Senators and members of the House of Representatives that will constitute the 8th National Assembly and ministers to be appointed by President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), will on assumption of office receive welcome perks amounting to N9bn.
The perks of office include the housing allowance which each of the incoming office holder is entitled to receive once a year, the furniture allowance which they are entitled to once in four years and motor vehicle loan which they are entitled to once in their tenure.
The perks are some of the non-regular allowances that the political office holders are entitled to as prescribed by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
There are other allowances, both regular and irregular ones, but housing, furniture and motor vehicle are paid at the beginning of the tenure of the office holders to ensure that they settle down appropriately.
Housing allowance for the political office holders is 200 per cent of their annual salaries; furniture is 300 per cent and motor vehicle loan is 400 per cent.
The eighth National Assembly will be inaugurated by Buhari on June 5 after the expiration of the tenure and dissolution of the 7th National Assembly on the same date.
Membership of the eighth National Assembly include 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of different political parties from across the country.
Investigation by one of our correspondents showed that each of the senators would be paid N4, 052,800 on the assumption of office as housing allowance. They will also be paid the same amount every year because the housing allowance is on annual basis.
This means that 107 senators will be paid a total of N433, 649,600m as housing allowance annually.
The Senate President and the Deputy Senate President are not entitled to this allowance because their own accommodation is to be provided by the Federal Government.
Similarly, each member of the House of Representatives will be paid N3, 970,425 as housing allowance on assumption of office.
This means that the 358 representatives will be collecting a total of N1, 421,412,150 as housing allowance. Again, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are excluded from this allowance as the Federal Government is to provide their own accommodation.
Following the monetisation of entitlements of public officials, the lawmakers lost the right to occupy houses built and maintained by the government. Consequently, the Federal Government sold the houses previously occupied by the lawmakers to them.
The principal officers of the National Assembly also benefited from the sale of the houses. As a result, the Federal Capital Territory Administration is at present building new houses for the lawmakers that will emerge as the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
For furniture, each of the senators is to get N6, 079,200. The furniture for both the Senate President and his deputy are to be fully provided by the government. This means that 107 senators will get a total of N650, 474,400 as furniture allowance. Furniture allowance is paid once in four years.
Each member of the House of Representatives will be paid N5, 955,637.50 as furniture allowance. This means that 358 representatives (excluding the speaker and his deputy) will collect a total of N2, 132,118,225 for furniture.
For vehicle, each of the senators is entitled to N8, 105,600 while each representative is entitled to N7, 940,850.50. This means that 107 senators will collect N867, 299,200 for vehicle while 358 representatives will collect N2, 842,824,479 for the same purpose.
The allowance for vehicle had been controversial. According to RMAFC, this allowance payable once in four years is a loan for any member that wants. This means that it is repayable.
In 2007, each senator had been given the loan to purchase vehicles. Few months after they had received the loan, the current Senate President, David Mark, demanded that the money totalling about N856m should be converted to grants for official cars.
Mark made the request in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission.
In the letter dated November 15, 2007 and titled “Monetisation policy as it affects senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mark said the senators were not properly briefed that the money was given to them as loan.
He said if senators had known that the money was loan, they would have had the opportunity to exercise the choice of refusal.
He therefore requested that the money should be converted to official car allowance although according to the monetisation policy of the Federal Government, only the President of the Senate and his deputy are entitled to official cars. The funding for cars for other lawmakers had been built into their salaries which are paid on monthly basis.
RMAFC insisted that the money was a loan and could not be converted to a grant as the lawmakers’ benefits had been monetised. It is not clear how the matter ended as both parties refused to respond to media requests on the issue.
On the executive side, each minister that will serve in the cabinet of Buhari is entitled to a housing allowance of N3, 915,160.
There are indications that the President-elect will shrink his cabinet by doing away with the ministers of state. However, there is a limit to how far he can reduce the cabinet positions. Constitutionally, each state of the federation must be represented in the cabinet.
This leaves him with at least 36 ministers as against the 42 ministers in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Cumulatively, the ministers are to receive N140, 945,760 as housing allowance.
Each minister is also entitled to a furniture allowance of N6, 079,200. Cumulatively, this comes to N218, 851,200. Each of them is also entitled to a vehicle loan of N7, 830,320. This comes to a total of N281, 891,520.
When put together, the housing, furniture and vehicle allowances payable to the lawmakers and ministers will amount to about N7.3bn. The remaining N1.7bn will cater for other perks of office such as motor vehicle maintenance, fuelling, and others.
Apart from these irregular allowances, there are other regular perks of office that are paid to lawmakers on a monthly basis. These include motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling. This is pegged at 75 per cent of their monthly salary.
Others are personal assistant, 25 per cent; domestic staff, 75 per cent; entertainment, 30 per cent; utilities, 30 per cent; newspapers/periodicals, 15 per cent; wardrobe, 25 per cent; house maintenance, five per cent; and constituency, 250 per cent.
There are other entitlements that they do not receive direct payments for but are provided and paid for by the government. These are special assistants, security and legislative aides. What this means is that those engaged in these capacities are paid directly by the government as the allowances cannot be claimed by political office holders. These allowances apply to senators and members of the House of Representatives.
Medical expenses are also borne by the government when they have need for them.
The lawmakers are also entitled to tour duty allowance, estacode (when they travel) and recess allowances. For a senator, the tour duty allowance is N37, 000 per night; the estacode is $950 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
For a member of the House of Representatives, the tour duty allowance is N35, 000 per night; the estacode is $900 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
The allowances for ministers vary slightly from those of the lawmakers. The allowances of the ministers include motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance – 75 per cent of their salaries. Others are personal assistant, 25 per cent; domestic staff, 75 per cent; entertainment, 45 per cent; utilities, 30 per cent; monitoring, 20 per cent and newspapers/periodicals, 15 per cent.
Their security personnel, medicals and special assistants are also provided. The tour duty allowance is N35, 000 per night; the estacode is $900 per night and the leave allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
Special Advisers and Special Assistants to the President to be appointed by the president are also entitled to housing and furniture allowances, special allowances and motor vehicle loan but it is not certain how many of these advisers Buhari is going to appoint.
The housing allowance of a special adviser is N3, 885,750; furniture – N5, 828,625; motor vehicle loan N7, 771,500.
The regular allowances of a special adviser include motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance – 75 per cent of their salaries; personal assistant – 25 per cent; domestic staff – 75 per cent; entertainment – 45 per cent; utilities – 30 per cent; and newspapers/periodicals – 15 per cent.
Again, their security personnel, medicals and special assistants are also provided for. The tour duty allowance is N25, 000 per night; the estacode is $800 per night and the leave allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.
Severance allowance is paid to each of the office holders at the end of their tenure in government.
Our correspondents had reported that President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, non-returning federal lawmakers, ministers and aides to the President will collect N3.24bn as severance allowance.
Although political office holders in the country are among the highest paid government officials in the world, our correspondents also reported that the worry of many Nigerians is not what they earn officially but what accrues to them through self-appropriation and corruption.
Senators-elect want pay cut extended to all arms of govt
Some senators-elect have supported the call for the cut in salaries and allowances of the National Assembly members.
The lawmakers, in separate interviews on Friday with Saturday PUNCH, said that such reduction must be extended to all tiers and arms of government.
The Senator-elect for Ekiti North Senatorial District, Mr. Duro Faseyi, expressed support for reduction in cost of governance.
Faseyi, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, said the reduction must cut across the tiers of government.
He said, “I am in support of reduction of cost of governance because we have to look at the Internally Generated Revenue and the state of economy.
“The executives and judiciary must also be in support. The executive, especially, should agree so that we can use the money for what will benefit the common man.
“I support whatever would make life meaningful and improve the living condition of people, but it should be for the benefits of the common man.”
Also, the senator-elect representing Rivers South-East, Chief Olaka Wogu, expressed the need for a review of the salaries or recurrent expenditures in every sector of the economy.
Wogu, however, cautioned that funds meant for constituency projects should be increased.
The senator-elect explained that the current economic situation in the country would not be able to sustain the huge cost of governance.
He added that rather than reduce funds for constituency projects, focus should be on recurrent expenditure.
Wogu said, “Funds for constituency projects must not be reduced. They represent the projects that are done on behalf of the representatives in their constituencies and they are executed by the executive. They are not executed by the members.
“I have not been to the Senate and I don’t know their salaries. But when I say all sectors should not be isolated in the review of salaries, I mean all sectors. So, if I go to the Senate, I want to attract projects for my senatorial district. I intend to ensure that projects come to my district. So, the volume of funds available for that should go up.
“But the earnings of senators and all functionaries of government, including the senators should go down; that is cost of governance. Our economy cannot carry it today. Our pay as representatives can go down, but cost of public good must go up. That, in itself, will promote development. It will also lead to a better economy. Our problem today is that we spend too much on recurrent and too little on capital expenditure.”
But the Senator-elect for Plateau South Senatorial District, Lt.- Gen. Jeremiah Useni, said he would not be able to comment on the slash in the cost of governance until the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly.
‘It is unnecessary’
The All Progressives Congress member representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Senator Kabiru Marafa, described as unnecessary, the calls for the reduction in the salaries and allowances of federal lawmakers.
Marafa, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said those making the demand were ignorant of the actual amount accruable as salaries and allowances to each senator or member of the House of Representatives.
He described as untrue, media reports that a senator earns a monthly salary of N29m and promised to resign as a senator if anyone could prove that his salary per month was up to N1m.
Marafa, who said his salary was not up to N1m a month, said the call for salary reduction could only be justified if members of the public could determine the actual amount that a federal legislator is being paid a month.
He said, “What Nigerians need to know about these allowances is that they should be educated properly about what a senator or House of Representatives member earns. The figure being branded as allowances and salaries of federal lawmakers all over the place is incorrect.
“Not quite long ago, some figures were posted on the Internet and they came up with a figure of about N29m per month but if you look at the rundown, you will see there are severance allowances there which they claimed formed certain percentage of the total salary per month.”