Saturday, July 25, 2009


If a company- let’s say Ford- posts huge profits in a financial year, it makes perfect sense for the salaries and allowances of its employees to go up; but if that same company starts losing big time- as was the case with Ford- it makes perfect sense as well for jobs to be cut. All those who for love of the company decide to stay, must make sacrifices in form of pay cuts, so that the company might live. That’s common sense as I used to know it, but in Nigeria common sense stands on its head. Let me explain. The year 2007 and most part of 2008 were some of the best times this nation ever had in terms of oil revenue accruing into the government purse. Oil was posting record highs in the international market, most of our debt had been written off and we had a healthy foreign reserve. So, the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which is constitutionally empowered to determine, fix, review upward or downward the remuneration package of political office holders decided after a little prodding from high places that ‘due to changes in the basic fundamentals of the Nigerian economy, external reserves, GDP growth rate and rate of inflation’, there was a need to modify old salaries and allowances. These modifications were in the form of very generous- too generous- raises in the basic salaries of certain public, political, legislative and judicial office holders as well as increases of about 25% to 400% in the allowances of these public ‘servants’, not to mention the introduction of new allowances that were not included in the old package. The increases were outrageous even in those good times, prompting media and labor backlash – but they were not to be deterred. Now, in these lean times, some of them rediscovered their brains and charged the RMAFC to cut their salaries and allowances. How generous! For once, common sense seemed like it was going to prevail. But guess who comes around and spoils it – the SENATE. The distinguished upper house of the Nigerian legislature came out through its spokesman, Ayogu Eze and rejected the proposal by the RMAFC for it to reduce members allowances, they posited that not a dime of their exorbitant allowances should be touched but ‘graciously’ and ‘magnanimously’ proposed an alternative – a cut of only 10% from their basic salaries.

Before the salary hike in 2008, an average senator earned about N800 000 (eight hundred thousand naira only), it was increased to over N2 000 000 (two million naira only) an increase of over N1.2 million. A 10% cut in their basic salaries therefore, will amount to N200 000. Fair enough? Absolutely not – and it would be clear to you after you see what they take home as allowances. These Are The Facts. In addition to paying the salaries of all 109 senators in the national assembly, the Nigerian taxpayers pay their rent (accommodation allowance) and furnish their homes (furniture allowance); the taxpayers give them a generous car loan and maintain the car for them (vehicle maintenance allowance); we pay their domestic staff and their office staff as well; we robe them (robe allowance), pay their PHCN bills (utilities allowance), recharge their phones, pay their entertainment bills (entertainment allowance) and even buy them newspapers and periodicals. (See the table below for breakdown). All these make me wonder what on earth their salaries exist for if every single need of theirs is taken care of by the taxpayer. Is the government a charity? Are public officials supposed to be our dependants? Is this nation a socialist state? These questions are increasingly becoming fundamental. It costs taxpayers approximately N30 million (a conservative figure) to take care of a single senator in a year and there are 109 of them, so you do the math. Now if they receive just N2 million as salaries, it therefore means that the remaining N28 million constitute allowances entering into their ‘distinguished’ pockets. And all of that- N28million- they do not want to be touched.

Isn’t it preposterous that unions are embarking on industrial actions in their droves every day and yet our senators are not ready to let go of something tangible? They delude themselves into believing that their mediating between the striking unions and the government is effective or even necessary. It isn’t. And that’s because what they are screams so loudly that what they say is but a whisper. This is not to say that the reps or ministers are earning any less, as a matter of fact, each member of the House of Representatives and each minister pocket about N25 million and N28 million respectively every year. But for all I know, the ministers have accepted their cuts and the reps haven’t spoken yet (it would be interesting to know what they think). But our senators have spoken and in so doing have shown once again their colossal insensitivity and exhibited unquantifiable greed.

Salary/Allowance            Pre-2008             Post-2008                RMAFC recommendation
*Basic Salary                     N810 560             N2 026 400              SAME
*Accommodation            N810 560             N4 052 800              N3 039 600
Allowance(every 4yrs)      ------                   N6 079 200             N3 039 600
*Vehicle loan
repayable after 6yrs)         ------                   N8 105 600             N5 066 000
Maintenance                      N243 168              N1 519 800             N1 013 200
Staff Allowance                     ------                   N1 519 800             N1 013 200
Allowance                            N81 056                N607 920                N405 280
(electricity, water,
gas, telephone etc)           N162 112              N607 920               N101 320
Allowances                            ------                     N303 960              N101 320
(every 4years)                      ------                      N5 066 000          N2 533 000
*Severance Gratuity          ------                      N6 079 200          SAME
Allowance                               ------                      N202 640              SAME
*Personal Assistant            ------                      N506 600              SAME
Overseas Travel
Allowance)                            ------                       $600(per day)    SAME
*Duty Tour
Allowance                              ------                    N23 000(per day)   SAME

Courtesy: Thisday (19/07/09), Economic Confidential (April2007), Daily Sun (27/09/08).
NB: This table is not conclusive as some allowances have been omitted due to unavailable figures.

If we could just return for a minute to the analogy I used at the beginning, Nigeria being akin to Ford. When the going was good, senators and indeed all political office holders had their pay rise. Now the going is tough and the road is rough- some states even find it difficult to pay the salaries of its civil servants not to talk of contractors- so what is the right thing to do? It’s simple: Distinguished Senators, ACCEPT THE PAY CUT OR HONORABLY RESIGN AND GO INTO PRIVATE PRACTICE. If as a result of your love for this nation, you decide to remain a senator, then you must be ready to make sacrifices just like the employees of a distressed company. Mr. Yaradua must make sure that he vetoes anything that emanates from the legislative arm which distorts in any form the recommendations of the RMAFC. It is easy for Senator Joy Emordi to criticize the ‘unpatriotic zeal’ of the members of ASUU because they demand their rights. I would take her seriously when with the same kind of vigor; she calls on her colleagues to accept the pay cut for the good of this nation. It’s high time the senators learn to fight for someone apart from themselves. It’s high time the upper house stopped- in the words of Bill O’Reilly- being pinheads and start being patriots. The media shouldn’t grow weary of pointing out these anomalies. By the way did I mention that I would prefer if most of those allowances are abrogated all together, especially the newspaper/periodicals allowance, chiefly because I am not sure that our senators read at all. If they did, I am sure that their reaction would have been completely different. And that’s the way I see it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Unanswered questions at times question my hopes and belief in a future where I would live in the Nigeria of my dreams. In the cause of a knowledge project I was undertaking on the American Capitalist model, I came across a chilling quote by former American president, Woodrow Wilson (1919): “I am an unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my nation. We are no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” Because I am configured to relate my learning experiences at all times with the Nigerian situation, something in me snapped on reading that quote. It wasn’t like I or anyone else for that matter was unaware that our government is an oligarchy, but the quote which became to me like a confirmation piqued my curiosity as to the tightness of the stranglehold and the faces behind the manipulation of this nation. So I have been asking very simple questions and I need honest answers from anyone. That is responsible for my Socratic-style inquisition in this piece.

Why is it so hard to bring those ex-leaders to book, which for 8 years in the last dispensation looted and pillaged the treasury with impunity? How come some of them are strutting in the corridors of power in this rule of ‘lawish’ government? Is it because they are assumed innocent until proven guilty? Or could it be that in the analysis for 2011 and beyond, they are still seen as relevant, as they have the much needed big bucks and control large voting (or ‘thugging’) blocks? If the latter is the case, is it that it is these same people- and not the average citizen- who pays the piper and hence dictates the tune? How come even the few who have been convicted end up with a slap on the wrist (like former governor Lucky Igbinedion who for all his troubles was fined a paltry N3.5 million by the courts)? I just want to know. Why it that heads have still not rolled after the Tompolo list came to light (or rather almost came to light)? Whose names are really on that list? Should Nigerians- whose wealth, livelihood and security came under serious threat- even know the faces and corporations and probably nations that fuelled the domestic terrorism engine of Camp 5? Why have I stopped seeing some of this news on the media? Why are so few asking these questions?

I would also like to know why it is easier for our government to announce an amnesty deal for militants in the Niger Delta than to implement most of the recommendations of the Ledum Mitee led committee on the Niger Delta situation. Are they really sincere or are they trying to claim the morally higher ground as the ones who offered a favorable deal for peace in the region? Why are independent committees and panels like the Electoral reform committee even set up, when the government has no intention of accepting the crux of their recommendations from the get goes? How come it has proved rather difficult over the years to revive the nation’s power sector even when it is obvious that it is the lifeblood of the nation? Is it true that some are benefitting from the pervading darkness? Who -if any- is benefitting from the death of the textile and other manufacturing industries and from the import economy that we survive on? Are we cursed? If not can someone tell me what the cause is?
Can someone tell me why my government thinks that removing one car out of the myriad a certain politician in Abuja has will make me feel better? Or why a marginal cut in their salaries should inspire confidence in me as though the salary was ever the major conduit pipe. In fact how come politicians earn so much in Nigeria when they aren’t the most educated or the hardest working? Why does the government of our nation at all levels thrive on mortgaging our future and hemorrhaging our economy by placing round pegs in the square holes of government ministries, departments and agencies just for the sake of political patronage and compensation?

I could go on and on, but that would bore you. I have consistently maintained that things are not always the way they seem. In Nigeria more than anywhere else, this is true. And the thing is that the more you look, the less you see; the more you listen, the less you hear. I have looked and am still looking; I could easily come up with answers the way I see it but I might be wrong. So today, I don’t see anything. All I need are answers. Who are the one percent that pulls the strings which controls the rest of the 150 million in this nation? And what can we do about it? Answers anyone?