By Suleiman Umaru
President Muhammadu Buhari, had treated political Office Holders and Appointees, with the kids globe in his first term in office as he failed to review downwards the generous Salaries and allowances approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for them in 2011.
Given the poor state of the economy and the government’s drive to improve its revenue generation by tasking the revenue generating agencies, particular, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corperation, NNPC, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, to double their efforts in their revenue generation drive to ensure they meet their yearly targets, the Katsina born Nigerian President appears to have sent a signal to the elected Office holders and political Appointees, including those still jostling for appointments that it is no longer going to be business as usual.
Take for instance, the elected governors of the state who have been collecting hazard and Constituency Allowance running into billions of naira, when the whole state is their Constituency over the years. As a prelude of making elected political Office and appointments unattractive in the country, the President was said to have to set up a Committee on Salaries and Allowances Headed by Zainab Ahmed, the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. That much was confirmed by Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra state and minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity , during a recent visit to the Headquarters of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
This is bad news to governors , Lawmakers and Political Aides and those still jostling for appointment at the state or Federal level that the era of making cheap money from politics is over. The most worrisome was the hazard and Constituency Allowance paid to the elected governors.
Ngige, the minister of Labour , Employment and Productivity, and a one-time beneficiary of such generous Allowance, a s a former governor, who could not hide his feelings had asked: What is a governor doing with hazard allowance when the state is feeding him and his family or what is he doing with Constituency allowance when the whole state is his Constituency?. Take for instance, in Bayelsa, state, Political appointees alone, receive about N6 billion annually for doing little or nothing, except parading the governor Office or ministries to look for Contracts. ’’ This will be holistically reviewed’’, the minister insists.
The Hajia Ahmed led Presidential Committee appears to have put the Revenue Mobilisatisation and Fiscal Commission , RMFC, officials , to work, in order supply them with all the necessary information about the Salaries and Allowances including other unjustifiable areas of expenditure by the government on the Political Office Holders and Aides, in order to prepare their mind to know what to do in reducing the cost of running the government, described as the highest in the whole world.
Insiders informed the Magazine that the Committee may likely make reference to the Stephen Orosanye Committee recommendations on what should be the legitimate entitlements of Political Office Holders and Aides both at the state and Federal levels as contained in its Report on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parietal, Commissions and Agencies.
Prior to the Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government plan to slash the Salaries and Allowances of Political Office holders and Appointees, the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, had repeatedly called on the government to review the allowances and jumbo pay of the elected political Office holders and Aiddes, which the workers had described as a drain on the country’s meager resources.
Labour had also demanded that the security vote of the state governors should be subjected to Auditing by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation with report made available and accessible for public scrutiny, if the government is desirous to save more revenue to boost the country’s real sector but that was how far it could go.
With the government plan to slash elected Political Office Holders and Aides, Salaries and Allowances, Buhari appears to have told Labour and indeed, Nigerians, that he is a listening President determined to the boost the country’s real sector.
But many are also clamouring that the jumbo Salaries and Allowances of President and the Vice President must also be slashed to convince Nigerians that he actually meant what he had said: reduce the cost of governance and save for the rainy day. Going by the RMFC, records, the President’s monthly salary is N3.stands at N3,514,705.00 while a regular hardship allowance of 50 % of the basic salary which is N1,757,350.50 was also paid to him monthly. The President may have given indication to reduce his monthly Salary and Allowances, an indication that no political office Holder would be spared in the in the revenue drive.
The President may have set the stage to reduce the country’s cost of governance when he approved the immediate implementation of the official travel plans of political Office Holders and Appointees. This may have been done ostensibly to block areas of revenue leakage and ensure financial discipline in government.
But in spite of efforts by the government to create additional avenues saving money , it appears to have created new sources of spending the resources , that may accrue from the slashing the salaries and allowances the elected Political Office Holders and Appointees. Only recently, he appointed six Political Aides for the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, who had just returned from her 6-week vacation in the United Kingdom, UK and appointment with her Physicians.
They are, Mario Almakura, who would serve as the First Lady Special Assistant on African First Ladies Peace, Mission, AFPM, Mohammed Albshir, Special Assistant on Organisation for African First Ladies on Development, AFLAD, Wole Aboderin, Special Assistant on Non-Governmental Organisations, Barrister Aliyu Abdullahi, Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Zainab Kazeem, Special Assistant on Domestic and Social Events and Funke Adesiyan, Personal Assistant on Domestic and Social Events.
Recall that on his first term in Office, the President had refused to create the Office of the First Lady with the peeks of Office,insisting that it was not recognised by the 199 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. It was also a big problem to the wives of the governors as thy could not go by the title of First Ladies in their respective states.
Political analysts believe that the President may have bowed to pressure to recognise the Office of the First Lady as obtained in other parts of the world to reduce tension in the Presidency . Moreso, the First Lady, may have prepared the ground for the recognition of her Office , when she announced at a recent presentation of awards and honour to the former and current wives of governors of the 36 states of the Federation that her Office at the Presidency should no longer be addressed as the’’ Office of the Wife of the President but as the Office of the First Lady’’. This may have resolved the issue of the title of wives of governors .
The President’s appointment of Political Aides for the First Lady would also embolden the state governors,to recognise the Office of First Ladies and appoint Political Aides for them , who would be placed on monthly salaries and allowances.
The salaries and allowances of the Political Aides , of the First Lady Political Aides and those of the wives of the governors , may have been captured in the 10.33 trillion 2220 budget forecast of the government, an indication that there may not be any distortion in the implementation of the budget on how to accommodate the extra expenditures.