Tinubu’s large cabinet: Separating assets from liabilities
President Bola Tinubu’s choice of a larger cabinet surrounded by political loyalists and hangers-on is at variance with his austere policies and appeal to Nigerians to bear with attendant harsh realities, KEHINDE OLATUNJI reports.
President Bola Tinubu’s new cabinet, whose members were recently sworn-in, will cost the country over N45 billion to maintain in four years, which is an albatross on a country in austere times.
The President appointed 48 ministers, 20 Special Advisers, and a retinue of appointees, making the appointments the largest since the return of democracy in 1999. But stakeholders are of the view that ministries and portfolios assigned to the ministers further revealed that political considerations to reward loyalists, who delivered election victory, towered above economic realities that called for a reduction in the cost of governance.
Based on the remuneration package for political, public, and judicial office holders obtained from the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), a minister’s monthly salary is fixed at N650, 135.99. This translates into a total of N7,801,640 yearly.
A breakdown of this amount shows that the basic salary of a Minister is pegged at N2,026,400 yearly, motor 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.
However, the N7,801,640 yearly salary for a minister does not include other allowances and perks of office. Reports have it that about N16 billion will be spent to procure vehicles, including Toyota Landcruiser, Prado Jeep, and two Hilux trucks for each of the 48 ministers.
It was also gathered that the National Assembly, whose recurrent budget for the 2023 fiscal year runs into “N228.1billion is spending N40b on 465 exotic and bulletproof cars for its principal officers and members.”
Allowances for the ministers include accommodation of N16.20m for four years, furniture of N6.079m, and a severance gratuity of N6.079m. leave allowance of N0.81 m and motor vehicle allowance of N8.1 million.
Based on these packages, the 48 ministers will earn N28.61 million as salary monthly, which translates into N374.48 million yearly and N1.497 billion for the four-year period. In addition to their salary, each minister is entitled to the other allowances of N37.28 million giving a total of N1.789 billion for the 48 of them.
For the 20 Special Advisers, each of them is entitled to a monthly salary of N590, 957, which translates into N7,091,484 yearly, while all of them will earn N141,829,680 from the national treasury. Their four years in office translates to N567, 318,720.
This is not all. Ministers and Special Advisers are also entitled to other allowances, including N15.54 million for accommodation for four years, furniture of N5.828 million, severance gratuity of N5.828 million, leave allowance of N0.78 million and motor vehicle of N7.7 million.
The housing allowance for the newly appointed ministers may cost the country about N343.25 million yearly, and N1.37 billion in four years. Unlike other allowances paid monthly, furniture allowance is paid once in four years.
An analysis of the figures showed that each minister is expected to get a total of N7.7million, while each minister of state is expected to get a total of N7.45 million yearly.
In four years, each minister gets N30.8 million, while each minister of state gets N29.8 million. In total, the 32 ministers will cost the country about N985.6 million, while the 13 ministers of state will gulp about N387.4 million in four years.
The maintenance cost may go up based on the plan by RMAFC to conduct a review of the remuneration of political office holders. The agency said it has not reviewed the salaries and allowance of public officers since 2007.
Many have wondered why the President shunned calls for a reduction in the cost of governance and outdid his predecessors. The President of IGET and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Kingsley Moghalu tweeted that “Fuel subsidies had to go for Nigeria’s economy to survive. Having done it, what’s the sacrifice for our political elite? The cost of governance is too high,”
President Tinubu didn’t toe the path of his predecessors, despite the compelling need to scale down in prodigal appointments. For instance, the ex-president Muhammadu Buhari during his first term in office appointed 36 ministers. In his second term, he increased the list of ministers to 42.
President Goodluck Jonathan had 33 nominees in 2011, including nine from the late Umar Yar’Adua administration. In 2007, Umar Yar’Adua constituted a 39-member cabinet, which included 32 men and seven women.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo initially appointed 42 ministers in 1999 but later reduced the number to 27 and then increased it to 40 before leaving office in 2007.
Given that the country is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest inflation rates based on 2021 figures, according to a survey by the World Bank, eyebrows have been raised as to the rationale behind President Tinubu’s bloated administration.
In his defence, the President told the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero during a private meeting with him that rather than subscribe to complaints over hiring numerous Senior Advisers (SAs) and “SAs to SAs,” the unionists should consider the hires in the light of job creation.
Ajaero said: “He (Tinubu) took his own case for example. He told us that if you come to his fleet of cars, that it was large and he made efforts to reduce it and he was told that it’s a security issue.
“He equally went further to say that he prefers to use his own private jet and they told him no, it’s a security issue; he must use the government jet. And he went further to say, even himself, that he’s using only a two-bedroom flat.
“That he’s trying as much as possible to tighten his belt and he would try as much as possible to talk to his people working with him. So, I don’t know what that means,” he added.
Nigeria’s constitution mandates the appointment of at least one minister from each state of the federation. This makes for the appointment of ministers who are actually neither needed nor able to make a critical impact.
Speaking with The Guardian, a Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella said the present administration’s decision to balkanise some ministries led to its decision to nominate more ministers than its predecessors.
He said, for instance, the ministries of finance, budget and economic planning have been separated and each ministry now has its own minister. The don added that the President is also concerned about finances, he is not thinking of borrowing to finance the government.
“Having more ministries means each ministry will have its own workers, so, it means they will increase the number of workers and that will lead to employment. If we had 30 ministries and we are having 45 ministries now, there must be some employment generated. So, we can look at it from that angle too.
“What is important is there must be some ways of cutting down on the cost of running the government and when we are talking of running the government, it’s not just about the number of ministries alone, it’s also about how much that is being paid at the legislative level.”
He urged the revenue mobilisation committee to ensure that the money the lawmakers are collecting is in tandem with other public service salary scales.
“At the legislative level, their salaries and allowances are not in tandem with other public services, so there will be a need to look at that and streamline it. Instead of allowing the legislatures to fix their salaries and allowances, it has to go through the appropriate agency of government.”
Tella, however, lamented that some of the ministers-designate have corruption allegations against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
“It’s not proper for the President to nominate such people in the first place, you can say ‘they have not been found guilty,’ but we know that they won’t be found guilty until they finish their position as ministers. What is important is that there are so many Nigerians that don’t have any of such cases, so, why didn’t the President look out for such people? However, the situation is difficult in the sense that the President cannot know everybody in all the states. It’s a complex thing.
“Anyway, being a Minister shouldn’t stop the EFCC or ICPC from doing their job and if eventually they are found guilty, they should be removed to serve their terms. It shouldn’t stop the continuous investigation and when they are found guilty, they should be removed to allow justice to reign, while they are replaced.”
On his part, former President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and professor of economics at Babcock University, Segun Ajibola stated the explanation from the presidency is that the economy and the organisational structure are being reworked.
He noted that it was a welcome development that some combined ministries were broken down for reasons of accountability. He said: “I think what Nigerians should be more concerned about is if the end would justify the means. I don’t have details of what it costs to maintain a minister, but I know that if a minister delivers on the mandate, there is a multiplier effect on the economy and, whatever the cost to maintain that office will be completely insignificant compared with the benefit of an effectively discharged ministerial mandate.
“Nigerians should exercise patience since the presidency is saying we have a template and that template is coming with some elements of restructuring and we need to approach the restructuring in a way that we are able to trace specific appointees to specific mandates.
“For instance, only one person was managing the Ministry of Works and Housing. Works itself is loaded, and housing is also loaded, how much can an individual do? These are loaded areas of specialisation that ought not to be combined. It would be difficult to prioritise responsibilities. If somebody knows that I am the Minister of Works, it is easy to define what constitutes my work, it’s easy to define key performance indicators, job schedule and it’s easy to police, measure performance and hold somebody accountable for those specific tasks.
“We should be able to see much better deliverables coming from the Ministers that have been assigned specific portfolios, unlike the generalised portfolios that we used to have, that we don’t know the beginning or the ending. How can only one person combine three key areas, work, power, and housing, which one do you hold him responsible for, that’s the way I see it as a professional.
“We pray for a better Nigeria, we pray for Ministers that will be hardworking, honest and cooperate with the leadership in a way that the mandate given by the electorate which sum up as making lives better for an average Nigerian. The President for instance can only work using the hands of others. So, let the Ministers know that it’s a task that must be done. Let them know that Nigerians are watching and there will be accountability. By the time they cooperate with the leader, I believe Nigeria will be better for it at the end of the day.”
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