed what the president and other public officials receive. However, the salary increase for this class of officers, with its outrageous allowances and other figs, is an absurdity in the midst of a fiscal crisis. It is just the wrong message to send at a time when Nigerians are overwhelmed by the cost of living crisis.
The public officials receiving salary increases are the following: the president, vice president, governors and their deputies; Members of the National Assembly, State Assembly Legislators, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of Service, Ministers, Special Advisers, Chairmen and Members of Constitutional Bodies and Chairmen of Local Government Councils, among others. This is the ruling class of Nigeria.
The revenue generating agencies with enviable salary structures cited by the RMAFC boss are: Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria National Petroleum Company Ltd (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), etc. Shehu argued that it was wrong for any public sector worker to earn more than the president, putting his salary at N14, 058,820 per annum.
What the RMAFC failed to highlight is that these political officials are already well looked after. President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, is provided with free food, cars, a large fleet of presidential jets and healthcare by the Nigerian State and also earns estacodes on his many trips abroad. According to Shehu, a former deputy governor of the CBN received a sum of N500 million in gratuity, while public office holders in the disconnection as severance packages. The RMAFC leader therefore believes that this is anomalous and unacceptable.
But the various salary structures within the Nigerian public sector are creations of the government, which gives approval whenever the heads of some agencies make such salary requests. That it is a matter of concern today, the RMAFC stated, which until now saw this dissonance in the entrenched reward system in the public service, is indicative of the systemic dysfunction of the government.
The salary increase for civil servants is an incongruity that should not be considered in any way at this time, except in the case of judges. The alarming national reality does not allow for upward revisions in the earnings of civil servants. Instructively, three years after the adoption of the N30,000 minimum wage, many states are yet to implement it due to their poor state. As of July this year, a survey conducted by civil society organization BudgIT revealed that around 12 states owned six months of salary arrears for workers. Abia State allegedly failed to pay workers for 22 months, while pensioners in Ebonyi State were owed six months. In addition, 80 million Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to the global poverty index, as of September, Nigeria’s out-of-school children reached 20 million, making the country second only to India, according to UNESCO.
Therefore, it offends the sensibilities of Nigerians for anyone to propose a salary hike for public sector officials, especially members of parliament, today. They have obvious carelessness; those at the state level are at best rubber stamps of state governors, a development that destroys the checks and balances enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. Senate President Ahmad Lawan announced in 2021 that the monthly salary of a senator is N1.5 million and that of a member of the House of Representatives is N1.3 million. The reality, however, is that the total remuneration of MPs is still a secret. A former senator and member of the Eighth Senate, Shehu Sani, burst the bubble in 2018 when he revealed that each member received N13.5 million monthly as “ordinary expenses” in addition to a combined monthly salary and allowance of N700,000.
Whenever attention is drawn to their national financial package, lawmakers usually only show their pay slips with their legitimate income and allowances, as mandated by the RMAFC. But the devil is always in the details of the allowances they award themselves, claiming that they are ordinary expenses. In addition to the “gifts” they seem to get from the public institutions they oversee, many of them seem to commit crimes through budget enforcement and similar activities. This was manifested through allegations in the House of Representatives in 2018, when the chairman of the green house Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, joined the leader of the House over the disproportionate sharing of the N60 billion inserted in the budget. for projects in the constituencies, of which 40,000 billion, according to him, was for senior officers of the chamber. “There is a limit to adaptation,” Jibrin screamed at the time. For making this information public, they were suspended for 180 legislative terms. They stated that most of the time, the contracts for these constituency projects were awarded to the companies of the assembly members or their friends’ companies, which were hardly implemented, if at all.
As part of the monetization program to reduce the cost of governance, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration introduced car, housing and furniture allowances. But the lawmakers in the National Assembly did not let this work. Until now, exotic cars are procured at high costs for each member of parliament in the standing committees because it will enable them to perform their oversight functions effectively. Ironically, it is a mandate that has failed miserably, as evidenced by the various leaks from government ministries, departments and agencies. Today, looting of the treasury has apparently become the foundation of the country’s public service.
As a major agency tasked with mobilizing public resources, RMAFC should be aware of the most critical factor in salary revision – Nigeria’s current inability to pay. Last week, official figures showed a progressive decline in public revenue, with the Federal Government’s six-month expenditure earning more than N6.23 trillion. The country recorded fiscal deficits of N3.2 trillion and N2.74 trillion in the first and second quarters respectively. This is why the 2023 budget carries a deficit of over N11 trillion, which could be higher in the emerging fiscal situation.
This scenario leaves the country with the option of borrowing more from international creditors to pay public sector officials. Unfortunately, many of them, with their incompetence, dereliction of duty and total complicity, have played key roles in the waste of national resources and mindless looting of the treasury. Currently the country’s crude oil production is less than one million barrels per day. This is well below OPEC’s quota of 1.83 billion bpd due to massive oil theft that has gone unhindered, thus sending the country to a fiscal cliff.
It bears repeating that a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) awarded himself a N500 million contract. Another top female bureaucrat was embroiled in a N3 billion contract scandal, of which N600 million was found in the bank account of one of her aides; Another official who looks after the treasury is said to have stolen more than 90,000 billion just as he was sacked.
A rational nation does not borrow for consumption or to pay salaries, as is done in Nigeria today. The aberration has seen Nigeria’s sovereign debt jump from N12 trillion to N42.8 trillion in the last seven years under Buhari’s watch. The country needs to start trimming its coattails, enforce the Fiscal Responsibility Act and recover well-documented stolen or undeclared crude oil revenues, worth over $100 trillion, to improve its decadent infrastructure and social service delivery.
Improving the wages of a class of people, some of whom cannot explain their sources of wealth stashed abroad and owning properties in Abuja and other big cities, is the least of our national priorities at this time of dire fiscal crisis.
Among the many national challenges facing Nigeria, which do you think the next president should focus on?
— Premium Times (@PremiumTimesng) October 5, 2022
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