Monday, June 15, 2015

Nigeria's Over-paid Elite

In a country where 62% of the population lives in extreme poverty, a Nigerian senator takes home roughly £1.1m every year in salary plus benefits. MPs must make do with £900,000. In comparison, David Cameron earns £142,500 as UK prime minister. Nigeria’s lawmakers fly first class, lodge in the priciest rooms at the fanciest hotels and live in Beverly Hills-style mansions, all at the public’s expense. And they get away with this in a country where millions go to bed hungry. In Nigeria’s fiercely hierarchical and materialistic society, it is easy for top politicians to discredit criticism of their lifestyle from those below them on the social ladder: by simply implying that it stems from envy. It hardly helps that there have been numerous cases of members of civil society who used to lambast politicians’ earnings – only to be co-opted by the establishment and promptly reverse their views. Political power has always been associated with unfettered access to public funds and lavish lifestyles in Nigeria. Many Nigerians still wrongly assume that if you get to the top of the political heap, this somehow entitles you to a generous portion of the country’s wealth.

Rotimi Amaechi, a former state governor and director-general of Buhari’s presidential campaign, said in a TV interview last year that four years’ work as a governor is equal to the work an “ordinary man” puts in over 25 years. When asked how he came about his calculations, Amaechi retorted: “How many times does the ordinary man have to work till 2 in the morning only to be up by 6am to resume his duties?”

In 2010 the number of Nigerians living under poverty conditions stands at about 112.5 million and represents 69 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the last census figures. The vice president recently observed that over a million Nigerians die yearly of preventable diseases.

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