President William Ruto of Kenya recently rejected a proposed salary increment for himself and other senior government officials floated by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
The SRC had proposed a 14 per cent pay rise for the President, the Deputy President, Cabinet Secretaries and MPs in the next two years to cushion them against the rising cost of living.
Speaking on Friday, June 30, 2023, Ruto instead proposed a 7-10 per cent salary increment for teachers, police officers, KDF officers and other civil servants in the lower cadre starting July 1, 2023.
“I know there is a proposal by SRC for the increase of salaries of different cadres of both civil servants and other public servants. Because of the economic times we live in, we have approved that salaries of other civil servants can be adjusted beginning tomorrow,” Ruto said.
Ruto also insisted that the salaries for senior government officials will remain stagnant until the Kenyan SRC achieved international standards in rationalizing salaries for all civil servants.
The Kenyan President’s stance has met with widespread acclaim, but closer to home, things are different.
Amid calls for cut in cost of governance, the chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Muhammad Shehu, shocked the nation on Tuesday when he announced that the salaries of politicians, judicial, and public office holders would be increased by 114 per cent. According to reports, Shehu revealed this when he presented the reports of the reviewed remuneration package to Kebbi State governor, Nasir Idris.
Expectedly, many critics have argued that this raise is both unnecessary, and antithetic to the posturing of the new government which have promised to cut public spending in order to have enough for capital expenditure.
Inequality has long since hindered inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. Over 90 million Nigerians live below the poverty line of $1.90 per day. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirmed that in 2022, 40 percent or 83 million Nigerians were poor. This would suggest that the number of poor Nigerians exceeds the total populations of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Eswatinicombined. The poor, of course, contribute very little or nothing to national growth in every economy.
Between 1960 and 2005, about $20 trillion was looted from the national treasury by already overpaid public office holders, for comparison, this amount is larger than the GDP of United States in 2012 (about $18 trillion). Wage inequality in Nigeria is not due to a lack of resources, but to the ill-use, misallocation and misappropriation of such resources. At the root of which is a culture of corruption, combined with a political elite out of touch with the daily struggles of average Nigerians.
One of the causes of salary inequality in Nigeria is the high cost of governance.
According to Oxfam International, Nigerian lawmakers are the best paid globally; their average annual salary is the highest. The cost of maintaining the machinery of government in Nigeria is also the highest. The high cost of governance aggravates inequality because few resources will be left to provide basic essential services for the growing Nigerian population.
Between 2004 and 2010, inequality in Nigeria significantly worsened, according to studies, with the upper class benefiting from dubious tax wavers and legislators receiving earnings that were among the highest in the world.
“Income inequality is one of Nigeria’s most serious but least talked about challenges,” says Matthew Page, formerly the US intelligence community’s leading expert on Africa’s biggest economy. “It is this disparity between rich and poor, more than poverty itself, that generates anti-government sentiment and could fuel civil unrest down the road.”
Page’s analysis is backed up by a new global index, produced by Oxfam and Development Finance International, which puts Nigeria outright last in a list of 152 countries ranked by their “commitment to reducing inequality”. Nigeria’s social spending (on health, education and social protection) is, according to the report, “shamefully low” and “reflected in very poor social outcomes for its citizens”.
It is interesting to note that just less than one per cent of Nigerians consume much of the country’s budget in the area of recurrent expenditure. For the National Assembly members, 469 senators and House of Representatives members earn salaries and allowances that can pay the minimum wages of 1000 workers. Nigerian lawmakers, according to one report, are known to be the highest paid in the world, with an annual salary of $189,500 (N30.6m) each which excludes allowances.
The RAMFAC reports that the constituency allowances of senators are 250 per cent of their annual basic salaries, while the members of the House of Representatives receive 100 per cent of their annual basic salaries. There are 1,500 political office holders which include (ministers, special advisers and special assistants) The Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) (Amendment Act) of 2008, enumerates the allowances of these public officers as follows; (using the annual basic salary of N2,026,400 as the basis) accommodation 200 per cent; utilities 30 per cent; domestic staff 75 per cent; entertainment 45 per cent; medical facilities and security are provided by the state and will cover treatment in foreign hospitals; furniture 300 per cent; personal assistants 25 per cent; motor vehicle loan 400 per cent; motor maintenance and fuel allowance, 75 per cent; severance gratuity, 300 per cent; leave allowance, 10 per cent; newspaper allowance, 15 per cent; duty tour allowance, N35,000; estacode $900; monitoring allowance 20 per cent.
Faced with a swelter of criticisms, the Presidency was compelled to make a clarification on Wednesday. Dele Alake, spokesperson for the president, said the president had not approved any salary increase as was being reported in both social and mainstream media.
“We state without any equivocation that President Bola Tinubu has not approved any salary increase, and no such proposal has been brought before him for consideration.
“While we recognise that it is within the constitutional remit of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to propose and fix salaries and allowances of political office holders and Judicial Officers, such cannot come to effect until it has equally been considered and approved by the President.”
The wage-increase furor appears to be over for now, however, given the propensity of Nigerian politicians to look after their pockets exceedingly well, it may well only be a matter of time until we see it arising again.