The Nigerian Lawmaker’s Salary: Golden Peanuts for Nothing


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For those who find graphs as indecipherable as Latin, let me help you. This graph by The Economist magazine simply illustrates the salaries of Lawmakers around the world as a ratio to the GDP per person. African nations rank high, with the ‘Giant of Africa’ taking the highest by an astronomically wide margin of $189 000 (about 30,500,000) . The Nigerian lawmaker receives 116 times the country’s GDP per capita. To put this in a cross-continental perspective, the average Nigerian lawmaker earns more than the President of the United States. Who’s shocked? Surprisingly, this figure vastly underestimates the total amount of a Senator’s earning. A number of bonuses and allowances (Free air travel, accommodation, health care, newspaper allowance ,hardship allowance and many other random allowances) are not considered…neither is the vast amount of money garnered through bribery and other illegal transactions…allegedly, of course. 🙂

Present indolent conditions in Nigeria fuel such wonton disparity between the average Nigerian and the Lawmaker. In a society where the private sector remains immature, people predictably head for the literally greener pastures of politics and public service. Given the current corrupt-laden atmosphere, the competition for such positions is predictably vicious and corrupt. High salaries are not necessarily a cause of corruption within this sector. The graph shows countries like Australia, Singapore and Canada with lawmaker earnings similar to ours, but with lesser disparity in their ratio of GDP Per Person and lesser corruption. In fact, lawmakers in several countries earn high salaries as a disincentive to corrupt practices. Nations like Singapore successfully apply this rational to checkmate the economic incentive to engage in corruption. However, we wouldn’t have tales of twisted politicians in Nigeria if high salaries were the panacea to corruption, would we? Inversely, drastically reducing the earnings of Nigerian lawmakers might only worsen corruption, as it would simply make them susceptible to external monetary influence. So how do we address this salary conundrum?

The Economist magazine passingly suggests tying salaries to GDP. As much as I love the idea of using monetary incentives, it has a glaring weakness: GDP is an inaccurate measure of economic development. Nigeria serves as a perfect example of a country where GDP rises, but development indicators fall: our HDI consisting of health, literacy level and life expectancy plummets. A better salary anchor might be the inequality gap. As inequality rises, salaries fall and vice versa. Such anchoring intends to change the incentive of lawmakers to that of economic development. If inequality falls, the glaring gap in the ratio of GDP falls too. On the flip side of the coin, the inability to operate under such an anchor could easily push them to engage in other corrupt activities outside of the salary structure. However, this system turns out to be theoretical and frankly unachievable. Hell will freeze over before Nigerian lawmakers subject themselves to such a constraining system. As long as those making the rules get to decide how it applies to them, the rules will always be to their benefit.

As with almost every post done, I reiterate on the importance of a system/structure. A three-prong approach of salary anchoring, enforceable anti-corruption measures, and stronger citizen/civil society participation could curb the excesses of Government. By ‘tackling both the policing and financial factors of corruption, Singapore shifted the payoff of corrupt activity from a low risk, high reward to high risk, low reward’. Also, Kenyan MPs were recently curtailed by public uproar after attempting to raise their salary from $75,000 to $120,000 a year.

Current flames of indignant passions arising from the citizens towards the girl child marriage brouhaha have to be amplified and channeled towards these seemingly less toxic misbehaviors of our Lawmakers and Government at large. In the meantime, let’s ponder on the fact that 35 of these Senators have no bills to show for the last 2 years in office. Or in another perspective, consider that we pay approximately N32,250,000 ($200,000) yearly to those who managed to let Senator Yerima bring confusion to the constitution, thanks to their incomprehension of the law. Given such poor track record, no sane nation should have them as the highest paid lawmakers in the world… I wonder what that says about our nation.

 

  • *sigh. There are over seven things in this country that make one weak and this is just one of them. You actually omitted hardship allowance. And yes, they collect hardship allowance only to make our lives harder. If they worked hard to earn this money, no one would complain but they actually don’t. The average senator earns more than the American president. Compare what they do to what he does and you’ll weep. Great piece as always. Leaves one with a lot to ponder on

    • Hardship allowance? For real? WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY????? Nice article. The effect – sadness.

      • Yeah, hardship allowance. I wonder what could possibly be hard about sitting in cushioned chairs and voting to allow paedophiles have a field day in the country. I mean, what could be so hard about travelling to choice islands in the world on vacations with family. What could be so hard about riding nice cars and taking all expense paid trips to exotic locations in the world? I guess our lawmakers do re-define hardship

  • Anonymous

    so how do we checkmate this evil that has been in our country for ages..what are the legal standpoints we can fight them with

  • I was skeptical about the #AugustMarch before, now I’m reconsidering. Hardship allowance?? A legislator earns more than the US president? Haaaa! And absolutely nothing to show for it. This is so wrong.

  • Newspaper allowance?? Ridiculous!
    If all i do is scream is: Aye! Nayh! and collect 30milla then i want dat kinda Job!
    Effect: half-mad,half-confused.
    -Great article Chuba.

  • Leah Katherine Wald

    Beautifully written bro, that’s absolutely crazy that the disparity is that large! I looked it up and the World Bank reports the Gini index for Nigeria in 2010 to be 48.8!!

    It’s really crazy to think about humans’ desire for power and their propensity to engage in corrupt acts to secure or strengthen this power. It has been noted by political economists that as developing countries engage in industrialization efforts later in the 20th century, their methods of economic development are characterized as being increasingly more authoritarian (vs. liberal) in nature. As you’ve written above, the atmosphere of authoritarian economic and political culture, reinforce domestic and international rules that benefit the elites in the center of the developing country. This further strengthens the State and creates a disadvantageous vicious cycle for the society, those existing in the periphery, of the developing country. Many charismatic leaders have notoriously risen to power in Sub-Saharan African countries from running on platforms of industrialization by promising stability and basic necessities yet these remained empty promises as soon as the money started rolling in.

    Taking what you’ve written above, it is necessary to understand the other shareholders in your equation i.e. the people that are being affected by the actions of the lawmakers. It’s no paradigm shift to say that society usually loses when considering the actions of businessmen and lawmakers (sometimes indistinguishable….). Economics teaches us that all individuals are solely interested in maximizing their own utility and therefore if the businessmen and government are the two players making decisions that affect the populace and they are simply acting in their self-interest then of course there will be instances when society suffers. However, peering into psychology (Chine? Please help! Haha), he who will not be beaten cannot be beaten and a human’s sheer will can triumph over great odds. It’s shown in nature that even the most aggressive animal will not attack man unless he shows fright. Better yet, recent economics (behavioral) teaches us that we are irrational and actually make irrational decisions (something we’ve always known that classical economics refused to acknowledge!). Therefore, I believe all is not lost. From knowing you, your strength and determination, I know that the corruption currently evident will not always be in existence because you’re an example of a strong human whose will cannot be beaten down; rather someone who fights for what he believes in; thus, I believe in you. If the shareholder of ‘society’ strengthens and voices its interests then a new dynamic should arise. Question is- how to stimulate, motivate and empower the private sector/local entrepreneurs in a manner that can positively challenge the existing norms and lead to wealth circulating throughout society?