NIGERIAN senate president Senator Ahmad Lawan has told members of the public to stop questioning the jumbo pay packers members of the National Assembly pay themselves because it represents value for money.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are among the highest paid public servants in the world with each Nigerian Senator taking home ₦162m ($450,000) annually in allowances and ₦9m ($25,000) as a basic salary. In contrast to their combined take home pay of $475,000 a year, the US president only earns $450,000, including bonus annually.
While members of the National Assembly earn such colossal sums, about 90m Nigerians live below the United Nations threshold of extreme poverty, living on less than $2 a day. Nigeria is now officially classified as the poverty capital of the world as the country has the highest number of people on earth living in extreme poverty.
With the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, things look poised to get worse as 90% of Nigerian government revenue comes from the sale of crude oil and both demand and prices have collapsed. Amid calls for lawmakers to take this into account and cut their pay in accordance with the new economic hardships, Senator Lawan, said Nigerians should leave the matter alone and just demand more output from their legislators.
Making this call yesterday while speaking at a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission in Abuja, Senator Lawan said the funding that the National Assembly receives is inadequate. He added that as a result, many lawmakers struggle to do things by themselves.
Senator Lawan said: “I’m not advocating for more than necessary but what we have today is inadequate and you find members of the National Assembly struggling to do almost everything by themselves. That does not get the best out of us.
“Can we debate the functions of the National Assembly rather than talk about the jumbo pay? Where is the jumbo pay? We should be looking for value for money.
“So when we always debate jumbo pay instead of what should be the functions and hold us responsible for what we are able to do or what we are not able to do, ask for what you think we should be doing rather than saying close the Senate or close the National Assembly. Do you understand the implication of this?”
He complained that the National Assembly gets less than 1% of the nation’s budget and that the call for their pay cut is misplaced. Senator Lawan’s defence comes amid a clamour for the National Assembly to make public the details of its annual budget and the cry against the massive funds deployed to fund less than 500 federal lawmakers yearly.