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article imageThe Economist: Nigerian legislators are highest paid in the world

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 23, 2013 in World
A report by The Economist magazine reveals that Nigerian federal legislators are the highest paid in the world with an annual basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 m). The National Assembly has rejected the report, describing it as "grossly exaggerated."
The report, quoting data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), considered the salaries of lawmakers around the world and expressed it as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.
It reveals that the annual salary of a Nigerian federal lawmaker at $189,500 is 166 times the country's GDP per capita, estimated at $1,600. According to the Daily Trust, British MPs earn 2.7 times their country's GDP per capita.
The study listed the annual salaries of legislators from different parts of the world:
The US ($174,000), and Brazil ($157,600), UK ($105,400) yearly, South Africa ($104,000), France ($85,900), Kenya ($74,500), Saudi Arabia ($64,000)
Other countries according to the Daily Trust:
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).
The notion that Nigerian federal legislators receive higher salaries than lawmakers from richer countries such as the US should strike anyone as outlandish, but according to The Economist magazine that is the reality.
However, it is a symptom of the massive gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria which the figure of $1,600 as Nigeria's per capita income conceals. The annual income of middle class professionals would range between $15,000 and $30,000, senior middle class professionals up to $60,000, while executives would typically exceed $100,000.
According to The Punch, a Nigerian Professor of Economics at the Ekiti State University, Abel Awe, said: "This is part of the reason why 70 per cent of the nation’s budget is allocated to re-current expenditure. We are using a huge chunk of the nation’s resources to service just less than 1,000 people in a country of over 160 million people.
“We are running the costliest democracy in the world. We can’t develop this way when we spend huge money to service a few people. How will you get money for productive activities to expand the economy? An average Nigerian cannot access good medical care, good roads and other basic things of life when the legislators are smiling to the bank.
“This democracy is satanic. We have to review this democracy. The cost of maintaining the lawmakers is outrageous. What they are taking is too much.”
The Chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Monday Ubani, suggested it was time for Nigerians to take a decision whether the economy should keep supporting two Houses and whether legislators should serve on full-time or part-time basis.
He said: "This is a fact already and well known to Nigerians and the world. It is not a new story. What is baffling is that their legislative output is not commensurate to the amount of salaries and allowances they are earning.
“Take for instance, the ongoing constitution amendment. Their propositions and submissions on almost all the important clauses are at variance with that of the sovereign Nigerians. Both Houses have created a big hole on our national treasury.”
Nigerian Senators: The Economist got it wrong
According to The Punch, the National Assembly has rejected the report published Monday by The Economist. A spokesperson of the National Assembly described the report as "grossly exaggerated."
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, also said the report was incorrect.
He wondered why Nigerians were relying on the report by The Economist when information on how much legislators earn could be obtained by anyone from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
A spokesman of the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed, also said the report was misleading, He said: "Whatever is being written is mere exaggeration and does not reflect what is accurate. They fail to realise that what we take as salaries are different from what we use in running our offices. These are two different issues. Most times, people just lump everything together and claim that it is our monthly salary; that is not correct. At the appropriate time, we shall react, because it is not just about the House but the National Assembly. The National Assembly will react at the right time."
However, as the Daily Trust notes, Nigeria's National Assembly keeps details about members' pay packages sworn secret and refuses to provide information even when requests are made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (PDF).
It is understood that a method for concealing the salaries of public officials is to quote a low figure for salaries while granting lavish allowances.
Quoting figures it obtained from the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the Daily Trust reports Senators receive N35 million a year while members of the House of Representatives receive "N29.28 million in the first year of each legislative session when they receive allowances that are payable once in four years--accommodation, furniture and car allowances."
A further breakdown of RMAFC 2007 figures, according to the Daily Trust:
...lawmakers' allowances include accommodation (Senator N4m, Rep N3.97m), vehicle loan (Senator N8m, Rep N6.948m), furniture (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m) and severance gratuity (Senator N6m, Rep N5.956m), which are due once in four years.
Other allowances, which are payable every year, are car maintenance (Senator N1.52m, Rep N595,563), constituency (Senator N5m, Rep N1.687m), domestic staff (Senator N1.5m, Rep N1.488m), personal assistant (Senator N506,600; Rep N496,303), entertainment (Senator N202,640, Rep N198,521), recess (Senator N202,640; Rep N198,521), utilities (Senator N607,920; Rep N397,042), newspaper/periodicals (Senator N303,960; Rep N297,781), house maintenance (Senator N101,320; Rep N99,260) and ward robe (Senator N405,280; Rep N397,402)
There are also estacode (Senator $600, Rep $550) and duty tour allowance (Senator N23,000; Rep N21,000) payable per day when a lawmaker is on official trip.
However, even the RMAFC admits that the figures are uncertain.
The government of late President Umaru Yar'Adua had attempted to cut the pay of public office holders describing them as "untenable." The RMAFC submitted a report alleging that the various government departments were violating the rules and provisions governing appropriate remuneration through lavish allowances.
The National Assembly has refused to implement the recommendations of the RMAFC.
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