Why The Other ‘SARS’ Killing Nigerians Must Be Reviewed

Why The Other 'SARS' Killing Nigerians Must Be Reviewed
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While Nigerian Youths and other well-meaning Nigerians have taken to the streets, and all social media platforms to call out the sinister activities of the roguish police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). There seem to be larger problems greater than the SARS menace that the Nigerian Government have been trying very hard to keep from the prying eyes of the public and these problems are the mammoth salaries, and allowances being accorded to those in government as compared to the wages of an average Nigerian. 

Thorough findings by Africa Daily News, New York have revealed that as of 2020, Nigerian Senators are entitled to monthly allowance expenses of ₦29,479,749 ($77,600), in addition to their monthly salaries of ₦2,484,245 ($6539.38) which make their remunerations on allowance expenses look like a stupid child’s play. With a minimum wage of ₦30,000 ($78.97), it would take the average Nigerian worker approximately 983 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian Senator. When these allowances are broken down, they appear exactly as the following:

  • Vehicle fueling (75% of Basic Salary) – ₦1,863,184.12
  • Vehicle maintenance (400% of Basic Salary) – ₦9,936,982.00
  • Constituency (200% of Basic Salary) – ₦4,968,509.00
  • Domestic staff (70% of Basic Salary) – ₦1,863,184.12
  • Recess Allowance (10% of Basic Salary) – ₦248,424.55
  • Personal assistant (25% of Basic Salary) – ₦621,061.12
  • Entertainment recess (30% of Basic Salary) – ₦828,081.83
  • Hardship Allowance (50% of Basic Salary) – ₦1,242,122.70
  • Leave Allowance (10% of Basic Salary) – ₦248,424.55
  • Utilities (30% of Basic Salary) – ₦828,081.83
  • Hardship Allowance (50% of Basic Salary) – ₦1,242,122.70
  • Newspaper/periodic Allowance (50% of Basic Salary) – ₦1,242,122.70
  • House maintenance (200% of Basic Salary) – ₦4,968,509.00
  • Wardrobe (25% of Basic Salary) – ₦621,061.37
  • Severance Gratuity (300% of B.S) – ₦7,452,736.50

Taking the salaries as well as the allowances, and using an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) on Grade 08, Step 01 (a new graduate from the Police Academy) as a benchmark, this might give us an insight into how an average university graduate’s salary compares to those of a Senator in Nigeria. At  ₦1.53 million ($4,250) annual average salary for a graduate, it would take a senator 7 hours and 10 minutes to receive what an ASP of police earns in one month. Meanwhile, it would take the ASP approximately 102 years to earn a senator’s annual income (including expenses). So, he or she would need to have worked continuously from the year 1916 until July 2018 to receive what a senator earns in a year.

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If we are to use rice as an index to measure the cost of living in Nigeria, since it is the most stably priced staple food of the country, then, at ₦30,000 ($78.97) for a 50-kilogram bag, a senator’s monthly income could buy 1,466 bags while the ASP’s monthly salary could only afford 8 bags of rice.

With this analysis, the burning questions being posed are:

  • How profitable is a Nigerian Senator’s seat?
  • How is a Nigerian senator’s salary compared to their counterpart in other countries?
  • Why are people always on the edge when there is a discussion on their basic salary?

These questions are not fanciful. Let us start from 1980 when the country’s foreign exchange rate was ₦0.57 to a dollar and the government revenue was $69.94 billion. This is an equivalent of $18.1 trillion when adjusted with the current exchange rate. The federal government’s per capita spending in 1980 is equivalent to the spending on 641 persons in 2016. Therefore, it is not surprising that Nigerians are always on the edge whenever the discussion of salary comes up, because they do not even have sufficient money. Hence, they get worried when they hear that a senator goes home with as much as ₦14.25 million ($39,672) per month. 

In a press briefing, the country’s Minister of Finance claims that with ₦1million ($2,784), the government was able to provide food for 14,200 children as part of the school feeding program across the country.  So, with our analysis, this means that the take-home pay (salary + monthly expenses) of a senator can provide food for 202,350 children every month. This number of children will fill the Wembley Stadium, Camp Nou, and the O2 Arena put together.

In comparison with what other senators across the world earn, Nigerian senators earn the highest. In the Philippines, senators earn $4,497,957 on annual basis.  Senators in the United States of America on the other hand earn an estimated $2,100,000.

Lawmakers in Kenya earn $968,013 annually, South African Lawmakers make $1,248,000 annually.  Senators in Australia earn a total of $646,230 per annum.  Parliament Members in the United Kingdom earn total sum of £494,285.43. Lawmakers in India on the other hand earn $474,484. Those in Singapore earn $253,469, German lawmakers earn a total sum of $1,428,000 and those in Tanzania earn $230,961.

Every year, the Nigerian Government spends close to ₦150 billion naira on the national assembly. However, the federal government at a point had to reduce the money by ₦30 billion, which reduced the total cost of keeping the senators to ₦120 billion on an annual basis.

Nigerian politicians spend heavily on political campaigns. Most if not all of these campaigns do not entail feasible manifestos that would address critical issues facing the electorates. Instead, they are fronts for slanderous shaming of opposition candidates and their parties. They go all out lavishing money on bribing local leaders and influential electorates in the belief that there will be enough resources for them to recoup when in office. For these politicians, it’s a financial investment. Evidence has shown that an investment in the senate seat is the wisest one. And as long as the senatorial seat remains lucrative, the elite class will do everything possible to make sure that competition for the seat is a zero-sum game, without taking into consideration the people they swore to serve. Even as Section 91(4) of the Electoral Act (2010) states that ‘the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred in respect of senatorial seat by a candidate at an election to the National Assembly shall be ₦40 million while the seat for House of Representatives shall be ₦20 million,’ aspirants typically go above these figures.

There have not been appropriate sanctioning of violators and neither has the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) created realistic measures to check this violation which is sharply linked to electoral violence. While INEC has the powers to make quasi-legislations to further its objectives, it lacks the power to punish on matters of extravagant spending during campaigns. An equally capable agency that may be allowed to prosecute such violations is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. But the agency’s integrity is even questionable.

When elected, these lawmakers do not only go home with fat paychecks, but they have glorious opportunities to embezzle national resources at different committee levels because of the lack of transparency with which the National Assembly operates. They focus on personal interests above the interest of their constituents, and there is often little to zero oversight by the judiciary or executive on their financial activities. This is why they go to any length necessary to get elected.

But Nigeria must make political offices less attractive in the first place. Cutting the allowances and salaries of these lawmakers by half should be the first step. It will not only deter future aspirants from spending heavily on elections since it will now be difficult to recoup any monies from the public treasury, it a way of saving the federal government some money, too.

Nigerian politicians are less concerned with the cost they incur in public service despite the fact that about 87 million of the 190 million citizens live in extreme poverty and this is another major issue facing Nigerians. Monies that can be used to help fight economic hardship through infrastructural development, especially in education, are squandered. Whereas, cutting the salaries of federal legislators could influence salary cuts for state legislators and executive officeholders at the local government level, too. If this happens, it will help Nigeria fight corruption and the money saved from excessive pay can be diverted into infrastructure.

Many Nigerians in time past have called for the reduction in the basic salary and entitlements of public officials, as it is believed that they are earning too much. Although many may also argue that it is not the salaries of these public office holders in Nigeria that is the cause of the economic hardship, however, tendencies are that it may be part of the cause. Half of these political officials’ salaries, if put into proper use, could give hundred thousands of unemployed youths useful employment. To this effect, some political analysts have stood with the claims that the political system of government in Nigeria is too expensive to operate and there is a need for imminent restructuring. This may just be a valid point if Nigeria will move forward.

 

AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK

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