Nigeria – Online - The anger over money for politicians' clothes

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Nigerians online are criticising an alleged "wardrobe allowance" proposal for MPs

Nigerians are venting their frustration online after reports of an alleged proposal to pay huge wardrobe allowances to lawmakers.

Politicians's salaries are a sore point in Nigeria - a country where the minimum wage only amounts to about £680 (or $1080) per year, yet members of the National Assembly are among the highest paid legislators in the world, with a basic annual salary of about £120,000 ($189,500).

So when local media reported that a total of nearly 9 billion naira (£28 million or $45 million) might be offered to lawmakers as "wardrobe allowances", Twitter exploded. Hashtags #9billion, #UndressNass, #OpenNass and #OccupyNass have been mentioned thousands of times week ("Nass" being short for "National Assembly").

The government has since denied the reports, with officials saying that the actual yearly allowance would amount to only £1,600 ($2,500) for each senator. But the issue has become a springboard to raise larger concerns about transparency and government spending.

"Whether 500,000 or 5,000, 100% of these legislators don't need 'wardrobe allowance'. We are in an austerity season. Stop wastage," read one tweet, while another comment said: "Nigeria, 17th least prosperous country, has highest paid legislature. How is that not obscene?!" On Facebook, a post calculating that it will take an average Nigerian worker 1,638 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian senator has been shared by thousands.

Some of the posts were humorous in tone, but the underlying sentiment was a sense of injustice. "The hashtag #UndressNass conveys my frustrations of funding an inactive and inefficient National Assembly for the past 16 years. For a minority of individuals to expect to be clothed by the working public is absurd," Ijeoma Ezeasor, one of the first to use the hashtag, told BBC Trending.

Those criticising the allowance online initially planned to take their protest to the streets later this week, but the plan has been put on hold for now. Columnist Japheth Omojuwa, who was organising the march, told BBC Trending that they are instead giving a three-month deadline for authorities to reform the pay system.

"The National Assembly is not living in the current economic reality. It is important for us as citizens to let them understand that they are living in a different reality," Omojuwa told Trending. He also noted that money could be used, for instance, to help the estimated millions of Nigerian children who don't attend school.

"Nigeria has very high maternal and child mortality rates. The economy is not sophisticated and cash is limited. We need MP salaries to be reviewed and the spending of the budget to be open and transparent," he said.
Source: BBC Trending 19 June 2015