Towards A Living Wage For All

Labour during a protest

Labour during a protest

THE Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, (RMAFC) is by virtue of Item 1, Part II of Second Schedule made pursuant to Section 4 (4) (9), both a creation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 amended and an Act of the National Assembly, by virtue of the Decree No. 49, 1989, now transformed and rechristened Chapter R7, Laws of the Federation Nigeria 2014.

The Commission is charged with several functions, among which is the determination of the remuneration packages of public officers as specified in Parts A and B of the First Schedule to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act, See S. 6(1) (d) of the Act.

By the above stipulation, the Commission is specifically charged with the determination and fixing of the remuneration of the officers listed in Sections 124, 111, 84, 70 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. And these officers are the Governors and Deputy Governors of States of the Federation, Auditor-General for a State and Chairman and Members of the State Boards created by the Constitution, namely; State Civil Service Commission, State Judicial Service Commission and State Independent Electoral Commission; Members of the State Houses of Assembly; the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic, Judicial Officers of the Federation and State courts created by the Constitution and Federal Commissions and agencies created by the Constitution; and Members of the National Assembly.

Note, that the inclusion of the State Local Government Commission in Part B of the First Schedule to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation Fiscal Commission Act, may not be constitutional, given that Section 124 Subsection (4) of the 1999 Constitution clearly excluded that body. And what is expressly excluded, and clearly not envisaged and/or contemplated by the Constitution cannot be included by the National Assembly. And not even the provisions of Section 162 of the Constitution can save that legislative benevolence.

Historical Development of Remuneration of Specified Public Officers
NIGERIA was a colonial creation. And the architecture of the rights and privileges of the people of Nigeria flowed from the traditions set and entrenched in the body politic from 1861 to 1960. In every aspect of the political economy, the colonial masters created an apartheid system. In the dwelling patterns in towns; it created the Government Reserved Areas, exclusively for the British colonial officers. In the labour relations; it created public officers’ salary structure different from that of the indigenes.

The colonial government was an alien, prebendal and predatory institution. It created a slave-wage structure for the colonial people, while it designed and created a separate salary structure for the European colonial officers, which were lavishly padded with allowances just like the allowances being granted to present day Nigerian public officers by the Nigerian system. The reason for these lavish salaries and allowances could be attributed to the fact that the European colonial officers could claim that they took risks in explorations, and eventual conquest of Nigeria and that it was onerous to leave their European society for an alien one with the attendant hazards. What hazards can Nigerian political and public officers claim?

The problem with the remuneration packages or condition of service of political office holders is the seeming apartheid system created by the 1999 Constitution, borrowing, of course, from our colonial legacy by stipulating a condition of service for the political class quite distinct from that prescribed for the civil servants and other wage earners throughout the federation. And labour and salary matters are matters under the Concurrent Legislative List where the Federal Government’s Legislative measures override or supersede any measure by the states.

Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission fixes the salaries and remuneration packages for virtually the political and judicial class, which constitute the upper class of the society, while the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, established under the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission Act, Chapter N72, Laws of the Federation, 2004 regulates incomes, salaries and wages of civil servants of the various sectors of the political economy in Nigeria. There is also the other body known as Wages Board and Industrial Council established under Wages, Boards and Industrial Act, Cap. W1, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

One striking feature of these laws and agencies they created is that they owe their origins from the military regimes spanning from 1966- 1979 and 1984 -1999, when unitary system of government was the unpretentious legal order, even though this legal order is retained under the 1999 Constitution. And in any case, this legal order owes its origin from our baleful colonial legacy and experience, which our indigenous political progenitors inherited and gleefully appropriated rather than discard with, quite unlike the United States of America’s founding fathers that broke ranks socio-politically and otherwise with monarchical Britain with its feudal-conditioned society and went ahead to create a brand new republic.

Distortion of Nigeria’s Political Economy
APARTHEID system of income distribution distorts the political economy. Due to the apparent social injustice engendered by the two systems of income distribution among the productive forces of the economy, the political economy has been seriously distorted and socio-political unrests among the various workers in the civil service, the university? The private sectors, etc., have become recurrent and intractable. Nobody has actually sat down to think about the origin of the incessant labour strikes in Nigeria that have rendered the economy comatose and productivity-wise zero. The apartheid income distribution system destabilizes the political system, as it makes political office quite attractive to all kinds of persons who would otherwise not be interested in politics. The councilor occupies the lowest rung of the political hierarchy in Nigeria, having been elected to his office with an entry qualification requiring only First School Leaving Certificate, but earns higher (over N150,000 monthly) than a graduate assistant and even junior lecturers in the university system. Invariably, zones of relative economic comfort and greener pastures attract greater interest. This obvious socio-economic advantage offered by politics is the origin of “do or die” politics as espoused by General Olusegun Obasanjo.

Institute an Egalitarian Income Distribution System for Social Stability
TO lesson the acute distortion of the political economy, which the apartheid income distribution system has engendered in Nigeria, let the Commission summon the courage to educate the President and all who have the political power to change the system that it is only an egalitarian income distribution system that assures every citizen of a living wage that will guarantee peace for the nation as well as reduce the socio-economic and political instability and criminal proclivities induced in the political economy by the unjust apartheid income distribution system. This change will be difficult for current political office holders to accept, but for their own enlightened self interest, it will save them and the political system and not lay it open to revolutionary pressures. The current cosmetic or tokenistic gestures of reduction in basic salary as championed by President Buhari amounts to playing to the gallery and it is no solution whatsoever to the gargantuan problem.

Egalitarian ‘Living Wage’ (Remuneration Packages) for all
THE Commission in inviting memoranda from the public had requested that consideration or cognizance should be taken of certain “basic fundamentals of the economy, affordability and sustainability of the packages and the need for a living wage to ensure honesty and dignity of such office holders.”

It is not necessary to consider these factors without a general consideration of the social-cultural, economic and political implications earlier highlighted in the preceding paragraphs of these memoranda. So as we consider the “living wage” for the political office holders we should extend same to the generality of the productive forces of this nation so as to “ensure honesty and dignity of such office holders.”

So, in fixing the salaries and allowances of the political office holders. let the Commission also ask itself whether the items for the fixing of the allowances such as motor vehicle, fueling, wardrobe, maintenance, special assistant, personal assistant, hardship, domestic staff, entertainment, utilities, constituency, security, newspaper/periodicals, accommodation, furniture, annual leave, severance gratuity, vehicle loan, duty tour and estacode, etc are also available to the generality of Nigeria workers.
Accepted that the President and Governor and such like leaders are entitled to specialized assistance from experts such as Special Assistants, etc, but it is unthinkable and quite contrary to African socio-cultural, economic and political experience that the political office or position should be rendered quite lucrative as to render it munificent, thereby, robbing it of its essential character of being a vocation of service.

The basic salary scales as reported by the Commission in the Daily Sun, Thursday, June 11, 2015, p.56 are as Follows:
President N3.57 Million per annum
Vice President – N3.03 Million per annum
Minister – N2.02 Million per annum
Minister of State – N1.95Million per annum
Special Adviser – N1.94 Million per annum
Governor N2.2 Million per annum
In the poorest of states of the Federation, no local government councilor/supervisor receives anything less than N124,000.00 as monthly emolument.

The basic salary of these political officeholders may not be the problem and certainly not obnoxious. However, it is the padded allowances that are the issue and these sundry allowances ranging from the rational to irrational could not be allowed in any republican and egalitarian state; that has been the issue between the people and the state in Nigeria, which in any case has been hijacked to serve narrow and obviously selfish interests.

Fixing the Remuneration
LET all workers judicial, political office holders and civil servants be remunerated on objective criteria or indices according to the Minimum Wage Act, that will accommodate peculiarities of each sector such as hazard, specialized knowledge, etc. If this egalitarian system is adopted it will cure the serious distortion, which the extant apartheid system has already induced in the political economy and the concomitant socio-political and economic instability. Public office is not for profit but for service, just reward and honour. Those who desire profit should go into business and occupations/professions. The salary of the President and Governors and other political office holder should be determined using the scale used in the minimum wage structure, while some items of the allowances that shoot up the scale be either removed entirely or reduced to accord with current socio-economic and political reality. Different salary scales for the political, judicial and other public (civil) servants is a colonial legacy, which the colonizers used to hold the people down economically and socially. Let’s abolish it and in its place institute an egalitarian and just salary scale for all classes of workers and political office holders. There must be a living wage for all!

THAT the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission is a creation of Law and the Constitution, charged specifically with the determination and fixing of the salaries, remunerations and allowances of judicial officers of courts created by the Constitution and the specified political office holders throughout the federation.

That the specific determination of the conditions of service (remuneration and allowances) of all judicial officers and political office holders distinct and different from the scales and structures contained in the National Minimum Wage Act, Chapter N61, Laws of the Federation, 2004 as reviewed and implemented by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission is undemocratic, unjust and clearly apartheid.

That these distinct and separate remunerative conditions of service for the productive forces of the federation is an apartheid system and therefore contrary to Sections 34 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution.

That this apartheid system of income distribution in Nigeria has seriously distorted the political economy and induced poverty, criminality, desperation and national misery in the society.

An amendment of the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution especially Sections 84 subsection (3), section 11 subsection (3) and Section 124 subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Note, that the salaries as fixed cannot be altered to the disadvantage of all the judicial officers and political officer holders enumerated in Section 84 subsection (4) of the Constitution, but their allowances may be removed entirely or reduced as the Commission may wish or think fit. So in order to achieve the desired egalitarian and just income distribution, the Commission can fall back on the indices and scales stipulated under the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission Act, to determine and fix the salaries and allowances of the specified judicial and political officeholders.

Since the Commission cannot alter the salary scale of the said public and judicial officers to their disadvantage, it can however, determine their allowances in accordance with the conditions of service applicable under the National Minimum Wages Act, as implemented by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.

The Commission should carry out re-orientation of political office holders’ beliefs that political office is an occupation or profession with the concomitant inclination for personal profit or gain, as opposed to its essential character of being a vocation of service, altruism, honour and just reward.

Being excerpt of a Memorandum submitted by Onu John Onwe, a doctoral student of law and former Political and Legislative Adviser, Ebonyi State, to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission

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