The forthcoming proclamation of the Ninth National Assembly (NASS) by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 11, 2019, should be a Launchpad for members of the parliament working with the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to revisit their “severance package,” discard it and embrace a contribution-based funding for their gratuity when they cease to be members of the legislative arm of government.
In the alternative, the Executive and the legislature should jointly drastically reduce the numerous allowances paid to the members of the legislative arm in line with the challenging economic environment in the world.
The idea that members of the NASS go home with millions of Naira as severance package after losing elections or voluntarily exiting the National Assembly has drawn the ire of Nigerians who see it as a brazen abuse of privilege, especially as most normal pensioners are not paid regularly.
Nigerians feel that the severance package for the members of the legislative arm is too high and not commensurate with their performance as lawmakers.
The severance package provided for the members of the two chambers of the National Assembly in the 2019 budget is more than N24 billion. The amount is about half of the just over N50 billion 13 per cent derivation paid to the oil bearing states from the total revenue generated in February 2019, which was shared in March 2019. The amount is more than three-fold the April 2019 FAAC allocation of N7.06 billion for the 44 Local Governments in Kano State.
The chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Mustafa Dawaki, confirmed that the severance package of N24.6 billion would be paid to members of the House of Representatives and Senators.
The Severance package is 300 per cent of each member’s annual basic salary. It runs into millions of Naira per member. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) approved it. It is not indexed to the normal remuneration of other public servants.
Senator Shehu Sani disclosed that each senator is paid N40.5m every three months as “running cost” or N13.5m monthly. This is apart from the monthly salary. The N40.5 million that pricked the conscience of Shehu Sani to speak out is the equivalent annual take home salaries of at least three Federal Permanent Secretaries.
The running cost per member of the House of Representatives is N30m quarterly or N10 million monthly. It is more than the annual salaries of five Directors on GL17 in the mainstream Federal Civil Service inclusive of allowances, who might have attained that rank after 25 years or more in the Civil Service.
Elsewhere, members of parliament subscribe to a Contributory Pension plan for their gratuity.
GhanaWeb reports: “the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has said that Members of Parliament (in Ghana) must contribute to any pension scheme that will serve their interest.”
The Ghanaian MPs themselves will contribute financially to the scheme, which will ensure pension for them after leaving parliament.
Search in the House of Commons Library shows that “the Mother of Parliaments” runs a Parliamentary Contributory Pension Scheme (PCPS) for Members of the House of Commons. Hitherto members would only qualify for Defined Benefit pension after winning two elections and serving as parliamentarians for six years.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) fixes salary for MPs. They do not fix it by themselves.
In the United States of America, pension for members of Congress falls under the Federal Employees’ Pension Scheme (PERS), which is financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. All members of Congress pay 6.2% of their salaries as contribution.
Members of the Ninth NASS should sensitively and patriotically join their counterparts around the world by evolving a contributory pension scheme for themselves and discard the current unsustainable pension called severance package.