By Emmanuel Bagudu
Barely two months after having a rift with the chairperson of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NIDC), Abike Dabiri over office space, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isah Ali Pantami is once again on the spotlight. This time, Minister Pantami made a puzzling claim in a bit to exonerate himself from allegations of leaving above his means.
Between July 3, and 4, the Traditional and New Media Plaforms in Nigeria, captured the Claim by Pantami which states that he (Pantami) is paid more Salary and Allowances as a Professor while lecturing at the International University Madina, Saudi Arabia than as a Minister in Nigeria. Punch News Paper Captioned the Story on 4th July with the title “I earned more as a professor than as minister – Pantami”.
In another News caption by pulse.ng an online news paper on the same day, the story title reads: “Pantami says he earned more as a professor than as minister”. Minister Pantami made the claim while reacting to online reports that suggests he procured three houses since he assumed office barely a year ago. Pantami who spoke through his media aide Uwa Suleiman in a statement said he only came back to Nigeria “to answer the call to serve his country as a sign of his patriotism and selfless service.”
Suleiman added that “For the purpose of setting the records straight, the Honourable Minister has not purchased a single property anywhere In the world, in the period he has been in office as a Minister. One of the apartments in the images published is one which the Honourable Minister has occupied since January 2017, more than two years before becoming a minister, while the other one is a house he rented since 17th December 2019. Two of the images are not even known to him.”
“It is worthy of note that as a serving Minister, Dr Pantami’s salaries and allowances fall below his earnings as a Professor at the International University Madinah Saudi Arabia, where he still holds the record of being the first Nigerian to lecture at that level. He only returned to Nigeria out of the zeal to contribute his quota to national development….” Suleiman said.
Quite a Patriotic Claim. But it raises a lot of questions. For instance how can Minister Pantami Justify his claim considering the fact that he moves around in a Convoy of two vehicles consisting of armed anti-riots Policemen and Operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS)? Is it also possible that the Minister Pantami had a private security and is also driven in a bullet proof car that is worth up to atleast N80 million in Saudi Arabia just the way it is while he is Minister in Nigeria? All these and many more questions pop up when Pantami made his claims. But before attempting to analyse these questions and securing right answers, a comparison between salaries of Professors in Saudi Arabia and that of Ministers in Nigeria is pertinent.
According to Payscale, a compensation software and data company that helps employers manage employee compensation and help employees understand their worth in the job market, the average salary for a Professor in Saudi Arabia annually is SAR 300,000 (Saudi Riyal) which is equivalent to Thirty One Million, Thirty Two Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifteen Naira (N31, 032, 915.12). This is far morethan what has been allocated as salary and Allowances to Ministers in Nigeria by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). The RMAFC Act of 2007 states that no Minister will receive morethan N15 million in a year. The act puts Salaries of Minister at N2,026,400 annually, while their annual car fuelling and Service is at N1,519,000, same applies to their domestic servants. Their entertainment allowances is N911,800 each. Other allowances given to the ministers annually are; Utilities at N607,920, Personal Assists; N506,600, Monitoring Allowances; N405,280, Newspaper; 303,960, leave; N202,604, Tour Duty; N35,000, Estacode: N4,052,800, Furniture; N6,079,200, Motor Vehicle Loan: N8,105,600(once in four years) and lastly Housing; $900 per night. All these when put together will not be up to the over N31 million average annual salary of a professor in Saudi Arabia. Infact, another software company, Salary Explorer reveal that senior professors in Saudi Arabia could be earning up to SAR 3,784,005 (Saudi Riyal) annually that is Fourty five million, four hundred and Eight thousand, sixty Naira (N45,408,060). This is huge, and as far as the RMAFC is concerned no Minister earns up to this annually in Nigeria.
It is now transparently clear that the take home pay of a professor in Saudi Arabia is far morethan that of a minister in Nigeria. But the police and DSS protection as well as the array of personal assistants and cruising in a bullet proof vehicle seems quite grandiose to everyone. Nigerian Ministers enjoy all these while Saudi Professors do not. The cost of each of the vehicles that escorts the Minister is quite huge. Each of the three SUVs cost nothing less than N20 Million. The specific vehicle carrying the minister which is fully bullet proofed costs not N60 million. In the case of Pantami, he works up to three times a week and while at home he is been protected by all those security personnel, his family members are also being protected by security. It is possible that while Pantami is away to office another set of security personnel protects his wives and other members of his family. This is not the case when he was a professor at the International University Madina, Saudi Arabia.
Also, when it comes to procurement. The minister decides the budget of his ministry. As the head of the ministry, he has the constitutional powers to draft budget and infuse all that will serve his interest and that of friends within and outside the political space. He presents memos at the Federal Executive Council meeting after he most have screened contractors, and when the President approves his memo the contractor the Ministry awards the contract to, smiles to the bank. There are always royalties inform of cash gifts as ways of saying thank you to the ministers and other bigwigs in the ministry. In the case of Minister Pantami, he has a plethora of juicy government agencies under his watch, among them is the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). NCC generates huge revenue to the Government from Telecom operators, and that implies that the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy which Pantami is heading enjoys a good percentage for it upkeep. The whole previlege Mr Pantami has as a minister can make him enrich himself without necessarily looting. The idea of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have been used to generate money by ministers over the years. “…A minister can be innovative by using a ministry fund to create sources of internal revenue generations without being corrupt about it….” a business analyst Tansiu Abdulraman told ELANZA NEWS in an Interview. That previlege as it is in Nigeria is not available in Saudi Arabia.
In conclusion, it is quite difficulty to say whether the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isah Ali Pantami is better off as a Professor at International University Madinah than as Minister in Nigeria. This is because while the minister enjoy cash in Madinah morethan in Nigeria, he currently enjoy luxury and protection as well as more means of enriching himself without looting as a minister in Nigeria than in Madinah.