By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not keeping to his promise of reducing cost of governance as his administration will spend a whooping sum of N8.63 billion on ministers’ salaries and allowances over the next four years, according to findings by the Daily Trust.
The figure could however rise as the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) finalises its review of public servants’ remuneration.
But experts who spoke to Daily Trust said the large cabinet contradicts President Bola Tinubu’s promise of reducing the cost of governance.
They also said having many ministers who would in turn have many aides would put a lot of pressure on resources available at the detriment of millions of Nigerians who are in need of good governance.
This is the first time a federal cabinet will be made up of 48 ministers since the return of democracy in the country in 1999.
Tinubu’s immediate predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, had 42 ministers.
Similarly, in 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed 33 ministers to his cabinet, nine of whom were carried over from the late President Umar Yar’Adua’s administration.
The late President Yar’Adua appointed 39 ministers in 2007; while former President Olusegun Obasanjo had 42 ministers in 1999.
Ministers’ pay, allowances hit N1.5bn each in 4yrs less estacodes
Further analysis by Daily Trust shows that the federal government will spend over N13 billion on the salaries and allowances of the ministers alone.
This excludes estacodes and other travel expenses that the government will spend on the incoming ministers.
Experts say considering the penchant for traveling by Nigerian politicians, only time will tell how much this will guzzle from Nigeria’s forex, which is hard to get considering our low output in terms of export.
It is very common to see ministers attending international conferences and in some cases jetting out in search of foreign investment for the sector they superintend.
Data on the remuneration package for public service holders from RMFAC revealed that a minister’s monthly salary is fixed at N650,135.99. This means that a minister gets N7.801 million per annum.
A breakdown of this amount showed that the basic salary of a minister is N2,026,400 per annum; vehicle fueling N1,519,800; personal assistance, N506,600; domestic staff, N1,519,800; entertainment, N911,880; utilities, N607,920; monitoring, N405,280 and newspapers, N303,960.
These exclude other allowances approved for ministers by the RMAFC such as N16.20m for accommodation for four years; furniture allowance, N6.079m; severance gratuity, N6.079m; leave allowance, N0.81m and motor vehicle allowance, N8.1m.
Based on the analysis, each of the 48 ministers will get a N31.2m salary for four years. This implies that all of them will receive N1.497bn as monthly salary for the next four years.
Each minister is also granted annual supplementary allowances of N37.28 million translating into N1.785 billion annually for all of them and N7.142bn for four years.
‘Reducing cost of governance inevitable’
Given the country’s fiscal challenges, there have been calls for a reduction in the cost of governance.
A sum of N8.5 trillion out of the N21.82 trillion 2023 budget is for the remuneration of public officials, unlike the previous year when personnel expenditures and salaries took N6.8 trillion from a total budget of N16.3 trillion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) had said between October and December 2022, Nigeria spent N406.77 billion on domestic debt servicing and $312.27 million (N143.74 billion) on external debt servicing, making a total of N550.51 billion.
Between January and March 2023, Nigeria spent N874.13 billion on domestic debt servicing and $801.36 million (N368.87 billion) on external debt servicing, totaling N1.24 trillion.
A detailed analysis of the 2023 budget shows that a total of N18.04 trillion is allocated to all the 541 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.
The Stephen Oronsaye panel’s report on the reform of the civil service had recommended mergers of some MDAs for the government to reduce the cost of governance.
The report, which was submitted in 2011, recommended that out of the 541 statutory and non-statutory agencies of government, 263 statutory agencies should be reduced to 161; while 52 should be merged. The report further recommended that 52 agencies be scrapped and 14 others made departments in ministries.
If the MDAs are pruned down to 161, the federal government will only need a little above N5 trillion to spend on all of them, thereby saving the nation over N12 trillion, experts said.
Ministers’ earnings to shoot after RMFAC’s wages review
The new 48 ministers’ earnings would go up when RMAFC reviews the salaries and wages of political office holders as proposed.
RMFAC had put up a proposal to review the salaries and allowances of public office holders was already in top gear.
The proposal, which was developed during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, needs the approval of 2/3 of state assemblies before it is presented to the president for assent.
Providing details about the revision, Christian Chukwu, the Public Relations Officer of RMAFC, explained, “In February, we conducted a comprehensive public hearing. The subsequent steps involve submitting the review to the president, who will then relay it to the National Assembly.
“Following deliberation within the National Assembly, the revised proposal will return to the president for final approval, at which point, it will become a legally binding regulation. Currently, we are actively engaged in the process of reassessing the salary framework.”
But later in an interview with another newspaper, Chukwu clarified that the increment of salaries of public servants had not been approved.
Overloaded cabinet wasteful; implement Oronsaye c’ttee report – Experts
The Executive Director, Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CefTIW), Umar Yakubu, said it is wasteful for President Tinubu to appoint 48 ministers, especially at a time the government says it is trying to cut the cost of governance and generate revenue.
“The constitutional requirement for appointment says one minister from each state and the FCT (which is supposed to be 37), but now, the president has appointed 11 more ministers above the constitutional requirements, which will now add more pressure on the cost of governance and recurrent expenditure.
“It is wasteful to have 48 ministers when other countries are merging. For instance, the US only has 15 ministries. Unfortunately, we are down here expanding and adding more burden to our fiscal crisis. Official vehicles would be bought for these ministers, and you can imagine the cost of fueling and maintaining these vehicles,” he said.
Yakubu stressed the need for a monitoring and evaluation template that the citizens and civil society organisations should have to hold ministers accountable.
A developmental economist at the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Joseph Momoh, said there is a need for urgent implementation of the Stephen Oronsaye committee report, especially in the aspect of merging agencies.
“Recently, the Presidential Advisory Council submitted its report to President Tinubu in which it proposed the merger of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) into the Nigerian Revenue Service (NRS) to ensure an efficient collection of all direct and indirect taxes, as well as levies on behalf of the federal government.
“Also, the EFCC, ICPC and other agencies carrying out similar functions should be merged. Furthermore, a constitutional amendment is required to establish a rational figure, such as 20 ministers, as the current substantial number is not sustainable.
“The idea that each state must have a minister can no longer hold water due to the high cost of governance. Twenty ministers, or the highest 25, can do the job, no need for 48,” he said.
‘Reduce membership of governing boards, councils’
Momoh also urged the government to reduce the membership for the governing boards or councils of the various agencies, parastatals and commissions, noting that appointing over 2,000 board members across agencies is excessive.
He emphasised that the selection and composition of boards and commissions should prioritise merit and competence. (Daily Trust)