New Telegraph

As outrage trails N57.6bn SUVs for lawmakers

A s harsh as the recent description of the current crop of Nigeria’s lawmakers as: “Incorrigible bunch of law breakers” by the former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, in a post on her social media platform, X, might seem, their recent unpatriotic action of gifting themselves (479 members of the National Assembly) Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) worth a whopping N160 million each, and totalling N57.6 billion, is deserving of such comments.
In fact, the reprehensible action has since triggered anger, outrage and disbelief across the land. It smirks of great insensitivity of the highest order that in a country that the World Poverty Clock, 2023, has raised alarm of its awful distinction of being the world capital of poverty, with 71 million people living in extreme poverty, such odious parody of political power is what the lawmakers would consider a priority!
Similarly, a total of 133 million Nigerian citizens are classed as multi-dimensionally poor. That is according to data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), as at Jun 2023. How would any sane Nigerian justify such a gross disregard to the sensitivity of millions of the citizens currently battling with inflation figures that have snowballed to 26.72% on the average and a food inflation rate of 30.6%?
These alarming and fear-fuelling figures are traced of course, to the odd decision on the part of President Bola Tinubu’s abrupt removal of petrol subsidies, back in May in the absence of any thorough thinking through or due consultation without any economic think-tank.
Further to this, his knee-jerk approach of throwing money at the issues of the civil servants’ battle with the flaring inflation rate has left a sour taste in the mouth of the average Nigerian. So is that of the introduction of VAT on diesel, which cumulatively has sent many more millions of the citizens into the dragnet of worsening poverty conundrum. This appalling socio-economic situation brings up the burning question of how to justify the king-slave paradigm between the elected politicians and the led majority of the people
Indeed, it has been reported over time that Nigerian lawmakers rank amongst the highest paid in the world. What that translates to is that if there are any set of people to make the desired sacrifices to strengthen the economy it has to be the political elite, led by lawmakers with enabling laws.
In Germany, with the world’s fourth biggest economy, lawmakers make a little over $10,000 per month. In August 2019, Abraham Darius Dillon, a Liberian lawmaker unilaterally opted for a pay cut in the light of the economic crisis that the West African country was facing. Lawmakers were earning in the region of $15,000 but Dillon asked to be paid $5,000 monthly with the remaining $10,000 going into bolstering his country’s fledgling economy.
In February 2021, Italy’s then new Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, waived off his salary, to sacrifice €115,000 annual income amid the country’s economic crisis. But what have we had here in Nigeria?
It would be recalled that in March 2021, then Senator Shehu Sani broke the jinx by revealing the pay packages of the lawmakers which had been couched in secrecy, even by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). He revealed that Nigerian Senators were earning N13.5 million monthly as running cost, in addition to the over N750,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances of each member of the Senate. The mouth-watering take-home pay was a huge sum that could save many Nigerian lives. But few, if any of his colleagues offered a listening ear to his clarion call.
Fast forward to November, 2022, and Senator Ali Ndume called on the Federal Government to slash the salaries of lawmakers by half to meet the demands of the long-suffering members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who were on strike for months. Again, like that of Sani, his fellow legislators kept mute over his patriotic request. Our current crop of lawmakers has continued down the same path of putting their comfort above the needs of their fellow Nigerians.
They have gifted themselves brand-new SUVs, not minding what the masses, who President Tinubu has asked to make sacrifices feel, eat, or struggle to send their children to school, currently burdened with huge school fees. That is even as their parents battle with all manner of obnoxious levies!
Breaking it down, economists have revealed that our lawmakers’ pay packages can pay the salaries of 450 workers at N30,000 minimum wage and the salaries of 26 professors, who earn between N381,695 and N501,680 monthly in federal universities. That is going by the Federal Government Salary Scale Structure.
Similarly, a senator’s N13.5 million monthly allowance can go to 1,350 university students as N10, 000 bursaries each per semester or per session. Also, a senator’s salary can pay for 60 doctors in Federal Teaching Hospitals and medical centres. It can build a block of six classrooms. Yes, you read that right.
With all these in view, the time for a drastic downward review of the huge pay packages of the politicians, nay the lawmakers and the profligacy is right away. That will save the country millions of naira which can then be redirected to providing better amenities and salaries for the people who are facing serious hardships.

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