Politicians, Public Office And Unlimited Allowances, By Babatope Babalobi

Nigeria’s presidential democracy has a long list of political office holders whose overheads- salaries, entitlements, travel allowances and pensions, have placed a huge burden on the economy. The list includes the  President, Vice President, 43 Ministers, 106 Senators, 360 members of Federal House of Representatives, parastatals Board Chairmen and members of at the Federal level; Governors, Deputy Governors, Commissioners,  over 1000 State Legislators, Board members of parastatals at the state levels;  and 774 Local Government Chairmen and ice Chairmen, and  7,888 Councilors in the Local Governments.

A retinue of Special Advisers, Special Assistants, Personal Assistants and other aides add to this list. The Presidency has 9 Special Advisers(3 reporting to the President and 6 to the Vice President), 52 Senior Special Assistants mostly domiciled in the office of the Vice President, 61 Special Assistants, 21 Personal Assistants, 5 Senior Technical Assistants, and 1 Technical Assistant, all attached to either the President, Vice President, First lady or the Wife of the Vice President. In all, there are about 149 political appointees working as Aides for the President, the Vice President, and their wives, according to information sourced from the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation’ (SGF)’s website.

First ladies at the local, state, and Federal Government levels also tap into government resources to fund various pet projects.  In exceptional cases, members of the immediate or extended Presidential, Ministerial, or Governorship families place additional burdens on state resources like the case of Presidential daughter Ms Hanan Buhari who flew from Abuja to Bauchi in a Presidential jet January 2020, to take photo shots.

Apart from collecting mind boggling annual salaries, Nigeria’s political office holders also collect sundry fringe benefits such as accommodation allowance, furniture allowance, utility allowance, car allowance in form of a brand new car or Jeep, car fuelling/maintenance allowance, medical treatment allowance,  hazard allowance, hardship allowance, leave grants, meal subsidy, entertainment allowance, duty tour allowance, domestic servant allowance, Personal Assistants allowance, house maintenance allowance, domestic staff allowance, constituency allowance, security allowance, wardrobe allowance, monitoring allowance, Tour duty allowance, wardrobe allowance, newspapers allowance, and responsibility allowances etc State Governors have ingeniously come up with  ‘severance allowances’ under which they collect obscene benefits for life, after  their tenure of office. Nigeria is no doubt a cash cow in the hands of the ruling political class; contrary to biblical injunctions, the profit of the earth meant for all, is shared by a few.

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Political office holders and appointees have turned Nigeria into a land of milk and honey, while other Nigerians labour under their yoke. Our Very Important Persons (VIPs) mostly travel first class or business class on local and overseas trips, receiving dollar denominated estacodes on government bill. Senator Shehu Sani disclosed recently that each of Nigeria’s has 469 Federal legislators earn N13.5 million monthly as “running cost’, plus a N750,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances.

Successive governments continue to pay lip service to the need to cut the cost of governance despite official rhetoric to the contrary. 111 MDAs were created between 1999 and 2015.  The Buhari administration added 10 new MDAs to the list between 2013 and 2018. Earlier this year, five additional Federal Ministries were created: Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development; Police Affairs; Special Duties and International Affairs; Aviation; and Power. Presently there are 43 cabinet ministers supervising 28 Federal Ministries including the Ministry of Petroleum Resources directly supervised by President Muhamadu Buhari.

In all, there are about 789 Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria, according to a compilation by the Department of Legislative Support Services National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, National Assembly, Abuja in March 2019. This   figure includes about 29 Federal Ministries, 42 Federal Agencies,  about 100 Federal Parastatals; while others are Commissions, Tribunals, Centres, Institutes, Boards, Councils, Federal Medical centres, Teaching Hospitals, Federal funded tertiary educational institutions such as Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Training centres, and Technical colleges. These agencies and parastatals have an estimated 89,511 civil servants on their nominal roll as of 2015 according to figures credited to Director General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah.

Most of Nigeria’s MDAs are governed by Board of Directors of between 5-8 membership. Some have up to 13. The total number of Board of Directors is not known but if on the average the 789MDAs have five board members, there could be up to 789 Board Chairmen and 3945 board members at the Federal level. These positions are often used to settle political I owe Us (IOUs), thereby boosting political prebendalism.   In Nigeria, dead heavyweight politicians may get political appointments ‘posthumously’, as the list of 209 board chairmen and 1,258 board members released by President Muhamadu Buhari in December 2017 included six top dead politicians- Late Senator Francis Okpozo, Donald Ugbaja, Rev. Christopher Utov, Alhaji Umar Dange, and Ahmed Bunza.

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Nigeria’s Federal Government presently spends more money paying salaries and financing overheads than providing social infrastructures -building roads or providing healthcare; no thanks to about 90,000 workers employed in Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and retinue of political office holders and aides.

Few years ago, the finance Minister disclosed the Federal wage bill to be around N165 billion monthly, causing the then Central Bank Governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to lament “at the moment, 70 percent of the Federal Government’s revenue goes for payment of salaries and entitlement of pubic and civil servants, leaving 30 percent for development of 167 million Nigerians. That means that for every naira government earns, 70 kobo are consumed by civil servants”The situation has not changed at Federal, State and Local government levels.

The Obasanjo administration introduced the Monetisation policy in 2002 to reduce the cost of governance, but its provisions have been largely reversed over the years. President Goodluck Jonathan in August,2011, set up a Presidential Committee on Rationalization and Restructuring of Federal Government’s Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by former Head of Service of the Federation, Stephen Orosanye. Highlight of its recommendations were the reduction of then existing 263 statutory agencies to 161, scrapping of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversion of 14 others to departments in various ministries.

A White Paper Drafting Committee headed by Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, then an Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, approved few of the recommendations and rejected many others, an Implementation committee was set up in May 2014 to implement the recommendations, but this was not carried through. There were news reports in September 2019 that President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Federal Executive Council to review and implement the Steve Oronsaye report. However, as of today, not much has been heard of its implementation and sleaze of public funds in name of allowances continues unabated.

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Going forward, the Oronsanye report should be revisited, updated to determine the exact number of Nigeria’s MDAs; the report should also be implemented with the required political will.  The Statutory Corporation (Modification, etc) Act of 1985 should be amended to reflect the recommendation of the Oronsaye Report and its White Paper on the Report.  Also, Professional Bodies (Special Provisions) Act, 1972 which currently mandates government to provide financial support of various kinds to such bodies and councils should be amended to discontinue further government funding of 104 professional bodies and councils as recommended by the Oronsaye Report and adopted by the White Paper.

Also, the monetisation policy should be strictly enforced. The need for a a unicameral legislature, and reduction of the 36 states structure are among the national questions that remain unanswered.  At least 40% of the budget at all levels should be reserved for capital expenditure, while National Assembly budget should be drastically reduced. Government should intensify efforts to remove ghost workers from its payroll and block wastages through initiatives such as Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).Unless public wastes is curtailed, and the political class desist from greedily cutting huge portions of the national cake for themselves, the Nigerian cow, no matter the nature of its fatness now, will one day stop producing the prized milk, dry up, with resultant multiplier effects.

Babatope Babalobi beb26@bath.ac.uk is a Doctorate researcher, Department of Health, University of Bath, UK


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