Thursday, September 29, 2011

Law makers in Nigeria are highest paid in the world

Nigerian parliamentarians were yesterday described as the highest paid in the world. A job that pays $100,000 a month in a country where half the people earn less than $1 a day.

While basic pay for legislators was set at between 1.9 million naira ($12,250) and 2.4 million naira a month, the lawmakers in 2007 approved legislation that gave them monthly allowances of as much as 400 percent of their salary for 21 items including cars, furniture and housing, enabling them to collect as much as 15 million naira a month each.

Richard Dowden, Executive Director, African Royal Society, United Kingdom (UK) said this yesterday as guest speaker at this year’s Nigeria Independence Anniversary Lecture hosted by the Ministry of foreign Affairs.

Dowden who described the situation as "obscene" said it is unacceptable that the country spends so much on parliamentarians while having well over 10 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality rate and 10 per cent of world’s children who are out of school

"More than 100 million Nigerians live in poverty- which is a quarter of the total poverty in sub Sahara Africa. Nigeria has over 10 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality and child mortality and 10 per cent of world’s children out of school. This is unacceptable. It is even more unacceptable that in a country with those statistics, the politicians are the highest paid in the world. $1millioin for a Parliamentary salary with another $1million in expenses is obscene"

While noting that the discovery of oil in Nigeria has become a "curse" rather a blessing, he called on government to build strong institutions that will not only promote the efficient utilisation of resources but also ensure consistency and continuity in governance.

He warned that unless the disparity between the rich and poor are narrowed, the nation stands the risk of witnessing a mass revolt similar to the one currently going on in the Arab world.

"I think there are good reasons why the Arab spring has not happened south of the Sahara. But I think it will if the young, globally- connected generation coming up through now, are unable to fulfill their potential. It is a matter of time.

"Think of development as a project not for next week but for your great grand children. But start now"

Dowden, who is currently the Director of Africa Royal society, identified "unfairness in the system of resource allocation" as reason for the fierce competition" which the country is currently experiencing.

He also identified corruption, poor reputation and flight of human capital as other factors that have worked against the country’s economic prosperity.

He blamed past government for engaging in wrong economic policies which he said were done for political reasons.

He said: "But the fifth and main problem that Nigeria faces is politics often, Nigeria and much of Africa has followed the wrong economic policies for political reasons. Adding "this has accounted for the over one hundred million Nigerians living in poverty.

"After oil and corruption which are closely linked, I would say that Nigeria’s reputation in the past still puts off investors and tourists.

"What I see here is that perceived or real unfairness in the system of resource allocation has led to fierce competition for success- or just survival. I would say that the competitive, creative spirit this creates is far more powerful than in any other country in the world".

He said Nigeria at Independence had a trade surplus with the U k and substantial reserve.

"In the 1970 oil was only 60 per cent of export. By 1982 it was 99 per cent of export and almost the same proportion of fiscal revenue. Almost all other exports like Cocoa, rubber, cotton and ground nuts had been wiped out"

He said between 1970 and 2001 per capita income fell from $264 to $256 in constant dollar rate.

"By 2000 Nigeria became an oil rich deeply indebted country and experience of the vast majority of Nigerians became poorer and concluded that oil is a curse to the country".

Daily Champion   Bloomberg

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