Parliament Special: How justified is severance package for lawmakers?

admin4 months ago7 min

With the tenure expiration of the Ninth National Assembly just about four months away, we examine the appropriation of N30.173 billion as severance package for the lawmakers and sundry provisions

 

 

 

Severance package

 

Severance packages refer to pay and benefits given to employees who leave employment at an organisation unwilfully. 

Typically, such packages are instituted to help protect the newly unemployed and are offered to employees who are laid off or retire. However, they are sometimes offered for those who also resign.

Importantly also, such allowances are paid as an appreciation for a meritorious service, but what bothers on the minds of most Nigerians is whether the severance packages given to the federal lawmakers is commensurate with work done by them.

In Nigeria, Section 6 of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) Act and Section 70 of the Constitution (As Amended) empowers it to determine the salary and allowances of members of the National Assembly.

Only a few of them are very active in their legislative business, while several others do not make any meaningful contribution during plenary, committee meetings nor attract laudable development to their constituencies. Thus, it appears that there are no justification for the payment of bogus severance packages to these lawmakers.

In an interview with a lawmaker who pleaded anonymity, he is of the opinion that determining the salary and allowances of Nigerian lawmakers, such pay by RMAFC should not be based on months of service, but by performance.

This implies that the salary and allowances to be determined must be calculated according to the number of plenary sittings, while work in committees should attract relevant allowances. He further pointed out that it was sad that the National Assembly had to budget such an amount that had nothing to do with the masses.

The lawmaker further lamented that the issue of bogus allowances for Nigerian lawmakers has continued to be a recurring issue whenever cost of governance is being debated.

 

In the 8th Assembly, lawmakers allocated N23.7 billion as severance package for outgoing lawmakers. It was learnt that the sum covered allowances for incoming members of both chambers, their aides, funds for National Assembly induction and inauguration of the 9th Senate. The benefit was captured as a separate line item in the 2019 Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly.

It has also been argued that Nigerian parliamentarians are about the highest paid in the world, thus generating a lot of attention from the public.

READ MORE: 2023 Budget: National Assembly, NASS Library, Others to gulp over N200bn

OrderPaper Nigeria had reported that Principal Officers and members of both chambers will get N30.173 billion as severance package for the 9th Assembly. A provision contained in the 2023 Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday 28th December 2022.

The amount is expected to also cover the inauguration of the lawmakers into the 10th Assembly.

The severance package for the Ninth Assembly is N7 billion higher than what was approved by the Bukola Saraki-led 8th Assembly.

The Nigerian National Assembly has a total of 109 Senators who are elected to represent their respective states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). There are also 360 Members of the House of Representatives elected from the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory.

According to a report by The Punch Newspaper, the National Assembly’s proposed N30.17 billion severance package exceeds the RMFAC’s provision by about N27.36 billion.

As contained in the recommendation of RMAFC, the National Assembly members were allocated about N2.81bn, with senators expected to get N664.94m while House of Representatives members are to be paid N2.15 billion.

Going by this recommendation, The President of the Senate would receive N7.45m, the Deputy President of the Senate would get N6.93m while the other 107 Senators would receive N6.08m each.

In the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is expected to receive N7.43m, the Deputy Speaker N6.86m while the 358 members are to get N5.96m each.

 

READ MORE: “Lawan to get N7.5 million as severance in 2023”

 

A review by RMAFC is usually targeted at ensuring an equitable distribution of the accrued revenue into the Federation Account to the three tiers of government and it was initially to be concluded before the end of 2021.

The commission, however failed to meet its deadline in 2021 and ended up submitting its report of the review of the vertical revenue allocation formula to President Muhammadu Buhari, in April 2022.

Upon receipt of the report, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday however, stated that he would wait for the final outcome of the constitutional review process before delivering the report on the vertical revenue allocation formula revision to the National Assembly as a bill for legislation.

 

Late October 2022, RMAFC Spokesperson, Nwachukwu Christian, said salaries haven’t been increased, but the review would affect political, public and judicial officeholders.

Christian noted that consultation on the upward or downward review of salaries paid to public office holders is usually done with critical stakeholders like civil society organisations and traditional institutions. 

“It will take us across the whole federation to gather input on it. At the end of the whole thing, what we gather will decide if the review will be upward or downward.

We have not carried out the exercise. We are in the process, and this process must be carried out and completed and will give us the result whether it is going to be up or down.

Nobody can come up now to say RMAFC has reviewed upward the salaries of political and judicial officers. That’s false. Until the process is concluded before we can decide on the review.

In the course of the process, people will air their views on where the country is now. Nigerians must make their input because it is their money that will be used to pay these officeholders. So, we have to consider their inputs,” he said.

Relying on the above fact as stated by President Buhari and RMAFC image maker, one wonders the legal instrument relied upon by the lawmakers to carry out such actions.

 

 

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