A proposal by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to raise the salaries of the President, Vice-President, lawmakers, and judicial and other public office holders by 114 per cent is ill-timed, insensitive, and economically unjustified. In his rather lame justification, the RMAFC Chairman, Muhammed Shehu, stated that the agency had not undertaken any salary review for this category of persons since 2008, adding and that their current salaries were “peanuts compared to some salaries of some persons at the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and the Nigerian Ports Authority.” With the country’s current fiscal adversity, this is patently hollow.
Like most Nigerian public office holders, Shehu is detached from the harsh realities facing most Nigerians. Tinubu and lawmakers should reject the proposal and focus on lifting Nigerians out of poverty and joblessness.
RMAFC’s insensitivity is provocative. Nigeria is reeling; its government is broke and currently spends 96 per cent of its revenue servicing debts. Its main revenue source, crude oil, is precarious, as the country pumped an average of just 1.2 million barrels per day in August compared to its recent OPEC quota of 1.7mbpd. Over 400,000 bpd is still being stolen, Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, admitted.
About 23 million persons are jobless, and 53.4 per cent of the youth are unemployed. Total public debt as of June 30 was N87.38 trillion of which the external debt component was $43.15 billion. GDP growth rate slumped to 2.51 per cent in the second quarter of this year, down from 3.54 per cent in Q2 2022. The government has been borrowing to pay salaries, and piled up N22.7 trillion in liabilities through the CBN’s ‘Ways and Means’ window partly for this purpose.
Under pressure from workers, the government has just approved wage increases that it can ill-afford for federal public workers with no identified source of funding them.
Meanwhile, Tinubu’s ill-timed and ill-planned petrol subsidy stoppage, and unification of the naira exchange rates are wreaking havoc on people and businesses. The naira exchange rate crossed the N1,000 per $1 bar on Thursday, and with higher crude oil prices of over $100 per barrel in the international market, price per litre of petrol is set to rise beyond today’s N570-620. Already, prices of diesel, kerosene, lubricants, and cooking gas have spiked even further.
About 140 million people are living in extreme poverty. Nigeria’s hunger level is ‘serious,’ says the Global Hunger Index 2022, which ranked the country 103rd out of 121.
For most Nigerians therefore, sacrifices are here, severe and inescapable. Their leaders should also make sacrifices; an irreducible quality of leadership.
Tinubu should drastically cut the cost of governance, including the massive Presidential Air Fleet, his 48-member cabinet, his frequent travels and the number of ministries, departments, and agencies.
The state governors should stop living in luxury with public funds. Nigerian lawmakers, reputed to be the world’s highest paid legislators, should also make sacrifices.
Thirteen ex-governors, including the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, continue to receive pensions in their states and still get paid as members of the 10th National Assembly. Legislators recently voted billions of naira to purchase vehicles and pocket money for themselves, without regard to the public finances or the prevailing mass poverty.
Public officials are not paid like commercial sector executives; comparing them to NNPC, CBN or NPA that earn in local and foreign currency as Shehu did is disingenuous.
The RMAFC should suspend the wage increase indefinitely; Tinubu and other public officers should distance themselves as Gbenga Daniel commendably rejected simultaneously collecting pension as a former two-term governor of Ogun State, and as a serving senator.
To fortify their independence, only the emoluments of judges should be reviewed upwards at this time.