Discussions on the salary and allowances of Nigerian Senators are some of the most controversial topics you would find on various media tabloids, especially as so many bogus amounts have been thrown around. Listed among countries with the richest number of legislators, Nigeria is said to have the highest-paid federal legislators in the world with each of the 109 senators earning over $597,000 per year in salaries and allowances. This results in a total of ₦20 billion ($65 million) per year and ₦79 billion ($260 million) at the end of each legislative tenure (4 years). Given that the members of the senate are only required to sit for at least 180 days a year, this equates to ₦1 million a day.
It is general knowledge that the Nigerian political sector is one of the foremost lucrative jobs in the country presently. It’s easy to ascertain why politicians do all they could to secure political seats, most importantly the senate-house. Have you ever wondered why politicians spend a whole lot of money during their campaign for political offices? This is often because they aim at recovering what they spent during their campaign and recuperating even more if they eventually get the political seat they aspire for. One of the main reasons why the senatorial seat is also the hottest and the most lucrative area of concentration for top politicians is simply because of the great pay pack the senators are given. You may as well call the senate-house a retirement home for top political holders and two-term governors.
How Much Do Nigerian Senators Really Earn as Salary?
Not until recently, the particular figures in take-home salaries plus allowances that the Nigerian Senators earn weren’t disclosed to the general public. With tons of uncertainties, speculations, and rumors around what an average Nigerian Senator earns, a senator from Kaduna State, Senator Shehu Sani, disclosed in an interview the true earnings of a serving Senator in Nigeria – both basic salaries and allowances.
Senator Shehu Sani who was a representative for Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly made it known to the general public that Nigerian Senators are paid the sum of ₦750,000 monthly as basic salary in addition to a ₦13.5 million in monthly allowance. This makes up a total of ₦14.25 million a month and a sum of ₦171 million when calculated on an annual basis. When converted with the present black-market rate of naira to the U.S. dollar, it sums up a complete amount of $39,583 a month, and $475,000 per annum.
After the revelation by Senator Shehu Sani on the subject matter, as expected, the Nigerian masses were boomed with outrage about how huge in salary plus allowance the Nigerian Senators earned for doing almost nothing productive amidst the economic downfall of the country. As it has always been, the complaint from the masses fell on deaf ears, and to date, nothing has been done to change or regulate the huge amount of money these politicians cart away every month.
A Break Down of Nigerian Senators Salary and Allowances Annually
From information gathered thus far along with the released details in 2017, each office of the Nigeria Senate receives a total sum of N13.5 million on a monthly basis and while there are no specific instructions on what these allowances are to be spent on, the senators are mandated to show receipts of evidence of what these allowances were spent on. According to Senator Shehu Sani, Senators must be accountable for the allowances they are given.
After a tenure as a Senator, which usually last for a period of four (4) years, the lawmakers receive an additional N24,000,000 which is said to be meant for several allowances such as wardrobe allowance, leave allowance, constituency allowance, accommodation allowance amongst other allowances.
When summed up together, the federal government spends N2,625,810 on each senator for various allowances. And when added to the initial basic salary and other allowances stated earlier, each of the 109 senators in Nigeria receives a total sum of N33,992,360.
Based on this breakdown, the average amount in basic salary and allowances a Nigerian Senator receives amounts to N29 million monthly. One would easily understand the reason behind former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo‘s comment back in August 2016 regarding this same issue, when he referred to the National Assembly as a den of corruption occupied by a gang of ‘unarmed robbers’.
A Complete List of Allowances and The Corresponding Values as Received by Each Nigerian Senator
1. Motor Vehicle Allowance – ₦9,936,982
This allowance covers for the vehicle(s) to be purchased by a senator. It is common knowledge that every Nigerian senator receives some of the latest cars during their tenure in office. In 2012, about N1.3 billion was spent on official cars for the senators. The amount increased to N5.5 billion in 2019 as they switched to another car brand.
The chamber has always maintained that the cars are not purchased for the luxury cravings of individual senators but to enhance the operations of committees.
2. Hardship Allowance – ₦1,242,122
While the term “Hardship Allowance” in this context is not clearly defined, an economic research institute defines a hardship allowance as an amount paid in recognition of ‘different’ conditions prevailing at the host location. The degree of hardship in the host may include isolation, special health risks, extremes of climate, and political instability. This allowance according to the institute, is usually expressed as a percentage of the basic salary. This allowance is paid to ensure the senator is living a comforting life during his tenure in office. This could also be referred to as ‘hazard allowance‘ as received by the Nigerian resident doctors, except for the fact that the money for the latter (N5,000) is much lower than the former (N1.2 million).
3. Leave Allowance – ₦248,424
Like every other public servant, a Nigerian Senator is entitled to leaves. However, aside from receiving your monthly basic salary, you receive a whopping ₦248,424. This allowance is paid during the period a senator goes on his/her leave from office.
4. Constituency Allowance – ₦4,968,509
This allowance is paid to make sure that each senator handles little projects in his/her constituency. So when you see billboards bearing the inscription; ‘This project was funded by senator/honourable XYZ,’ know that it is a method federal lawmakers use in communicating how they are supposedly using their allocated funds under the zonal intervention project system.
It is believed that every legislator representing a constituency has outlined the needs of their respective constituencies for execution during their terms in office. Sadly, once any of the projects are approved, the money is released by the executive to the contractors, which often is a hoax company established by the legislator who inserted the project. The fund, meant for the project, is eventually shared between parties that agreed to the insertion. While a portion of the fund may be used to execute the project, a lot more is diverted into private accounts of their political sponsors.
5. Vehicle Maintenance Allowance – ₦1,863,184
Okay, this allowance is made available to take care of fueling vehicles that belong to a senator as well as when needs for repair or servicing arise. Simply put, a senator is given a luxury official car and money to maintain it.
6. Furniture Allowance – ₦7,452,736
This allowance is paid to enable each serving senator to purchase or repair furniture either in their offices or in any other places they prefer to stay.
7. Newspaper Allowance – ₦1,242,122
This allowance covers the purchase of newspapers to keep the House Member abreast of the issues happening in and around the country.
8. Entertainment – ₦828,081
This allowance covers the cost of any form of entertainment a senator may choose to have.
9. Wardrobe Allowance – ₦621,061
This allowance covers the senator’s clothing outfits. These amounts are believed to be paid annually.
10. Domestic Staff – ₦863,184
This allowance is made to cover payment for staff working in the senator’s house. They include chefs, cleaners, and security agents.
11. Recess Allowance – ₦248,424
As the name implies, this allowance covers the times the senate goes on break.
12. Utilities – ₦828,081
This allowance takes care of bills such as water, electricity, and more at the home of the senator.
13. Accommodation – ₦4,968,509
Just like the name suggests, this allowance covers the senator’s housing.
Other Incentives the Nigerian Senators Receive
Each senator in Nigeria is given a ₦200 million fund to work on projects in their constituency. This money is not added to any of their salaries or allowances. According to reports, this money is not handed to the senators in person. Rather, an agency in the government is in charge of handling this fund and is meant to only release this fund when the senators have identified projects to utilize these funds on in their constituency.
When a senator is eventually recalled or sacked by his constituency, such a senator receives one-off payments (Severance gratuity) of N7,452,736.50
In June 2019, there were reports about how the sum of N4.68bn was shared among 469 lawmakers. The amount which was tagged as a welcome package was meant for the lawmakers to sort out accommodation and furniture issues.
Further investigations also revealed that each senator was to receive a whopping N40.5m for three months as an overhead allowance, while each member of the House of Representatives receives N30m for the same purpose. These are just some of the many hidden allowances reportedly given to the already wealthy Nigerian Senators.
Are Nigerian Senators Paid Better Than Their Counterparts in Other Countries?
When compared to the salaries of lawmakers in other countries, there are not many countries whose lawmakers earn more than what the Nigerian senators earn. When compared in dollars, the Nigerian senators earn $70,911. Here are what lawmakers from some other counties earn:
- Ghana – $25,770
- South Africa – $76,283
- United States – $174,000
- Canada – $127,089
- Germany – $204,961
- France – $77,521
- Spain – $50,055
- Britain – $89,962
- Saudi Arabia – $63,982
- Malaysia – $26,394
- Sri Lanka – $3,546
Are There Plans To Review Senator’s Salaries and Allowance Structure?
Amid the rising security issues and economic downfalls experienced by the country, several non-governmental agencies have intensified calls for the Nigerian government to reduce the cost of governance starting with the reduction of the number of senators from 109 to 70, plus a massive salary cut for members of the house. In response to people’s cry, President Mohammad Buhari in 2015, directed the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to address the issue. The RMAFC boss at the time said that the commission was working on the review of the salaries and allowances of the political office holders at the National Assembly, the State Assemblies, and Local Governments, adding that the review would also cover the Judiciary.
Meanwhile, investigations have shown that the process of reviewing downwards the entitlements of lawmakers and other officeholders was aborted by the Presidency, which refused to officially receive a bill for the review of salaries and allowances of public office holders prepared by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.