Now is the time for Nigerians to examine their nation’s constitution to be able to hold their public servants accountable both to them and the constitution. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has been observing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria only in breach with regard to the remuneration of both state and federal legislators.
It is my responsibility under section 24 of the constitution to point to any infractions of the constitution by any individual, group, government agency, department, or commission. That is exactly what I have set out to do. Henceforth, the expression “the constitution” should be understood to mean the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999).
Sittings of the legislature: In section 63 of the constitution, it is stated as follows:
The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each sit for a period of not less than one hundred and eighty one days in a year.
Besides, with regard to the sitting of a State House of Assembly, section 104 of the constitution states that:
A House of Assembly shall sit for a period not less than one hundred and eighty one days in a year.
It is not difficult to conclude that the work of a Nigerian legislator at the federal and state levels is indeed part-time. However, in order to avoid probable abuse of the responsibility where a legislator will be negligent of his or her responsibility, the framers of the constitution set a minimum number of sittings for the legislature. Accordingly, for the removal of an individual legislator, the constitution states, among other grounds for removal as follows:
Section 68 (1): A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if:
(f) without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year.
Section 109 (1): A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if:
(f) ) without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year.
The examination of the above suggests that a legislator in Nigeria cannot sit for less than one hundred and twenty one days in a year (or four months).
The remuneration of a legislator (at state and federal levels), therefore can only be part-time, even as he works both part-time and flexitime.
Besides, he can only be paid according to the number of times he sits for legislative assignment. Which body is assigned the responsibility of determining the remuneration of the Nigerian legislature? It is the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Section 70: A member of the Senate and House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.
Section 111: A member of the House of Assembly shall receive such salary and other allowances as the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.
In determining the salary and allowances of a legislature in Nigeria, the RMAFC cannot set their pay by the month, but pro rata. In other words, the salary and allowances so determined must be calculated according to the number of plenary sittings, while work in committees should attract relevant allowances—Committee allowance. The RMAFC should publish the salaries and allowances they have approved for Nigerian legislators for Nigerians to see if they have complied substantially with the constitution. The huge financial bleeding the nation is suffering must be stopped by the RMAFC. It is an emergency, more so at this time that government is looking at reducing significantly recurrent expenditure!
If we take into consideration the fact that 1, 152 members of the state legislators earn a minimum of N 50 billion a year (N 5.1 billion in salaries, and N 35.9 billion in allowances); 8, 692 members of the local legislatures in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria earn N 342.9 billion a year (N 25. 9 billion in salaries, and N 317 billion in allowances), and less than 500 federal legislators earn N 60. 4 billion a year (N 6.2 billion in salaries, and N 54.2 billion in allowances), we can see that just 10, 308 Nigerians (legislators at the three tiers of government) earn a total of N 453.3 billion, which is an average of N43,975, 553 a year!
A lie that Nigerians have been fed with for years is this. Basic salaries of our public servants are published, while allowances, as percentages of the basic salaries are selectively released. The real thing is befuddled. Take, for instance, the basic salaries listed above. All those 10, 308 legislators earn a total of N37.2 billion a year in basic salaries (average is N3.6 million per legislator), which is just 8 percent of their total annual remuneration! The significance is that strange allowances are being paid those legislators, and the RMAFC is empowered by the constitution to cut or expunge those allowances in accordance to sections 84 and 124. The ball is now in the court of the RMAFC.
This problem of unjust reward of public officials is not limited to the legislature. The federal, state, and local executives, with at least 472 officials (federal), 2664 officials (state), and 3,096 officials (local), take a cumulative of N 98.3 billion (federal; N 8.6 billion in basic salaries, N 89.7 billion in allowances); N 300.6 billion (state; N 28.4 billion in salaries, N 272.2 billion in allowances); and N 250 billion (local; N 16 billion in salaries, N 234 billion in allowances). From what I have stated here, which was the case in 2009, we can see that a total 16, 540 Nigerians take from our commonwealth at least N 1.102 trillion a year, or more than 7 billion US dollars a year! If Nigerians cannot join some of us to picket the RMAFC office in Abuja during the break and to symbolically protest at the various legislative houses across the nation, we have only proved not ready to pay for what we desire.
We do not need to pay any Nigerian who knows the facts of the matter to show up at those protests.
Think of what 3 billion US dollars, invested annually in infrastructural development, can achieve for our nation! They keep feeding us with information such as we need 100 billion US dollars to generate 40, 000 mega watts of electricity, just to show us that government is impotent as far as generating electricity is concerned. But this translates to just 1 billion US dollars for 400 megawatts, or 1,200 mega watts generated with 3 billion US dollars. If we, through the RMAFC, could peel off just 3 billion US dollars from the more than 7 billion US dollars that our public officials earn (that is, less than 50 percent off their individual salaries and allowances), we could generate at least 4,800 megawatts of electricity in 4 years with no external funding! Nigerians, this must be our rallying point! Now is the hour! In fact, I would not advise more than 20 times the national minimum wage as sitting allowances/salaries for a legislator, while their transport and accommodation expenses should be paid only when they are sitting, and nothing more.
Our public education shall remain under-funded; our roads, railways, and airports shall remain in their ugly and decrepit state; manufacturing industries in Nigerian shall continue operating at far below installed capacities or even shut down, thus frustrating job creation due to poor public electricity; our health sector shall remain parlous; and our aspiration to join the 20 most industrialized countries in the year 2020 shall remain a pipe dream if we don’t stop the bleeding and plough the savings there from in the critical sectors of the economy, some of which I have itemized.
All legislators in Nigeria should serve part-time, according to the constitution. They do not deserve gratuities, pensions, or severance benefits. Each legislator must keep a stable job or business, and would only sit when the need arises for law-making or consideration of serious national issues; then their transport allowances, sitting salaries, and accommodation allowances, and committee (where required) allowances are paid. That means, someone like me can keep my teaching job in the university, where I can, given class scheduling, and still do my legislative work if I am a legislator. The Vice-president of the US, until he entered upon his current job, taught law in the university while he served as US senator.
I conclude that the Nigerian constitution recognizes law-making as a part-time job, requiring at least one hundred and twenty one days of sitting by an individual legislator. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission must take note and act accordingly.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ).
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