• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Public officers must stop feasting at the expense of Nigerians

Public officers must stop feasting at the expense of Nigerians

Public office holders expect Nigerians to be understanding during hard times, and to make adjustments that lower every individual’s comfort and even quality of lives. They want everyone but themselves to make sacrifices, and this must stop.

Entitlements of public office holders in Nigeria from the executive, to legislature and judiciary are always tamper-proof, even when the rest of the country is going through financial hardship. They would rather even pay themselves ‘hardship allowances’ than feel the pinch of every other Nigerian.

Across the arms and tiers of government, office holders would rather binge on various allowances, including coming up with new ones, than to adjust to the reality of higher costs of living in Nigeria. The concept of leading by example is alien and living large while the majority of the country languishes in poverty can no longer be acceptable.

If Nigeria is broke, with citizens facing rising costs of living without increase in incomes, then its leaders cannot live like emperors

Last month, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) had asked States’ Houses of Assemblies to hasten efforts on amendment of relevant laws to give room for upward review of remuneration packages for political, judicial and public officers. The body, which is constitutionally empowered to determine pay of public officer holders, had said the last review of the remuneration was carried out in 2007, and was due for another review 16 years later.

But Nigerians would have none of it. The proposal was coming just as petrol subsidies were removed and Nigerians were paying three times more for fuel. Inflation in general spiked on account of this but incomes were still largely the same. There was anger, and rightly so, about the absurdity of increasing the compensation packages of public officers, while the everyday Nigerian faced increasing costs of living with no commensurate wage increment.

This week, it was reported that former President Olusegun Obasanjo condemned the remuneration of National Assembly members, alleging that the legislators did not allow the institution constitutionally saddled with the responsibility to determine their pay, but decided to fix it themselves. These are the same legislators whose actual, total pay (especially allowances) has largely been shrouded in secrecy and subject of speculations.

According to president Obasanjo, it is a constitutional abuse for members of the National Assembly to fix their own salaries in clear usurpation of the duty of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission. But even if there were increments that followed ‘due process’, he further stated that “Even if it’s constitutional, it is not moral.” But the actions of Nigeria’s legislators have neither been constitutional nor moral, and we agree with the former president.

If Nigeria is broke, with citizens facing rising costs of living without increase in incomes, then its leaders cannot live like emperors. They must, as the saying goes, cut their coats according to their sizes and in this case, the only acceptable size is for as little expenses as possible.

Those elected to manage the affairs of Nigeria, and those appointed (including the judiciary), must not put themselves above the laws and constitution they have sworn to uphold. It is a slap in the face of hardworking, struggling Nigerians that the leaders feast nonstop from the commonwealth, without care for those living miserably all over the country.

Read also: Tinubu must reform public sector to drive development

When subsidies were removed in a spur of the moment, without actually thinking it through ahead of the pronouncement, much less putting palliatives in place, Nigerians took it in good faith. But why should the executive, legislature and judiciary continue to live without adjusting their lifestyles to the reality of a financially broke country that is drowning in debt?

We agree with the position of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that it is unconstitutional and immoral for lawmakers’ to determine their own emoluments. More so, we believe it is wrong for any public office holder to reward themselves indirectly through the various allowances that not only further dig holes in the nation’s finances, but serve as conduits for corruption and stealing.