New Telegraph

December 10, 2023

As RMAFC keeps defending jumbo pay for politicians

A lot of burning questions have been triggered since June 2023 when Alhaji Muhammed Shehu, the Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), promised through a Commissioner in the agency, Rakiya Tanko-Ayuba that there was going to be an increase of 114 per cent in the pay packages of political appointees, including the law makers. Although President Bola Tinubu, on June 22, 2023 denied knowledge of such an increase, as no proposal has been tendered on his table in that regard, the volatile issue has stoked fires of anger in the land. It is alarming, is it not? Of course, it is, considering the dire struggle for survival of the average Nigerian ever since the fuel subsidy removal by the Tinubu-led administration on May 29, 2023. Amongst these questions concerned Nigerians are asking is the moral ground on which the Federal Government agency stands at a trying time such as this, when over 73 million citizens are caught in the terrifying trap of excruciating extreme poverty. That is according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report of 2022. The other includes the wisdom in jerking up such pay packages when the country is battling with the huge debt burden of about N77 trillion as left by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government? But Shehu keeps defending the humongous remunerations for public office holders, stating that the president earns less than N1.5 million as salary while each legislator is paid less than N1 million per month. Going further, he revealed that some members of staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who are not directors, and others working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), earn much higher salaries than the ministers. Yet, the issue considered as an agent provocateur has refused to die down. It is therefore important to look at the laws that back such increases in the pay packages of the political officers, the factors that influence them and the way forward to face the current economic realities in the country. Worthy of note is that the remuneration appropriate for political, public and judicial office holders is enshrined in Paragraph 32(d) of Part 1 Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It is similarly mentioned in Sections 70, 84, 111 and 124 of the same constitution. It had in the years 2000 and 2007 approved payment packages for office holders at the Executive, Legislative arms and the Federal, State and Local Government levels as well as the judiciary. It became an Act (for salaries and allowances) 2000 that was reviewed in 2007. But the 2015 Remuneration Report was not received by the Presidency for placement before the National Assembly. Amongst the factors considered for fixing the salaries then were macro-economic variables such as inflation rate, gross domestic product, per capita GDP and exchange rate. Others included cost of living index, crude oil production, average international oil price and the gross national revenue. While we appreciate the fact that the high cost of living affects every Nigerian, in one way or the other, the huge salary packages for public office holders is no longer sustainable – that is the bitter truth. This is therefore the right time for a holistic appraisal of the current 1999 Constitution (as amended) to run in sync with the prevailing harsh economic realities on ground. The onus therefore, is on the shoulders of the lawmakers to do the needful in making laws that would positively impact on the quality of life of the average Nigerian. Since huge pay packages for office holders is seen as an insulting factor of the gross disconnect between the political leaders and the led majority, such amendments should include the provision of an enabling environment for small and medium scale enterprises to thrive. Facilitating factors such as stable electric power supply, good access roads, access to quality education and healthcare delivery should be considered in making the new laws while having a more realistic look at the 1999 Constitution (as amended). In special terms, it has become expedient to review the act that established the RMAFC by Decree No 49 of 1989 and later amended by Decree 98 of 1983 (now RMAFC Act CAP RT LFN, 2004). That is under Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In fact, now is the time for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance, including the huge pay packages of the mostly rich politicians , who out of patriotism should make the needed sacrifices to move the country forward.

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