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Law, morality and outrageous pensions for ex-governors

Pension

Pension

Since the various state houses of assembly have refused to amend or abrogate outrageous life pensions for their former colleagues and ex-governors of their states, the discourse has also refused to die down too.

Just recently, some Nigerians expressed outrage at the development, in the light of the dwindling economic situation in the country and the inability of most of the states to pay workers’ salaries.

While the law recognises pension for public servants, including governors, the introduction of generous packages into the scheme, especially when most of the beneficiaries retire into the National Assembly or federal cabinet, leaves much to be desired.

Currently, about 21 former governors and deputies are drawing salaries from public purse as either serving senators or ministers. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), approves payment of 300 per cent basic salary as severance allowances for political office holders on leaving office but various state assemblies had approved a wide range of entitlements for ex-governors and their deputies, including legislators.

The former governors who are now senators are Theodore Orji (Abia), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Jonah Jang (Plateau) and Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara).

Others are Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara), Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), George Akume (Benue), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), Isiaka Adeleke (Osun) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi).

Former deputy governors in the Senate are Enyinaya Abaribe (Abia), Ms Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti) while Danladi Abubakar Sani served as the acting governor of Taraba State.

Former governors now ministers include Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu ( old Abia).

According to a Lagos Pension Law approved by former governor, Bola Tinubu in 2007, a former governor will enjoy the following benefits for life: Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja, estimated by property experts to cost N500 million and N700 million for Lagos and Abuja respectively.

Others are six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual salary to be paid every two years, and a close to N2.5 million as pension (about N30 million pension annually). He will also enjoy security detail, free medicals including for his immediate families.

Other benefits are 10 per cent house maintenance, 30 per cent car maintenance, 10 per cent entertainment, 20 per cent utility, and several domestic staff.

In Rivers, the law provides 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for ex-governor and deputy, one residential house for former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria”; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years.

His furniture is 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years en bloc. House maintenance is 10 per cent of annual basic salary. In Akwa Ibom, the law provides for N200 million annual pay to ex governors, deputies. He enjoys a pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively.

A new official car and a utility vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor.

There is also a free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor.

Also, there is a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom and allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor.He takes a furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity.The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007 provides for 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy.

Furnished and equipped office, as well as a 6-bedroom house; “well-furnished” 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.The former governor is also entitled to free medical treatment along with his immediate families within and outside Nigeria where necessary. It is same for deputy.

Two drivers are also for former governor and a driver for his deputy; and personal staff below the rank of a Principal Administrative Officer and a PA not below grade level 10. There is a provision for a 30-day vacation within and outside Nigeria.

The narrative is the same for Gombe, Kwara, Zamfara and Sokoto among others. The legality of those laws and their inconsistency with the provisions of the RMAFC still remain an issue yet to be determined by an Abuja Federal Court.

The effect of the pension is also worrisome to most Nigerians who questioned the morality behind the scandalous payment to people who are also drawing remunerations. It also indicates that our politicians are not only self-serving but lack sense of sacrifice at a crucial period of economic challenge.`

A senior advocate of Nigeria and former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba, said the issue of outrageous pension packages for former governors despite the fact that they are still serving as Ministers or whatever, ‘is one of the problems of inequality that we are facing as a country’. Pointing out that this is the reason the country has a situation whereby those who do not have constituted about 90 per cent majority of the population against the few rich elites.

On if there is any political party that can proffer solution to the problem of inequality, the SAN said: “The way things are right now, there is no political party in Nigeria that is ready to address and resolve this issue of inequality. This is because they are still far from been capable of addressing this social problem. That was why Donald Trump won the presidential election in America, because he appealed to populism.”

Agbakoba also emphasized the need for Nigerians to frontally confront the problem of inequality, which he described as a ‘fraction of our social problem in Nigeria, if we wish to get better’.

Another senior advocate of Nigeria and Senior Partner, Jireh & Graeys Attorneys, Norrison Quakers, described the development as regrettable at this period of critical financial crisis that calls for sacrifice.

He said: “It is regrettable because it is not a legal issue but it is more of a moral issue, which expectedly, the affected politicians who must have attained a certain level of comfort in life ought to have willingly sacrifice for the sake of national development.”

Quakers also called for the need for government to do something about the perception of ‘being in governance’ in Nigeria.“Being in government should be a call to serve rather than for personal aggrandizements. And except this is done, people will always want to get there to take their own share,” he declared.

Also, Seth Amaefule, a lawyer said the matter of outrageous pensions for former governors has dominated public discussion for a while now.And according to him, such is not the best for us.

“We believe it is wrong, despite the fact that vit is allowed by law. You will notice that this same development happening at the federal level has beginning to happen at the states level and it is a very serious issue,”he stated.

To Amaefule, the problem is as a result of some of our laws which need to be amended. His words: “As a lawyer, some of our laws ought to have been amended by now, but the point is that the same people who ought to do that are those benefitting from this anomalies.

“But my humble opinion is that our laws are to some extent faulty such that it needs an amendment to be able to right some wrongs.”In the same vein, 2nd vice chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, condemned the development and described it as immoral. He urged the people to stand against it.

“It is clearly immoral even if there is any law backing it. Why will a former governor be entitled to collect benefits as a former governor and serving Minister, Senator or whatever? It is immoral and unacceptable mostly in this recession period. It calls for the need to review such practices and the people need to stand against this development,” Ubani charged.

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