Organised labour and the Nigerian Bar Association have disagreed with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for saying that members of the National Assembly are not overpaid for the work they do.
They said it was not only disappointing, but also appalling for the President to overlook the country’s economic reality and the suffering of Nigerians while justifying the lawmakers’ jumbo pay.
The President of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (Trade Union Side), AbdlRauf Adeniji, in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday, said labour, not the legislature, created wealth of the nation.
The NBA’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said legislators received unrealistic pay that was inconsistent with the state of the economy where the national minimum wage is N30,000 per month.
Buhari had, on Wednesday during the House of Representatives’ launch of The Green Chamber Magazine, a publication by the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said it was wrong for Nigerians to perceive the National Assembly as being “highly overpaid” for doing little.
Buhari had said, “Hitherto, the public perception of the National Assembly is that of a bicameral legislature where overly comfortable and highly-overpaid members merely stuff wads of currency notes into their pockets for little work done. This wrong perception has resulted partly from the lack of understanding of the enormous work of lawmakers, especially outside the glare of television cameras.”
Buhari overlooked Nigerians’ suffering – Labour
But Adeniji said it was appalling for the President to overlook the suffering of Nigerians and attempt to justify the huge earnings received by the lawmakers in salaries and allowances for doing little and adding no value to the nation’s economy.
Minister, other members of executive take what they like
He said, “The position of labour is clear on this matter. Nigeria is the only place where lawmakers are being paid jumbo salaries. It does not happen even in the United States or the United Kingdom. Maybe the President is alluding to the fact that all of them (lawmakers and executive) are affected. Those in the executive cadre do not even have measure for their salaries. They take the money as they like.
“Buhari may be saying what is relative to the executive plan. But there is no comparative basis for him to say that lawmakers are not overpaid. Their allowances alone cannot be compared to any earning in Nigeria. As far as labour is concerned, the payment for lawmakers and those in the executive arm is beyond reach.”
The labour leader described Buhari’s statement as deceitful to Nigerians.
He added, “He cannot deceive us to say that the legislators are not being overpaid. He should provide evidence where a country’s legislature is earning more than what those in Nigeria are earning. They are using the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission to increase their salaries.
“We are all drawing from the resources of the nation, whether you are a career or political officer. In other climes, productivity is used as the criterion to determine earning. What role is the legislative arm playing in the nation’s development? We believe that they do not create wealth for Nigeria, labour does that.”
Nigerians lack good representation despite NASS’ huge pay
Faulting the President, the NBA secretary said despite the lawmakers’ huge pay, Nigerians still had to yearn for good representation.
He stated, “The members of the National Assembly of Nigeria are reported to be amongst the best remunerated parliamentarians in the world. The question is, ‘are their pay realistic and considerate of the present economic condition of Nigeria?
“It is time that political leaders started redefining the true essence of service and sacrifice. In a country where the national minimum salary is N30,000 per month the remunerations of our parliamentarians would be difficult to justify.
“In spite of their very comfortable remunerations Nigerians are still yearning for quality representation. Corruption is on the increase. There is insecurity everywhere.”
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, said Buhari’s statement was surprising.
He stated, “This statement of Mr President is not consistent with his claim for financial prudence by public officials. Also it is not based on any economic capability of our income. Again, this statement is tantamount to deepening electoral violence as all you need to do is get yourself into an elective position because you have huge salaries and allowances waiting for you without any accountability or justification.”
A United States based activist, Smart Ajaja, described Buhari’s statement as saddening. “We can’t trust our governments and the pronouncements of the drivers of our governments,” he stated.
Buhari’s statement disappointing – NECA
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association said the members of the National Assembly were among the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
The Director-General of NECA, Dr Timothy Olawale, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Buhari’s statement was not only wrong but also far from reality.
He said, “We believe Nigerian legislators are overpaid. It is no longer news that Nigerian legislators are among the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
“The matter is once again on the front burner of public discourse as recently affirmed by Economic Confidential that Nigerian lawmakers, with a basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 million) yearly, excluding allowances, are indeed the highest paid lawmakers in the world.”
He said the magazine noted that it was unfortunate that Nigeria “is running the costliest democracy in the world. Even Kenya that comes second on the dishonourable ranking of costly democracies does not pay even half of Nigerian lawmakers’ salaries to its legislators.”
Olawale further stated that it was disappointing that, “the President that the Nigerian masses had hoped would make efforts towards reducing the jumbo pay of our legislators, would make such an assertion.”
Let N’Assembly publish their earnings – SERAP
Reacting, the Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr Kolawole Oludare, faulted Buhari’s claim, challenging him to pressure the National Assembly to publish the legislators’ earnings.
Oludare said, “President Buhari’s statement directly contradicts his own Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, which has repeatedly stated that members of Nigeria’s National Assembly are grossly overpaid. According to Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), a Nigerian senator earns at least N15m monthly, while a member of the House of Representatives earns N13.5m monthly.”