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Ambode risks billion-naira pension benefits as lawmakers threaten impeachment

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Governor Akinwunmi Ambode could walk away from his Lagos State job without any pension benefits to fall back on, if lawmakers make good their threat to impeach him over what they say is “misconduct,” in respect to the 2019 budget.

Ambode is being accused of implementing a budget that had not been approved by the House of Assembly. Of the 34 lawmakers who spoke at the plenary on Monday, 28 called for the impeachment of the governor, while six others called on him to resign.

In the event that Ambode is impeached, he risks missing out on nearly a billion naira of pension benefits reserved for past governors of Lagos state.

The Lagos state pension law stipulates that a former governor will enjoy the following benefits for life: The first of the robust list of benefits are two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja.

Work done by land surveyors on the properties of some of the past governors of Lagos state, say the Lagos house could be worth N500 million and N700 million for an Abuja house.

Past Governors are also to be given six brand new cars replaceable every three years, which works out to two a year. If each of those cars cost say N10 million.

There is also furniture allowance, which is 300 percent of the Governor’s annual salary and is to be paid every two years.

Assuming the Governor earns N24 million yearly, his furniture allowance would be N72 million for two years and N36 million each year.

Finally, there is N2.5 million in monthly pension which implies N30 million a year. In comparison, a former grade level 15 retired civil servant who served the state for 35 years is given is entitled to N80,000 monthly as pension.

Adding a past governor’s monthly pension to his annual salary and furniture allowance equates to N90 million. This excludes the cars and houses.

Given that these benefits are for life, Governor Ambode, born 14 June 1963 and aged 56, could earn over a billion naira, according to a conservative estimate by BusinessDay.

The average life expectancy for a Nigerian is 55 years, according to 2018 data by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Seeing that Ambode has surpassed that age, we assumed that if he lives till 70, then he could earn N1.26 billion for another 14 years.

If he is impeached, however, he leaves the job with no pension, according to legal experts.

“The provision of the law on the eligibility of an impeached Public Office Holder (Governor or Deputy Governor) is clearly provided for in Section 1(2) and Section 4 of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law 2007 and Section 124 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” said Afolabi Araromi, an associate at Lagos-based legal firm, Templars.

“These sections stipulate that where a Public Officer Holder is removed from office by the process of impeachment or for a breach of any provision of the Constitution, such Public Officer shall not be entitled to a grant of pension or gratuity under the law. Consequently, where the Public Officer is impeached by a democratic process, such Officer will not be entitled to a grant of pension or gratuity,” Araromi told BusinessDay in an emailed response.

Ambode’s planned impeachment comes amid a frosty relationship between him and the lawmakers who did not support his re-election bid during the primaries.

The lawmakers opted instead to endorse Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who would later beat Ambode to the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial ticket.

Sanwo-olu will now battle main contender, Jimi Agbaje, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), at next month’s elections.

Ambode, who was seeking a second-term, is said to feel betrayed by the House and their relationship has gone downhill since then, prompting some to say his impeachment ploy is political.

The lawmakers, through a voice vote Monday, expressed their intentions to impeach Ambode because according to them, he has been making drawdowns from a budget that has not been approved by them and is yet to be signed into law.

The House Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, and his colleagues have now given Ambode one week to show up before them to explain why he’s been spending unapproved funds from the 2019 budget.

“If it is true that Ambode actually spent unapproved funds, the House of Assembly has the right to initiate impeachment,” a legal expert told Business Day.

“However, due process must be followed.”

Ambode is yet to respond to the lawmakers’ invitation.

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