Cost of governance: Tinubu’s 20 special advisers to earn N1.126bn in 4 years – Investigation


President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s twenty (20) Special Advisers will earn N1, 126, 867, 400 billion in salary and remunerations for four years statutorily, Blueprint’s investigation has revealed.

The Special Advisers were recently approved by the defunct 9th National Assembly on the request of the president, with some of them named and assigned portfolios.

Initially, names and portfolios were not attached which made it easier for the approval to be granted without the SAs being subjected to individual screening.

The request, which was granted expeditious approval by both chambers, was necessitated by the need for the president to have a team to work with, according to the immediate past Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.

”It is of utmost urgency. Because there is no name for special advisers we will just approve it from here. We feel that this is something of utmost urgency,” Lawan pleaded, urging the lawmakers to quickly attend to the matter,” Lawan had said.

Based on the projection of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which reviewed the remuneration for political, public and judicial office holders in the country, Special Advisers are placed on N7,091,493 per annum.

The commission, had in a statement in 2022, explained that the review was pursuant to the functions of RMAFC in paragraph 32(D) of part 1 to the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which empowers it to determine the remuneration appropriate to political, public and judicial office holders in the country.

The N7,091, 493 figure is just the annual basic salary these special advisers earn and it excludes their entitled allowances like accommodation, furniture, duty tour allowance, estacode, medicals, severance gratuity, leave and motor vehicle loan.

Breakdown of the packages

The N7, 091, 493 annual salary translates to a basic monthly take home of N590, 957, 75, meaning that in four years each special adviser will gross in basic salary the sum of N28, 365, 972. But collectively, the 20 special advisers will earn N567, 319, 440 in the first four years of the Tinubu administration.

However, there are two forms of packages: regular and irregular. The regular packages are motor vehicle fuel and maintenance of N1,457,156.25; special assistant (full value paid for by the government); personal assistant allowance of N485,718.75; domestic staff allowance of N1,457,156.25; entertainment allowance of N874,293.75; utilities allowance of N582,862.50 and newspapers/periodicals allowance of N291,493.75.  These allowances come up to a total of N7, 091,493.75 per annum or N590, 957.81 a month.

Additionally, there are irregular packages so-called because two of these allowances are once in a year and the other once in four years.

These are accommodation and vacation packages which are annual and furniture that comes once in four years.

Accordingly, accommodation allowance of N3, 885,750 per annum which translates to N77, 715, 000 for the 20 SAs in four years, vacation allowance of N194, 287.50 annually and cumulatively for four years for the 20 SAs, it amounts to N15, 542, 960, while furniture allowance of N5, 828,625 is paid once in four-year tenure. The sum total of this is N466, 290,000.

The cumulative of these irregular packages is N559, 549, 960 million which the SAs will be entitled to on resumption of office once appointed by the president.

But there are other allowances including tour allowance of N25, 000 per night for local trips and $800 per night for foreign trips. Medical treatment is fully provided and not monetised.

Our investigation showed that the first take-home package for the special advisers will therefore be an amount not below N17,000,156, 25 million per person.

SSA, SAs, PAs earning differentials

Although the template, as prepared by the RMAFC, covers the earnings of special advisers, but it did not specify what senior special assistants, senior assistants and personal assistants earn.

Our investigation further revealed that those in the latter group, also at the state level, earn the same thing with the special advisers in terms of salary.

In fact, a former commissioner, who at one time or the other served as a Senior Special Assistant and later a Special Adviser before his elevation to the rank of commissioner, said the difference between each is just in nomenclature.

The source though for obvious reasons, did not want his name included in the story.


The immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, had no fewer than 34 special advisers in his first tenure and 49 in the second tenure. In all, the Buhari administration had a total of 127 official aides attached to the president, vice president, office of the First Lady, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief of Staff to the president, among others.  

Our investigation revealed that the 49 aides of Buhari were captured by the RMAFC and earned N2.48bn within a four-year tenure. However, not all the 127 aides were on the payroll of the federal government, rather 18 of them were paid by donor agencies.

Nonetheless, these aides though varied in ranks, but their emoluments were almost at par.

Available government documents indicated that these aides were grouped into five categories: top aides, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants and Personal Assistants.

It further classified them into the category of political appointees: which it listed as four. Others were categorised among seven Special Advisers; 51 Senior Special Assistants; 47 Special Assistants and 18 Personal Assistants.

Those who drew their salaries and allowances from donor agencies were drawn from the 49 SAs and 51 SSAs, respectively. Their salaries were given to the federal government as grants.

Foreign practice

The use of special advisers and aides of other categories is not peculiar to Nigeria.

Other democracies and non-democratic states have adopted the measure as a means of facilitating governance and ensuring dividends of governance to their people.

Nigeria, which draws hugely from advanced democracies, has domesticated it via: Section 151 of the Constitution which confers on the president  the power to appoint Special Advisers to assist him in the performance of his functions. In view of this, Tinubu’s request for NASS  approval  to appoint 20 special advisers is in sync with the law.

The UK, US pattern

Data from the Institute for Government Analysis  on Special Advisers released June 2020-July 2022 by the British government, indicated that there were 126 special advisers in the government.

The report said this represents “a slight increase from 117 in 2011. Of those, 35 were new to the government. 59 special advisers were new to the government in 2019, the largest influx since the beginning of the coalition government in 2010, when 63 joined.” 

The report further said the various UK Prime Ministers also enjoined the constitutional right to appoint special advisers.

 For instance, Boris Johnson had 43, including those recruited to the staff of PM’s Policy Unit. John Major’s government recruited between 34 and 38 at any one time, Tony Blair recruited between 70 and 84, and Gordon Brown between 73 and 74.

However, in September 2022, Liz Truss replaced the majority of her predecessor’s special advisers and reduced he number of advisers in Number 10 Downing Street( the seat of government).

Also, the Chancellor of the Exchequer usually has more than other ministers. For example, Rishi Sunak, who is the current Prime Minister, when he was the chancellor had eight special advisers in 2022, while Sajid Javid had six when he was chancellor.

According to the report, special advisers are paid from government funds and cost a total of £12.7 million to employ in the 2021/22 financial year. The salary for a special adviser ranged from £40,500 to £145,000 a year in 2022.

“In the USA, the estimated total pay for a Special Advisor to the President is $203,188 per year, with an average salary of $117,399 per year.

“These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users.

“The estimated additional pay is $85,789 per year, an additional pay which could include cash bonus, commission, tips, and profit sharing,” it added.

‘Subject of abuse’

A former commissioner quoted earlier voiced strong reservation for the use and abuse of SAs by the various governments, lamenting that “most are duplicated offices and functions as well as mere jobs for the boys.

“What do they bring on the table that will facilitate and enhance good governance in Nigeria? The majority have neither vision nor direction and therefore cannot add value to the president or governor that appointed them. That is why a good number are often not reckoned with. It is sad.”

Pay rise for president, govs , others

In a related development, the RMAFC has approved a 114 per cent increase in the salaries of elected politicians, including the president, vice president, governors, lawmakers as well as judicial and public office holders.

However, the commission’s spokesman, Christian Nwachukwu, countered saying this remains a proposal that must past through legislative scrutiny after which President Bola Ahmed  Tinubu will give his assent before it can be effective.

RMAFC is saddled with the responsibility of determining the remuneration appropriate for political officeholders including the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, ministers, commissioners, special advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices as mentioned in Sections 84 and 124 of the 1999  Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The commission urged the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly to hasten efforts on amendment of relevant laws to give room for an upward review of remuneration packages for political, judicial and public officers.

What the RMAFC chair says

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the RMAFC Chairman, Muhammadu Shehu, represented by a federal commissioner, Rakiya Tanko-Ayuba, announced this Tuesday  at the presentation of reports of the reviewed remuneration package to Kebbi state governor, Dr Nasir Idris, in Birnin Kebbi.

He said the implementation of the reviewed remuneration packages was effective from January 1, 2023, adding that the move was in accordance with the provision of paragraph 32(d) of part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 constitution of the federal government (as amended).

The RMAFC boss said the last remuneration review was conducted 2007, noting that it culminated in the “certain political, public and judicial office holders (salaries and allowances, etc) (Amendment) Act, 2008”.

Shehu said: “It empowers the revenue mobilisation, allocation and fiscal commission to determine the remuneration appropriate for political office holders, including the president, vice-president, governors, deputy governors, ministers, commissioners, special advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in sections 84 and 124 of the constitution of the federal government.

“Sixteen years after the last review, it is imperative that the remuneration packages for the categories of the office holders mentioned in relevant sections of the 1999 constitution (as amended) should be reviewed.

“Pursuant to the above, Your Excellency may please recall that on Wednesday, 1st February, 2023, the commission held a one-day zonal public hearing on the review of the remuneration package simultaneously in all the six (6) geo-political zones of the country. The aim of the exercise was to harvest inputs/ideas from a broad spectrum of stakeholders.”

He said the commission had objectively and subjectively reviewed the salary packages in the reports, adding that it adheres to the rules of equity and fairness, risk and responsibilities, national order of precedence among others.

“The subjective criteria reflected the various expression by stakeholders through memoranda received, opinion expressed during the zonal public hearings and responses to questionnaires administered.

“The objectives of the criteria were obtained from analysis of macro-economic variables particularly the Consumer Price Index (CPI),” he noted.

Shehu further said the commission was also guided by some principles, including equity and fairness; risk and responsibilities; national order of precedence; motivation and tenure of office.

He said having considered the impact of the review on the economy, the remuneration of the political, public and judicial office holders in the country was adjusted “upward by 114%.”

The chairman explained that with respect to the judicial office holders, the commission considered the introduction of three new allowances.

He listed the allowances to include, “Professional Development Assistant: This is to allow for the provision of two law clerks to all judicial officers in the country.

“Long Service Allowance: This is to guarantee seniority/hierarchy between officers who have been on the bench for a minimum of five years and those that are appointed newly.

“Restricted or Forced Lifestyle: This is to take care of the nature of the lifestyle of judicial officers while in active service.”

….RMAFC has not approved any pay rise for president, others – Spokesman

Spokesman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Christian Nwachukwu, has denied approving  the increment of salaries of political office-holders, judicial and public office holders by 114 per cent.

 “Not my chairman. Not my chairman. My chairman has never made any statement on it. And I have not made any statement on it. No statement from the chairman, no statement from me. So, I don’t know. I heard one of the Commissioners said it. I don’t want to be quoted.

“No approval yet. There is no approval yet. I don’t know the source of that story. Everything is under the process. It has to come as a Bill for Mr President to assent.

“The President has not given assent. Until the President gives assent, you cannot take it as if it has taken effect. You know that. You are a journalist.

“I don’t want to be quoted wrongly. The President has not given assent to it. It is still under the process,” Nwachukwu told Leadership newspaper.

Asked if the National Assembly had commenced work on the proposal, he said: “It will be sent to National Assembly. Whichever way, whether it has been sent or not, the President has not assented to it. All those legislative process has to be completed; finally, it will land on Mr President’s table for assent. That has not been completed.”

Further pressed on whether the story making the rounds on salary increment was not true, Nwachukwu said: “Just take it the way you understand it so that you don’t quote me anyhow,” adding that “everything is under the process.”

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