Thursday, September 26, 2013

#OurNASS: Who will pay the hardship allowance of 112 million poor Nigerians? – @alkayy Alkasim Abdulkadir

In truth the cost of governance in Nigeria is tragically appalling.  There are 112 million poor Nigerians living below the poverty line, some of them in abject, debilitating penury according to the national bureau of statistics; however our national assembly in a magnanimous show of self love pays itself a plethora of the following allowances Hardship, Constituency, furniture, newspaper, wardrobe, recess, leave, severance gratuity accommodation, utilities, domestic staff, entertainment, personal assistant, motor vehicle, vehicle maintenance and duty tour allowance.
For those who are familiar with social media, young people in Nigeria have decided to take the conversation offline; they have resolved to protest at the National Assembly. The three arms zone will receive those who are rightly the proverbial leaders of tomorrow in a bid to set Nigeria path to redemption.
With this action they have not only transited from the years of siddon look, but have also transited beyond what some call social media rants on Twitter and Facebook.
Stemming from a life time of military rule, some components of governance in Nigeria are still shrouded in a veil of utter secrecy. The opaqueness is so alarming that government after government have maintained the status quo irrespective of their progressive inclination. Take for instance the NNPC, perhaps one of the most opaque and shadowy organisations in the world with a labyrinth of accounting and auditing parameters, or other opaque government expenditures like the security vote, the ubiquitous financial pool to maintain law and order in states and local governments.
A while back at a convocation ceremony in Benin the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had raised an alarm in his speech where he challenged the deficit reasoning in spending a whopping 25 percent of the country’s budget on the national assembly. This singular action no doubt created a ripple in the polity.
The catalyst for this protest in my opinion was the Economist Magazine’s analysis that  A Nigerian legislator receives an annual salary of about $189,000, equivalent of N30 million, which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per person.
Nigerian legislators beat their counterparts in Britain who take $105,400 yearly, as well as those in the United States ($174,000), France ($85,900), South Africa ($104,000), Kenya ($74,500), Saudi Arabia ($64,000) and Brazil ($157,600).
In terms of lawmakers’ salaries as a ratio of GDP per capita, the gap is even much wider. While the salary of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person, that of a British member of parliament is just 2.7 times.
The report also said Britain’s legislators pay is “relatively parsimonious” when compared with that of their counterparts in poorer countries, including Nigeria, who “enjoy the heftiest salaries by this measure.”
According to the data, only Australian lawmakers, with $201,200 annual salary, receive higher amounts compared to Nigerian legislators, but their salaries are only 3 times their country’s GDP per person.
Other yearly salary details published by the Economist are those of lawmakers in Ghana ($46,500), Indonesia ($65,800), Thailand ($43,800), India ($11,200), Italy ($182,000), Bangladesh ($4,000), Israel ($114,800), Hong Kong ($130,700), Japan ($149,700), Singapore ($154,000), Canada ($154,000), New Zealand ($112,500), Germany ($119,500), Ireland ($120,400), Pakistan ($3,500), Malaysia ($25,300), Sweden ($99,300), Sri Lanka ($5,100), Spain ($43,900) and Norway ($138,000).
However, the RMAFC in a bid to do damage control has said  described the lumping of all salaries and allowances into yearly totals as erroneous as some of the entitlements were “non-regular” and are paid only once in four years.
According to the RMAFC each Senator gets N 4 million while each House of Reps member gets N3.97 million. As vehicle loan each Senator takes N8 million, while Reps collect N7.94 million. The furniture allowance for each Senator is N6 million, while Reps’ furniture allowance stands at N5.956 million for each member. Severance gratuity for each Senator N6.09 million, for Reps, it is N5.956 million. Like the vehicle loan, severance gratuities are paid only once in 4 years. The commission however made it known that accommodation allowance is paid to each legislator every year.
Other annual allowances include those for motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance, for which Senators are entitled to N1.52 million each and their House of Reps counterparts pocket N1.489 million. Constituency, Senators get N5 million, Reps N1.985 million, domestic staff allowance for Senators amounts to N1.519 million while each Rep takes N1.488million.
Legislators are also given allowance for personal assistants, for each Senator, the figure is N506,600 while for Reps it is N496,303, for entertainment Senators take home N607,920 and Reps N595,563, recess allowance for Senators stands at N202,640 and N198,521 for Reps.
Senators get N607,920 for utilities as against N397,042 for Reps. For newspaper/periodicals N303,960 accrues to each Senator and N297,781 to each Rep, house maintenance for Senators, N101,320 and for Reps,N99,260 while wardrobe allowance for Senators is N506,600 and Reps are given N496,303 for the same purpose. .
The protest is not just about the National Assembly it is a metaphor for the sky rocketing cost of governance in Nigeria in the midst of such hopeless poverty, it is time the citizens of Nigeria begin to take Nigeria more seriously than complaining on radio talk shows, at vendor spots or hissing at passing motorcades blaring sirens. It is time to begin to take Nigeria back, it looks herculean, but it can be done.

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