Repealing repellent retirement laws: Zamfara example
The political establishment in Zamfara State moved with remarkable speed on November 25-27, 2019 to repeal an obnoxious law that offered unearned and unjust preferment to the resources of the state to former officials. The law mandated the state government to pay pension and other entitlements of former governors, deputy governors, speakers and their deputies as a first-line charge. The action of the Zamfara State political class has reverberated across the country for its significance and positive messaging on governance and priorities.
We join in the commendation of the Zamfara government for acting in the interest of the present and future of the state by blocking a leakage borne of greed, avarice and impunity. No fewer than 20 states where such obnoxious legislation exists must also take a second look at them. We call on their state houses of assembly and governors to repeal these laws.
Zamfara State fittingly commenced the return to sanity on the imponderable matter of the continued payment to former officials. Zamfara State has been a poster-child for poverty in resources and management of the little that accrues to it. Zamfara State under Abdulaziz Yari suffered the worst incidents of attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, decline in all indices in education, health, agricultural production and more. Former governor Yari was notable for his absence from the state.
It, therefore, takes uncommon nerve and disregard for the citizens for this absentee governor who supervised the continued immiseration of citizens to pass a law that entitled him to continued remuneration. Impunity is the only description when that law further provides for a monthly “upkeep allowance” of N10 million for this same non-performer. It would have remained unacceptable if he performed.
Yari kicked off the storm in Zamfara through an October 17 letter to his successor Bello Mattawale. State officials leaked the letter to public opprobrium. They then took advantage of the vox populi to do the needful.
Yari in the letter stated, “I wish to humbly draw your attention to the provision of the law on the above subject matter, which was amended and assented to on March 23, 2019. The law provides, among other entitlements of the former governor, a monthly upkeep allowance of N10m only and a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office. Accordingly, you may wish to be informed that since the expiration of my tenure on May 29, 2019, I was only paid the upkeep allowance twice — i.e. for the month of June and July, while my pension for the month of June has not been paid.” Yari educated his successor that the pension and upkeep allowance should not be “truncated without any justifiable reason”.
Zamfara State officials said the state was losing N700 million to these payments to persons who no longer render services to the state. The state economy cannot bear such expenditure. Indeed, no state economy can.
Legislation authorising continued remuneration for former officeholders in the states is one of the aberrations introduced at state level in this Fourth Republic. It borrows from the military-era provision for erstwhile Heads of State and their deputies.
The laws do not bother with the immorality of continued payment to persons who earned full remuneration for a political office of defined duration. In some states, there is provision for at least two houses in the state capital and the federal capital and maintenance at the level that existed when they were in the office until death. It is greedy.
More critically, those laws show a manifest disregard for the citizens and, especially, for civil servants whose pensions and emoluments the states do not honour. There should be a nationwide effort to repeal these obnoxious laws. Well done to the folks at Zamfara State.