The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) yesterday disclosed that it has commenced procedures to review the remuneration of public service holders in the country.
Responding to the move, however, many Nigerians are calling on the commission to concentrate more on removing or drastically reducing some of the allowances being collected by top government functionaries, including ministers, chief executives of boards and parastatals, governors and members of the state and National Assembly.
RMAFC Chairman Engr. Elias Mbam gave the hint on the planned review while briefing journalists on the proposed exercise yesterday in Abuja.
He said the move to review the remuneration of public service holders before the year ran out was necessitated by the current economic realities in the country.
He said the commission is already in the processes of determining whether the review will be an increase or a reduction.
“It is the intention of the commission to review the remuneration of public office holders this year. And the process will determine whether it will be a reduction or something else. It is part of our primary responsibilities so that the remuneration will reflect current realities.
“I don’t want to pre-empt what the result will be. It is a process and if followed appropriately, we will arrive at the appropriate answer. The preliminaries have commenced already,” the RMAFC chairman added.
Mbam also said the commission was yet to receive any request on salary increment with regards to the new national minimum wage.
Among others, the functions of the commission, as provided under Paragraph 32(a-e) of Part I to the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended), include monitoring the accruals to and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account; review, from time to time the revenue allocation formulae and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing realities; provided that any revenue formula which had been accepted by an Act of the National Assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years from the date of commencement of the act.
RMAFC is also responsible for determining the remuneration appropriate for political officeholders including the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, ministers, commissioners, special advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in Sections 84 and 124 of the 1999 Constitution.
‘Ministers, legislators do not deserve more money’
Commenting on the matter, a source close to RMAFC said, “The real problem is not about the basic salary of key government functionaries in the three tiers of government; the problem lies in the prohibitive allowances they draw from government coffers at the detriment of service delivery to Nigerians.
“Reviewing basic salary downward will amount to nothing because the money is not much. The ideal thing to do is to remove some of the allowances completely,” he said.
Another credible source told Daily Trust that RMARC was yet to present the report of the review of the entitlement it initiated and undertook some years go.
According to him, “The package in operation now has been there for too long and is deemed to have outlived its usefulness. It is a 2007 package. The trending events on the new minimum wage shouldn’t blind us on fundamentals on the ground.
“The economy, in general, is facing multifaceted challenges including fighting insurgencies from different areas which make it as good as a war economy; including the value of the Naira to the dollar and price of crude oil in the world market,” he said.
He also frowned at what he called “impracticable allowances and fringe benefits” for select appointed and elected government officials.
“Hardship allowance for chief executives is not realistic and constituency allowances to chief executives who have the power to execute budgets are not realistic. Many other areas of this nature are there and need addressing,” he said.
“For the legislators, wardrobe, house maintenance and utilities are not realistic. Personal assistants are uncalled for when provision is made for legislative aides.
“What we should be looking for is the reality of the country’s economy and the revenue being generated by the government,” he added.
Speaking on the issue, an Associate Professor of Financial Economics, University of Abuja, Dr Yelwa Mohammed, said the review had two effects in the sense that it may result in an upward review or downward review.
Yelwa said if reviewed downward, it would be good for the citizens of the country in the sense that it will reduce the cost of governance, save cost which should be channelled to the productive sectors.
He said if reviewed upward, there would be consequences because there won’t be money to fund those bills and also effectively fund capital projects, except if the country will continue to borrow.
The don said it was time for the government to review remunerations downward and suggested that legislators, for instance, to be paid based on sitting allowance to enable the country to have enough funds to achieve economic growth.
“We have written several papers in this regard. If they are only paid sitting allowance, many will be discouraged to contest for public office positions. Now they all think it is a do-or-die affair and they do anything to get to that position because of the huge remuneration they get,” he said.
NLC wants ‘equal pay for work of equal value’
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday urged RMAFC to implement the global standard of “equal pay for work of equal value” to ensure justice in the public finance system.
NLC President Ayuba Wabba, in a telephone interview with Daily Trust, said the review of salaries in Nigeria was long overdue, adding that the last time emoluments of political office holders were reviewed, they were jacked upward by about 800 per cent.
The labour leader pointed out that nowhere in the world did that happen and stressed the need for a basis of reviewing the wages of political office holders as they went to the same markets with other Nigerian workers.
“It is long overdue. Wages are under the exclusive list, certainly, the federal government has oversight function to try to fix that but it should be fixed in such a way that there would be equity,” he said.
Referring to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standard to justify organized labour’s stance on the proposed exercise, Wabba stressed that “as workers, you are entitled to 40 working hours per week.” Are they actually working 40 hours per week? Those are the issues.”
He lamented that journalists, armed forces personnel and others who were putting in their best, including their lives on the line are poorly rewarded in terms of salaries and emoluments when compared with those who stay in the comfort of their offices.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, said the status quo should be maintained.
“It should be maintained at the present rate. Do not increase and do not reduce. The current rate is reasonable,” Onyekpere said.
However, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said while RAMFC had not stated the category of public officers whose salaries and packages it planned to review, the group expected that the “over-bloated and unjustified packages of political office holders in the commanding height of the polity should be cut drastically.”
According to him, the fiscal constraints the country was facing called for a review of the allowances of some public officials.
“There are many areas from which RMAFC can recover resources and send the same to critically needed sectors like education, health and infrastructure.
“At a time Nigerians are being asked to pay all manner of charges and taxes, elected and appointed officials also need to show commitment by engaging in belt-tightening measures. Anything to the contrary will be totally unacceptable,” he said.
In his remarks, the chairman, Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), Mr Adedotun Suleiman, told Daily Trust that if salaries must be reviewed, it should be downwards as the current package of public office holders is high enough.