Senators’ Allowance and Workers’ Minimum Wage in Nigeria: Matters Arising
Nathaniel Urama, Ph.D
The actual remunerations of Nigerian federal law makers have been a subject of controversy cum secrecy until Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central in the upper legislative chamber decided to let the cat out of the bag. The Senator, in an interview he granted to TheNEWS magazine in March 2018, revealed that he and his colleagues do receive N13.5 million monthly as running cost. He added that this amount is in addition to N750,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances of each member of the Senate. According to him, even though lawmakers must provide receipts to back up their expenses from the running costs, there is no specific instruction on what the fund should be used for. There are also additional funds earmarked for each senator for constituency projects, which amounts to about N200 million, though the cash is not given to them directly, but is lodged with an agency of government.
If the revelation did not emanate from a sitting senator, it would be treated as a mere speculation, as other figures that have emerged in the past were. The question then is: why would the law makers appropriate these huge sums of money as remunerations for jobs that are more or less part-time when majority of Nigerians live below the poverty line (less than $2) per day? Apart from the N200 million earmarked for constituency projects that they do not receive cash, the total official remuneration each senator receives monthly, according to Senator Sani, amounts to N14,250,000, which is about $46,569 using the current official exchange rate of N306 to $1. Per annum, this amounts to $558,828. It is difficult to believe that this is happening in a country that claims it cannot pay above N18,000 ($59) monthly, or N216,000 ($706) annual minimum wage to its workers. The irony of the situation is that while Nigerian law makers’ remunerations and emoluments rank as one of the highest in the whole world (according to several online sources), it is among the countries that pay the least minimum wage to its workers, as shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Comparison of Nigerian Senators Allowances and Minimum Wage with 10 Other Countries (Annual/US$)
Sources: Extracted from MySalaryScale.com; face2faceAfrica.com
In the figure above, five African countries (where data are available) and five countries in Europe and North America are compared with Nigeria. The results show that while senators from other countries earn less than $200,000 annually, Nigerian senators earn close to $600,000. On the other hand, while countries like Canada pay more than $30,000 as minimum wage, Nigeria pays a little above $700, only higher than Ghana and Uganda with $689 and $432 respectively. Citing the Economist, Pindiga (2013) noted that a Nigerian senator receives an annual salary which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Put in simple terms, if all Nigeria’s money is shared among all its citizens, a Nigerian senator takes 166 times what the ordinary Nigerian receives. In addition to all these, a Nigerian senator also receives a further N24.1 million every four years to cover accommodation, vehicle loans and possible severance allowance.
It is time for the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to review both the salaries and emoluments of Nigerian law makers in line with international best practices. A situation where law makers display extravagant and flamboyant lifestyles in the face of extreme poverty due largely to their jumbo pay is no longer acceptable. Likewise, government should also listen to the labour unions and review the minimum wage upwards to at least, N54,000 as demanded by the unions. This is still nowhere near what obtains in some African countries, but it is a starting point.
(The opinions expressed in this write-up are personal opinions of the writers, and do not in any way represent the opinion or position of AfriHeritage)