The $43 million package Nigerian lawmakers get won’t be just for their wardrobe

Nigeria’s National Assembly in session
Nigeria’s National Assembly in session
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Nigeria’s senate president, Bukola Saraki, has addressed the news of the National Assembly’s much-talked-about 8.64 billion naira ($43 million) ”wardrobe allowance“.

Nigerians had been shocked by the size of the amount supposedly dedicated just to clothing. But after the story went global and elicited a serious backlash against the newly elected government, the senate president clarified that the allowances per senator for clothing were significantly smaller. As well as a wardrobe allowance, the $43 million includes a suite of other allowances and benefits which amount to that total figure, covering the 469 lawmakers of both the senate and house of representatives. Saraki took to Twitter to clarify the figures. He said each lawmaker would get around 506,000 naira ($2,530) annually.

According to Saraki, the allowances and wages for the lawmakers are determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, but he promised that the allowances will be published and also reviewed.

While the $43 million allocation covers provisions for clothing and housing as well as car loans, and while some of the allowances are annual payments, others are one-off payments.

The National Assembly has come under fire for a lack of transparency and accountability. The wardrobe allowance debacle re-emphasizes the need for the lawmakers’ books to be opened so the public can have a breakdown of their exact earnings and allocations. Saraki, a notable advocate of the #OpenNASS campaign, which is pushing for transparency in the National Assembly, also announced that the allowances will be made public soon.

The lack of transparency in the National Assembly’s finances means that much of its spending is subject to speculation. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission has not published a breakdown of figures since 2009.

Even as Nigerians want to see the analysis of $43 million allowances published, the real focus is on the National Assembly’s N120 billion ($603 million) yearly allocations, which make Nigerian lawmakers rank among the highest paid in the world.