It is inherently inconsistent for the most powerful 'public servants' to increase their pay and perks without doing the same for their constituents. Ivory Coast's leaders were cognizant of the injustice of such an irony and thus slashed their own pay almost a year ago in 2008. Unfortunately, Nigeria's leadership only now realized that it is time for high ranking public officers to "sacrifice for the greater good of the nation". President Yar'Adua finally announced a proposal to slash his salary and that of other public holders.
THE UNFORTUNATE REALITY
Nigeria's very well paid legislators and executive officials have unfortunately failed to live up to expectations. For instance, since Yar'Adua's inauguration in 2007, Nigerians went for one full year without a Health Minister. The House of Representatives managed to pass only 21 bills since the beginning of their tenure in 2007, for which their own Speaker chided them publicly. The nation's Senators chose to ignore Constitutional requirements and failed to work for the minimum number of days required. Yet, they still managed to become millionaires (in Naira) when they increased their pay by over 100% (and according to other estimates 800%). The consequence of which is that
"[Nigeria] is going to spend more money this year taking care of legislative aides in the House of Representatives and the Senate by as much as N4.7bn. This is ... significantly much more than it would cost to provide potable water for the five million people of Katsina State."As a result, these individuals are therefore not worth the millions of Naira they cost the people.
PROBLEMS WITH YAR'ADUA'S ANNOUNCEMENT
Yar'Adua is not known for making bold, controversial statements, so he must be commended for publicly asserting that public officials must earn less than they do now. Unfortunately, it must also be noted that Yar'Adua was President when the National Assembly increased his pay and that of many others without much, if any, public criticism from him. Had he spoken out against the increases, his credibility, now that he proposed a pay cut, would be greater.
Additionally, the President neglected to explain how this proposed pay cut will impact the economy and specifically, individual Nigerians and businesses. While this writer is on record for having repeatedly suggested
that legislators and other politicians earn less, it is necessary to ask what other measures will be applied to ease the current economic problems. For instance, the Action Congress (AC) stressed that Nigeria's economic problems would benefit more from a tougher stance corruption. Furthermore, seemingly frivolous items such as the N8 million allocated for international training in the proposed 2009 budget[*] could be removed because although N8 million is insignifcant from a budgetary perspective, that money would go a long way in paying teachers.
The last time a President tried to determine the pay of a public official, Nigeria witnessed the Okonjo-Iweala fiasco where the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which is charged with determining salaries, was circumvented and probes were launched. Fortunately, Yar'Adua's proposal to slash salaries is subject to the RMAFC and it recently met to discuss the issue. Despite this positive step, the President neglected to specify how far these pay cuts should go and how quickly they should occur. The Commission is currently discussing the many consequences of the President's request and one wonders whether it will adequately slash pay within a reasonable time to have an impact on Nigeria's struggling economy.
Yar'Adua should have specified exactly what he envisions the proposed pay cut to look like and achieve. Even better, he should have followed the dramatic maneuver of being the first President to declare his assets by announcing that he would forego his salary for the rest of his term. Such a step would have shown true leadership and commitment to the need for "personal sacrifice" in these troubling economic times. Still, this proposal is a good move it is not too late make many more.
[*] - or some version of the Proposed 2009 budget.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Should Yar'Adua Get A Pay Raise?
- How To Become A Millionaire
- Look To The Ivory Coast For Inspiration
- Getting The Senate We Paid For
- Getting The House Of Representatives We Paid For
- "How big is the cut?" (Imnakoya)