The Plateau State House of Assembly yesterday passed a bill into law. The bill was the Bill for the Remuneration of Political Office holders at the second and third tiers of government in the state. Passing the bill into law followed the constitution of an ad hoc committee who meet with representatives of the affected officials at the state and local government levels during its plenary on August 5.
In the report submitted by the ad hoc committee headed by Honorable Dina Lar who represents Langtang Central Constituency at the Plateau State House of Assembly, the committee conveyed the feelings of the affected political office holders at the grassroots who expressed the lack of balance in the new remuneration package in the case that it targets the third tier of government and is an another expression of the contempt with which the tier of government has been held. The local tier according to the report that was circulated among newsmen questioned why their severance allowance should be abolished while that of commissioners is upheld. While the appointment of commissioners can be terminated by the Governor at anytime, the tenure of local government administrations can also be brought to an abrupt end anytime the Governor deems it fit. Based on this, the Association of Local Governments (ALGON) felt the decision should have been across board.
The Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission is responsible for the review of the salaries. The commission according to the report took away all allowances of political office holders at local government level. The argument of the commission is that almost all revenues accruing to local governments is eaten up by recurrent expenditure with practically nothing left for general development at that level of government. The Plateau State House of Assembly explained that it is compelled to pass the bill into law since it is a constitutional matter and subsequently did so. ALGON according to the House can still press for the correction of the imbalance despite the passing of the law.
Need for Reforms at the Third Tier of government in Nigeria
Sometimes this year the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Umar Musa Yar’adua stated that the remuneration of all political office holders across the nation will be renewed downwards in view of dwindling revenue resulting from the global economic meltdown. The President subsequently directed the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission to review the salaries and allowances of all political office holders for all tiers of governments in the country. This happened when the last administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo had just reviewed upwards, the salaries and remunerations of the same category of Nigerians just before he left office in 2007.
The proposal of the Revenue and Fiscal Commission must first be passed into law before the new salary structure can take effect. The National Assembly will pass the law in connection to political office holders at the national level while the state houses will do same for appointees at the state and local government levels. The complain at the local government level is that the review specifically targets them. The Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission argues that revenues at the third tier of government goes into the serving recurrent expenditure with little left for capital project, the only way other citizens outside of the local government pay roll can benefit.
The disproportionately huge workforces in the third tier of government, most of whom are redundant have been the subject of calls for downsizing by well intentioned Nigerians. This is because the local government was not created primarily to provide jobs but to administer development projects that will benefit the whole population at the local government. There are many issues bordering on local government administrations that need to be addressed. One crucial area is the qualification of persons that should hold political positions. The Nigerian constitution allows even primary school certificate holders to contest for political positions. Those who designed the constitution took into consideration the fact that it is that way in the US whose Presidential system of government we adopted. However they felt to take into consideration the fact that the standard of our schools are incomparable to those in the US. It will not be wrong if elected persons at the local government levels are graduates if that will ensure that they handle their businesses effectively. The situation now is such that there are elected officials who cannot comprehend the nature of their jobs. One wonders how they will be able to carry out their responsibilities effectively. The local government calls for a comprehensive reform.