Making Elected Political Office And Appointments Unattractive As Buhari Appoints Six Political Aides For The First Lady

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.

Hajia Zainab Ahmed: Minister Of Finance, Budget and National Planning

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.

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