By Nnaemeka Meribe and Gbenga Adeniji
Thursday, 16 Dec 2010
A comparative analysis of Nigerian legislators‘ earnings and those of other countries reveals that the former can pay many of their counterparts in other countries and still remain very rich, Nnaemeka Meribe and Gbenga Adeniji write.
An Indian lawmaker needs to work for at least 49 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian senator. A lawmaker in India earns $23,988 (N3.7m) per annum while a Nigerian senator earns $1.2m (N182m) per annum. A monthly breakdown shows that while an Indian lawmaker earns $1,999 (N305, 058) per month, a Nigerian senator earns $ 99,167(N15.18m) per month.
The Indian lawmakers‘ pay is also a far cry from what members of the House of Representatives earn. THE PUNCH reported last week that each member of the House of Representatives takes home N10.59m every month. Thus, a federal lawmaker in India will work for at least 34 years to earn the N127m annual salary of a member of the House of Representatives.
In fact, the pay of Indian lawmakers was only increased to the current level in August, after the legislators complained that their earlier monthly pay of $345 (N52, 648) was inadequate.
The jumbo pay of Nigerian lawmakers has been in the front burner in recent times, with the Nigerian public criticising it as outrageous. It is doubtful if the salaries and entitlements of National Assembly members had ever raised as much dust.
It was the legal icon, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) who first drew attention to the abnormality in August when he delivered a lecture on “Legislating for Common Good: Contemporary Issues & Perspective” during the celebration of the 47th birthday of the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele.
Sagay told his obviously stunned audience that in spite of Nigeria‘s position as one of the world‘s poorest nations, with a meagre per capita income of $2,249 per annum as against $46,350 of the US, the nation‘s federal lawmakers were the highest paid in the world, with each earning more than President Barack Obama of the US.
And the constitutional lawyer had facts and figures to back his statement. He said that a Nigerian Senator, in 2009 earned N240m in salaries and allowances while his House of Representatives counterpart earned N203.8m.
With the dust raised by Sagay‘s revelation yet to clear, the Governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, upped the ante while delivering a lecture, late November at the convocation ceremony of Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State. He disclosed that 25 per cent of the overhead of the nation‘s budget goes to the NASS.
Sanusi‘s disclosure was like a blow below the belt for members of NASS. They accused Sanusi of inciting the public against them with false figures and summoned him to appear before them on different days to clear the air on his statement and also apologise to them.
But the turn of events did not rattle Sanusi, as he stood his ground when he appeared before them, insisting that he got his figures from the right source and that there was no need for him to apologise since he did nothing wrong.
But a critical analysis of the lawmakers‘ pay will reveal a huge disparity between their pay and the N18,000 (monthly) national minimum wage which state governments are yet to implement.
The least paid worker in the country, at the contentious N18,000 minimum wage earns N234,000 per annum if the 13th month extra pay is added. This means that the least paid worker in the country earns just 0.13 per cent of a senator‘s salary. Such a worker will also need to work for at least 777 years to earn a senator‘s N182m annual pay.
A further breakdown reveals that a senator earns N498, 630. 137 a day, N20,776.28 per hour and N346.270 per minute. In other words, a senators daily pay is two times more than the annual pay of the least paid Nigerian worker. A senator’s hourly pay is also more than the monthly pay of the least paid worker in the country.
Similarly, the least paid Nigerian worker earns just 0.18 per cent of a member of the House of Representatives’ pay. Such a worker will also need to work for at least 542 years to earn the N127m annual salary of a member of the House of Representatives.
A member of the House of Representatives earns N347, 945 per day, N14, 497 per hour and N241 per minute. In other words, the daily pay of a member of the House of Representatives is more that the annual pay of the least paid Nigerian worker. Also, the monthly pay of the least paid Nigerian worker is slightly above the hourly pay of a member of the House of Representatives.
A comparison with the pay of five other countries reveals that the pay of Nigerian lawmakers is indeed outrageous.
The minimum wage in the United States is $1,257 (N191,667) and a US lawmaker earns $15,080 (N2.3m) per month. This shows that the least paid worker in the US earns 8.67 per cent of the total pay of the country‘s lawmaker. Thus, a US legislator will need to work for over six years to earn the annual pay of a Nigerian legislator. The US lawmaker will also need to work for over four years to earn the annual pay of a Nigerian House of Representative member.
In the United Kingdom, a lawmaker earns $8,686(N1.3m) monthly while the gross national minimum wage is $1,883 (N283, 333) per month. Thus, the percentage of a UK lawmaker‘s pay that is the salary of the least paid UK worker is 21.68 per cent. This, like that of the US (8.67 per cent) is much higher than Nigeria‘s 0.13 per cent/ 0.18 per cent.
Also, Nigerian lawmakers earn higher than their counterparts in Sweden. With a monthly pay of $7,707 (N1.2m), a lawmaker in Sweden will need to work for over 12 years to earn a Nigerian senator‘s annual pay of N182m, and for at least nine years to earn the N127m annual pay of a House of Representatives member.
In France, the minimum wage is $1,805 (N275,433) per month and a legislator earns $6,754 (N1.03m) monthly. Thus the least paid worker in France earns 26.73 per cent of the pay of a lawmaker in that country as against Nigeria‘s 0.13 per cent/ 0.18 per cent.
Like Nigerian lawmakers, Kenyan lawmakers are also believed to be greedy. In July, the Kenyan public protested against a hike in the salary of the legislators. The lawmakers hiked their salary to $14,583 (N2.2m) per month. And with the minimum wage in the country at $69.17 (N10,555) per month, the least paid worker in the country earns 0.43 per cent of a legislators pay. But this is still better than Nigeria‘s 0.13 per cent/ 0.18 per cent.
Many Nigerians have been speaking against the jumbo pay of the lawmakers. On Tuesday, Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, while addressing the members of the Edo State branch of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, called on Nigerians to resist the jumbo pay.
A former member of the National Assembly, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, in an interview with THE PUNCH, said that the nation was beset with the calamity of legislation being turned into “legislooting.”
He lamented that the Nigerian politicking has become a brazen exercise in elite parasitism. He said, ‘‘Statecraft has degenerated into do-or-die power merchandising that turns senators into “stealators” and representatives into ”representa-thieves!”
Also, President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin was of the belief that the lawmakers had not justified the pay. Speaking in an interview with THE PUNCH, she called for a constitution-backed downward.
Perhaps, what these Nigerians want is what lawmakers in Venezuela did in December 2009. They passed a law prohibiting the President, judges and top government officials from earning above $6,750 (N1.03m) a month.
Originally appeared in The Punch.