• Monday, July 15, 2024
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The issue of ex-Nigerian governors’ and deputy governors’ pensions and allowances has continued to raise concerns among citizens.

At least, 14 Nigerian senators currently serving in the government are reportedly receiving both salaries as lawmakers and pensions as former state governors.

Recently, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Daniel, expressed his discontent with this situation in an open letter, criticising his fellow lawmakers for their lack of empathy towards the struggles of the impoverished masses.

In his letter, Daniel called for the suspension of his own pension as a former governor while he serves and earns as a senator, stating that receiving double emoluments contradicts his moral and ethical principles.

The letter read in part: “I write to request for the suspension of my monthly pension/allowances of 676,376.95 (gross) (Six Hundred and Seventy-Six Thousand, Three Hundred Seventy-Six Naira, Ninety-Five Kobo) being paid as a former Executive Governor of Ogun State.

“This request is in compliance with my conscience, moral principle and ethical code against double emoluments that a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who hitherto was a former State Governor, shall not be entitled to the payment of pension and allowances from such State.

“It would be recalled that on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, I was, with other elected Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, inaugurated as members of the 10th National Assembly.

“It is pertinent to also have it on record that since I left the office in 2011, I have not benefited from any welfare packages be it medical, furniture, transportation, etc.”

Daniel also stated in a letter dated June 14, that getting a pension as a governor and pay as a senator violates his moral principles and ethical code.

Read also: Gbenga Daniel dumps PDP, quits partisan politics 

Apart from Daniel, other former governors currently in the Senate include Senate President, Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom State); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo State); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State); and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger State).

Others are: Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe State); Danjuma Goje (Gombe State); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara State); Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto State); Orji Kalu (Abia State); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe State); and Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State).”

Many states that provide exorbitant life pensions to previous governors (and their deputies) still owe workers’ paychecks and are among the poorest in the country.

The call to abolish ex-governors’ pensions has gained traction, with activists and rights groups like SERAP demanding an end to these laws. SERAP’s legal action led to a court order instructing the Federal Government to recover pensions received by ex-governors currently serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly. However, it remains unclear if this directive has been implemented.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) recently challenged Akpabio and the other 13 former governors to reveal the exact amount of their life pensions, if any, received from their states as former governors.

The group also urged them to stop collecting any such pensions and return the pensions collected to the treasury.

SERAP had said the lawmakers’ constitutional oath of office, under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) “requires you to publicly reject and return any pensions.”

While civil servants who dedicated years of service receive meagre and irregular pensions, former political leaders who served for a maximum of eight years enjoy generous benefits. The argument in favour of these pensions is that they help combat corruption by providing a safety net for ex-leaders. However, this reasoning is flawed, as many former governors have been involved in embezzlement and corruption scandals.

Numerous states, including Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Anambra, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Imo, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Ondo, Rivers, Yobe, and Zamfara, have enacted laws granting pension benefits to their former governors and deputy governors. These benefits include salaries equivalent to the incumbent governor, multiple vehicles every few years, luxurious accommodations, personal assistants, and drivers.

The provision of such lavish benefits is deemed wasteful and unjustifiable by political analyst Adewale Adeoye, who argued that a country like Nigeria, struggling with poverty, should not enrich already wealthy individuals through such laws. It is evident that the current system does not align with the needs of the masses and the humanitarian values that governance should prioritize.

Several states have been burdened by the financial implications of these pension laws. For instance, Sokoto, known as “Nigeria’s poverty capital,” spends significant sums, such as N200 million and N180 million annually, on pensions for former governors and deputy governors, respectively. These expenses exceed the state’s internally generated revenue, exacerbating its economic challenges. Similarly, Jigawa, where the majority of residents live on less than N377 per day, provides extensive benefits to former governors while struggling with limited revenue.

Some states have taken steps towards repealing these laws in response to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Lagos and Kwara states have announced plans to abolish lifetime pension benefits for ex-governors. Lagos, for example, currently offers ex-governors multiple houses, cars, furniture allowances, and other extravagant perks. The move to abolish these benefits aims to reduce the cost of governance and promote a spirit of selflessness in public service.

The abolition of ex-governors’ pensions has become crucial to alleviate the financial strain on states and prioritize the welfare of the people. It is recommended that citizens in states where these laws persist should seek legal avenues to compel their repeal. The focus should be on cutting the cost of governance and redirecting resources towards meeting the pressing needs of the populace.

Also in 2014, Former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state urged his successor, Bello Matawalle, to fulfil his outstanding allowances and pension obligations. Yari, in a letter dated October 17, 2019, highlighted that he is entitled to a monthly upkeep allowance of N10 million and a pension corresponding to his previous salary.

However, he claimed to have received only two payments since leaving office, leaving significant arrears unpaid. Yari emphasised that the amended law, which governs the entitlements of former governors, deputies, speakers, and deputy speakers, should be adhered to without interruption. In light of this, he requested Matawalle to promptly settle the outstanding pension and allowance as stipulated by the law. Notably, Bello Matawalle had recently threatened to apprehend Yari for his alleged involvement in sponsoring attacks in the state amidst increased bandit activities.

Examining the provisions in Akwa Ibom, Lagos, and Rivers states amplified the controversy that benefits enjoyed by ex-Nigerian governors and deputy governors, particularly concerning pensions and allowances, have drawn significant attention:

AKWA IBOM:

– Medical: Ex-governors and their spouses, as well as ex-deputy governors and their spouses, receive free medical treatment. Previously, there was no cap on expenses, but an amendment now limits former governors to a maximum of N100 million per year and former deputies to N30 million per year. Widows/widowers of former governors receive N12 million annually, while those of deputy governors receive N6 million.

– Other Benefits: These include annual basic salary equivalent to the incumbent governor and deputy, accommodation, transportation, furniture, domestic staff, and security.

LAGOS:

– Cars and Accommodation: The former governor is entitled to six new cars every three years, as well as a house in Lagos and another in Abuja. The value of the houses can be estimated at N500 million and N700 million, respectively.

– Other Benefits: These include annual basic salary equivalent to the incumbent governor and deputy, furniture, domestic staff, medical care for the governor, deputy, and their families, security personnel, and various allowances.

RIVERS:

– Cars and Accommodation: A former governor receives one residential house anywhere in Nigeria and three new cars every four years.

– Other Benefits: These include annual basic salary equivalent to the incumbent governor and deputy, furniture, medical care for the governor, deputy, and their families, security personnel, and various allowances.

These provisions have sparked public outrage and prompted discussions on the need for reforms to address the excessive benefits received by ex-governors and ex-deputy governors. It is important to evaluate and reform such pension laws to ensure they align with the economic realities and priorities of the nation.