Speaking at the State House after Mr. Mbam made presentation on the activities and challenges of the commission, President Buhari chided the RMAFC for approving excessive remunerations for some political office holders, and urged the commission to seek a proper interpretation of its powers and address the public outcry against the unreasonably high payments.
President Buhari also warned that severe sanctions will be visited on any individual or organisation that violates the directive on the payment of all national revenue into the Federation Account.
President Buhari spoke a week after online Newspaper Premium Times published details of the federal lawmakers’ salaries and allowances, a publication that sparked widespread public anger against the lawmakers, with many calling for a drastic cut.
But in his response to reporters’ questions after meeting the president, the RMAFC boss said the commission had been working on the review of the salaries and allowances of the political office holders at National Assembly, the State Assemblies and Local Governments, adding that the review also covers the Judiciary.
Mr. Mbam said the review, which according to him is still going through a process and expected to be ready by next month, is expected to reflect the economic realities of the day occasioned by the drop in oil prices.
“We are currently reviewing the subsisting remuneration packages and it is going to reflect the socio-economic realities of today. We expect that before the end of next month, it will be ready. But it will go through a process, it is not something that you will just say yes or no,” he said.
According to Mr. Mbam, “no member of the National Assembly should earn up to N1million per month” and that the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives have no option but to abide by the commission’s new wage formula.
“They do not have a choice. We are guided by the constitution and we are going to be guided by such laws that are provided for in the constitution and the oath they swore to obey,” he said.
According to him, President Buhari advised that they use all legitimate means to ensure that all public office holders’ emoluments comply with those approved by the commission and “ensure that leakages are blocked.”
As part of the challenges faced by the commission, Mr. Mbam said the commission was not properly funded as it should be one of the agencies of government that should have financial autonomy.
“The best way to do that is to include it as one of the agencies that will benefit from first line charge,” he said.
The second challenge, he said is lack of power of enforcement. He therefore demanded a review of the Act establishing the commission so that it can have power of enforcement and sanctions on any of the defaulting MDAs.
Mr. Mbam said the review of of salaries and allowances had been on since last year, noting that it had become imperative to conclude it following the drop in oil prices and the financial constraint which had degenerated to states been unable to pay salaries of staff.
“These are some of the issues that made the review necessary. It did not start with this administration, we started the review as far back as last year. It is not because of the present administration that we commenced it,” he said.
The RMAFC is saddled with the responsibility of determining the remuneration for political office holders, both elected and appointed, from the national level to the local government level.
The pay packages of public office holders, particularly the salaries and allowances of the National Assembly members, have been an issue of serious concern among Nigerians.
Since 2010, the N150 billion annual allocations to the National Assembly in the budget, which includes the salaries and allowances as well as other perks, have remained a closely guarded secret, as their details have always been hidden from the public.
Premium Times had on August 18 published a report indicating that the 360 members of the House of Representatives gulp N6.58 billion from the nation’s treasury in annual salaries and allowances, while the 109 Senators cost the nation N2.14 billion in similar emoluments.
Cumulatively, the country shells out a hefty N8.72 billion every year in salaries and allowances to lawmakers in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
However, the amount the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives remit as tax appears insignificant as their income tax is calculated as a function of their basic salaries alone.
Yet the allowances, which are non-taxed are about 870 percent (Senators) and 820 percent (Reps) of their basic salaries.