The revelation by a Nigerian senator that lawmakers in the upper house of parliament receive about $37,500 each month for personal expenses has prompted anger in the west African country, where most people live on less than $2 a day.
Senator Shehu Sani, who represents people in the northwestern state of Kaduna, said Senate lawmakers earn about N750,000 a month, with a further monthly “running allowance” of N13.5 million which equates to $37,500 on the black market rate of N360 per dollar most commonly used.
Sani’s disclosure sparked outrage in parts of the press and social media. While the elite in Africa’s biggest crude producer have long benefited from the country’s oil wealth, most of its 190 million inhabitants live in poverty.
“We must stop our lawmakers being the ones to determine how they are paid,” said development economist Odilim Enwegbara.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who has not said whether he will seek a second term in elections next February, came to power in 2015 vowing to improve the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
But the IMF recently said the people were getting poorer.
Public outrage over the gap between rich and poor could become an election campaign issue in the coming months.
Usman Mohammed, a civil servant in Abuja, said the money allocated for lawmakers’ expenses was “outrageous.”
“They are supposed not to earn up to that amount of money when people hardly survive,” he said.
A man selling wallets to drivers stuck in traffic on the gridlocked streets of the commercial capital Lagos, who gave his name only as Chijioke, said Nigeria’s leaders were failing their people.
“Our leaders will not think about us. We are hustling not because we like it but we have to help ourselves,” he said.
Chijioke makes around N800 – just $2.22 – a day by weaving between cars under the equatorial sun for several hours each day.
Africa’s largest economy is only slowly emerging from recession. Inflation, despite slowing down for 13 months in a row, remained in double figures at 14.3 per cent in February.
Food inflation, which hovered around 20 per cent throughout last year, stood at 17.6 per cent last month.
The expense figures discussed by Sani, a member of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress party with a reputation for being a firebrand politician, had not previously been disclosed.
“When that light of transparency is cast on all these personalities and offices, then Nigerians will come to know whether it is worth their while to support or sustain the big government as we have now,” said Sani.