The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC) is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the accruals to and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account and reviewing from time to time, the revenue allocation formulae to ensure conformity with changing realities and also arrive at salaries and other remunerations of political office holders in all tiers of the government.
The Commission, before it arrives at its conclusions conducts brainstorming sessions, uses the services of consultants and media where and when necessary and also accepts memoranda objectively put forward by institutions, groups and individuals all in a bid to ensure it is thorough in its conclusions.
In June 2015, the RMAFC chairman, Mr Elias Mbam announced that the commission will embark on a review of the remuneration of all public office holders to ensure it conforms with current realities of inflation and downturn in crude oil prices, which is currently the mainstay of the nation’s economy and has led to dwindled resources. This is to ensure a reduction in the cost of governance and free up more funds for development.
This isn’t the first time that would be done. Apart from the annual take home pay, Senators (109 of them) for instance are entitled to severance package of N6,079,200 upon successful completion of term, duty tour allowance of N23,000 per night within the country and estacode of $800 outside of the country and a refundable car loan of N8,105,600 each. House of Representatives members (360 of them) are entitled to a severance package of N5,955,637.50 upon successful term completion, duty tour allowance of N21,000 duty tour per night when they travel within the country, and $550 estacode per night outside of the country and car loan of N7,940,850. In a country where majority return for second term, that is double the pay for the car loan and severance package too, not to forget governors that become senators receiving pension and salaries and allowances at the same time.
The late President Musa Yar’adua in line with the global economic meltdown on February 10, 2009 requested the RMAFC to review downwards the remuneration of public office holders. RMAFC completed its assignment, passed it to the President who quickly forwarded same to the National Assembly for legislation. It died there because the lawmakers never debated the bill. If it had been implemented, it would have led to a 33 percent reduction in annual take home pay of the lawmakers. Afterwards, the downward review “expired”, according to the RMAFC chairman, Mr. Elias Mbam, who said it could not be implemented because the April 2011 elections had enthroned a new set of political leadership on all levels and fresh work had to be done. Part of the fear of Nigerians is the amount lawmakers allocate themselves as constituency project funds on quarterly basis, which go into private purses and even though the RMAFC says any monies allocated outside of what it approves is illegal, there is no way for it to monitor allocations by the lawmakers, as even the composition of the members of the Commission is subject to approval by the NASS.
If past efforts had failed, what is the likelihood that the new attempt won’t be another waste of resources? Yes, there is a new crop of lawmakers in the 8th NASS out of which two in the Senate, Senators Ben Murray-Bruce and Dino Melaye have been mouthing the need to reduce remuneration of lawmakers. Incidentally, Melaye was a member of the House of Reps and enjoyed all the lucre along with his colleagues. He is also known to be unnecessarily flamboyant, displaying luxury that a honest public servant should not be able to afford on social media.
Actual take home of Nigerian lawmakers surpasses those of their colleagues in most other countries of the world. Their take home package includes official and non-official remunerations including quarterly allowances quite unknown to law. Many Nigerians believe that disproportional remuneration of lawmakers is the most attractive dragnets to political offices in the country.
The RMAFC said the handsome pay for political office holders is to prevent corruption, but has it really? The various scandals involving lawmakers since 1999 are on record, from Patricia Etteh to Dimeji Bankole and Farouk Lawan. How can a group of less than 500 people hold a nation of 170 million to ransom? They were allocated N125 billion alone in the current budget, these are those supposed to be serving the people and not the other way round. The people really need to demand more accountability from their representatives and not forget that they still have the power to remove such persons of they do not perform well.
But the nation’s problems are fundamental, and RMAFC can only work within the ambit of its own responsibilities. The Commission’s recommendations, according to the Chairman should be completed by September 2015, even though to save cost and time, it would be better the old recommendations made in 2009 are revised, but the Commission may also be playing to the “Change” gallery by taking this step with the new administration. If this will be another exercise in futility, time only will tell.