For a group of people who aren’t doing their jobs well, Nigerian lawmakers earn a lot. In fact, they’re some of the highest-paid lawmakers anywhere in the world.

And they earn a lot for debating things like making naira coins great again, how much shinier toilets can become, and how to recreate a military-era policy

The reward system for Nigerian lawmakers has been the subject of controversy for many years. Even the actual figures of how much they earn are controversial, especially with respect to the allowances they receive separately from their salaries. 

As Nigeria’s financial position continues to see shege, the pressure to review the reward system for lawmakers and other officials grows more intense. And a recent development several thousand kilometres away in Kenya may be the best blueprint for Nigeria to follow.

What’s happening in Kenya?

Kenya’s Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) announced a review of the remuneration package of public officers in a notice issued on July 28th, 2022. The commission removed car grants for state officers and plenary sitting allowances for 416 members of parliament. The cut allows the Kenyan government to save at least Ksh382.2m that can be channelled elsewhere.

The general review still leaves the parliamentary officials earning more than before in gross salary, but the SRC rejected a proposal to increase their pay to as high as Ksh1.2 million per month. The review clearly outlined the pay package for political office holders including the president, ministers, governors and others. 

Why can’t Nigeria do a review?

Nigeria’s version of Kenya’s SRC is the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Among other things, this commission determines the remuneration package of political, public and judicial office holders in Nigeria. 

The RMAFC is made up of a chairperson and 37 other members of “unquestionable integrity” picked from each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Elias Mbam served as the chairman of the RMAFC between 2010 and July 2022 when he resigned to run for governor in Ebonyi State. He complained many times about how difficult it was for Nigeria to review the remuneration package of public officers. 

In fact, the last time Nigeria reviewed the package was in 2007, a year when inflation was still in single-digits.

The good old days

In 2009, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua asked the RMAFC to do a downward review of salaries and allowances of public officers due to Nigeria’s dwindling revenue. In the RMAFC’s proposal, the commission cancelled the 300% severance gratuity allowances for presidents (₦10.5 million) and vice presidents (₦9.1 million) and reduced their hardship allowance of ₦1.8 million and ₦1.5 million, respectively, by 20%. 

This is how much a Nigerian president earns

The proposal also reduced the number of cars allocated to the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives, and reduced constituency allowances to federal lawmakers by half. The allowances for entertainment, personal assistants and severance gratuity for local government officials also ended up on the chopping block. 

The RMAFC was cutting everything on sight

But the National Assembly never passed the draft bill of the proposal and President Yar’Adua was too distracted by illness to see it through before his death in 2010.

Another attempt to review the remuneration package failed in 2015 under the watch of the outgoing administration of Goodluck Jonathan. The same proposal failed to gain traction with his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, and never even made it to the National Assembly to be ignored a second time.

This is how much a Nigerian senator earns

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What can Nigeria do differently?

It’s clear that Nigeria’s biggest problem with reviewing the remuneration package for political officers is that those affected are also in charge of approving any proposals. 

The chairman of the RMAFC is appointed by the president and confirmed by the National Assembly. And for a review proposal to pass, it must go through those same channels. It’s no surprise Nigeria cannot get a review done.

Mbam said in 2019, “Perhaps, the most challenging issue the RMAFC faces is the abuse by stakeholders at both the national, state and local government levels in the implementation of the approved remuneration package for political, public and judicial office holders.”

Kenya’s SRC isn’t burdened by such problems, as it has an automatic timeline of four years to review the package for Kenyan politicians; this is usually set just before general elections for a new government. 

Nigeria needs a process that’s just as transparent and independent for any progress to be made here. The country needs a fiscally leaner government based on its revenue weakness, and what better place to start cutting the fat than from the top?

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