In a recent interview, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, claimed that United States of America (USA) legislators earn more than their Nigerian counterparts. If that is true, it is pertinent to point out that there is no basis for comparison. The USA is the richest country in the world while Nigeria is one of the poorest. In that interview, he also tried to justify the cost of running the legislative arm of government and argued that public perception of members of that arm of government as spendthrifts is not correct. The legislator went on to state that as a member of the House of Representatives, he earns N1,200,000, while his counterpart in the USA earns $186,000 per annum and has running costs of between $2.6 and $2.8 million within the same period.
The Senate and the Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi are in a running battle, because Sanusi raised the alarm that the legislative body was and still is bleeding the country in the name of law-making. It was also once reported that it costs Nigeria about N250million annually to maintain each senator. This was not denied. One legislator actually argued that Nigerians should draw the line between the person and the office, in terms of expenditure computation.
In our opinion, even if that line is drawn, the cost of maintaining a legislator is obviously still on the high side, especially if one is to consider the assertion of former President Obasanjo while in office, that the budget for the fire service of the State of New York is higher than the entire Nigerian federal budget.
Going by that, we think it is irresponsible for the average Nigerian legislator to expect to earn as much as his US counterpart. The two countries are not equally endowed. To start with, the workload of a Nigerian legislator is nothing compared to that of a member of the US Congress. The duties, responsibilities and sphere of influence of the average American legislator are far more than what the Nigerian legislator could possibly imagine. It would be like comparing the duties of a Nigerian senator with those of a local government councillor, and that would be being charitable.
Above all, the USA Congress is open and transparent to the extent that the average American knows how much their legislators earn and even before they are elected, the legislators know how much they will earn.
In Nigeria, who determines the remuneration of members of the National Assembly? Who vets and audits it? In the Second Republic, the salaries and allowances of public officers, including those of legislators were a subject of debate on national television. The executive and judicial arms of government in the current dispensation submit their budgets to the legislative arm for approval. Who handles that of the legislature? Nigerians have a right to know. It should no longer be left to speculation.