Nigeria: Coronavirus - How Ministers, Lawmakers Elsewhere Are Helping Compared With Nigerian Counterparts

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Hit by the impact of coronavirus, Nigeria, like other countries, has been mopping up funds from every means possible to fight the plague and support its shaky economy.

This has been lately due to the free fall in oil prices that has left the country's 2020 budget in limbo.

With an eye on getting ₦120 billion, the government, in a public-private coalition, formed a funding committee, which has Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Femi Otedola as members.

Each of them is to contribute at least ₦1 billion.

Also, in what they called a "gesture of solidarity and support for the FG's efforts to tackle the disease," the nation's 43 ministers have also pledged to have a pay cut this March.

Prior to this, a member of the House of Representatives, Mansur Soro (APC, Bauchi), urged his colleagues to donate their March salaries to procure ventilators, which the country is in shortage of, for public hospitals in the 36 states and FCT.

Some Nigerians on Twitter, many of whom were miffed by a report that the members of the House of Representatives were planning to take delivery of exotic cars, have asked the National Assembly when they will emulate the ministers. The House has denied the report.

What other countries are doing

Late February, Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister, Heng Swee Keat, told the nation's parliament that the president and all political officeholders, including the prime minister, will take a one-month pay cut in solidarity with Singaporeans coping with the coronavirus outbreak.

On the other hand, one-month of special bonus was approved for healthcare officers in front-line agencies directly involved in Singapore's fight against COVID-19. This is in addition to a one-off COVID-19 grant given to 900 selected general practitioner clinics.

Almost at the same time Singapore did this, Hong Kong followed suit. Chief executive Carrie Lam of the city said in a statement that all politically appointed officials would donate a month's salary for charity, in order to "show that the governing team are... riding out the difficult times with the public."

This came days after the government offered front-line medical staff working in high-risk areas a bonus of 20 per cent of their daily basic salary or HK$500 (approximately $64) per day, depending on which is higher.

Earlier this month, Moroccan parliamentarians and members of the government said they will be donating a month's salary to the King Mohammed VI's Special Fund for the Management and Response to COVID-19 "to fight against the risks and the fallout from the COVID-19."

This was preceded by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's announcement that members of the Executive will be taking voluntary salary cuts. While himself and his deputy were to take an 80 per cent pay cut, cabinet secretaries and chief administrative secretaries were to take a 30 per cent cut and principal secretaries 20 per cent.

Hours later, Babu Owino, a member of the Kenyan parliament from Embakasi East, pledged to donate 50 per cent of his salary to help fight COVID-19 in the East African nation.

This week, Pakistani Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani pledged to donate three months' salary in the fight against the pandemic, ARY News reported. Other senators, the report said, will also donate one month's salary to the coronavirus emergency fund.

"Senate's employees in 22, 21, and 20 grade will chip in their five days' salary while those in 17 and 16 grade three days' salary. The employees between seven to 16 grade will donate a single day's remuneration," a statement from the parliament added.

'Undue comparison'

When asked on Saturday if the House of Representatives was having a similar plan, its spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, said the comparison was undue and that "members are already spending their salaries on their constituencies, through the erection of sensitisation billboards, jingles (and) forming of emergency health corps."

Although according to the October edition of Legislative Digest, a periodical publication of the National Assembly, yearly, each member of the House gets about N2 million as constituency allowance. For senators, it is N5 million.

Annually, the take home pay of members of the House in basic salaries and allowances is N17 million -- N9 million in salary and N8 million in allowances -- or N1.4 million per month.

For senators, per annum, it is N24 million -- N13 million in salary and N11 million in allowances -- or N2 million per month.

But, Mr Kalu noted that half of the House members' salaries cannot buy sanitisers, nose masks, and if they don't spend, their constituents would suffer.

When informed that this is the duty of the Executive, he said legislators are the closest to the people, and "the expectation management of the electorates is very high. How many state governments are doing that?"

"You keep seeing them saying 'give us food.' We have to keep managing so that in the future it won't affect us politically."

His colleague in the upper chamber, Godiya Akwashiki, declined to comment despite calls, text and WhatsApp messages, which were marked read.

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