By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
LAGOS—By the end of this year, the Federal Government would have spent, at least, N14.35 billion on the up-keep of former presidents, vice presidents and their families, over a period of 12 years, Vanguard’s checks have revealed.
From a modest N140 million in 2005, funds allocated to entitlements of former presidents/heads of state, former vice presidents or chiefs of general staff have risen rapidly to hit N2.3 billion in 2016 (See table). The peak was in 2012 when the immediate past Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration budgeted N3.185 billion for the welfare of the ex-leaders.
The lowest allocation was in 2008 when N24 million was allocated. The figure for 2007 was not disclosed. Between 2013 and 2016, the allocation was constant at N2.3 billion for each year.
For 2017, the federal government has proposed N2.3bn. The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, has allocated the sum of N432. 193 million for the purchase of cars for the nation’s seven former presidents/heads of state and four vice presidents.
N500, 000 Council of State meeting allowance
Apart from the N14.35 billion welfare package, each of the former leaders, who is an automatic member of the Council of State collects N500,000 whenever he attends the meeting that holds periodically, at least twice yearly, to deliberate and take decisions on crucial issues affecting the country.
The former presidents and heads of state are General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Olusegun Obasanjo, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The former vice presidents and chiefs of general staff are Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, General Oladipupo Diya, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and Alhaji Namadi Sambo.
Deceased ex-presidents, whose families are constitutionally expected to reap from the largesse are Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (prime minister), General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (ceremonial president), General Murtala Muhammed and General Sani Abacha.
Origins of the welfare package
Adapted from the United States of America, which has an elaborate welfare package for former rulers, Nigeria started paying entitlements to former presidents by Decree 32 of 1999. In 2001, it became the Remuneration of former Presidents, heads of Federal legislative Houses and Chief Justices of the Federation (and other Ancillary Matters) Act.
The Act was further amended by the National Assembly in 2008 and 2010 with the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC mandated to fix the remunerations of the ex-leaders from time to time in line with economic realities especially whenever the salary of the serving president is raised.
The power is provided for in Sections 70 and 84 (4) of the 1999 Constitution and the specific legislation is in the Certain Political Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries, Allowances, etc) Act, 2002 and the Amendment Act of 2008.
At the beginning, the 1999 Law provided that each former President and former Head of state is entitled to N350,000 per month, while former Vice Presidents and former Chiefs of General Staff are entitled to N250,000 per month for their up-keep.
The Act states: “As from the commencement of this Act, all former-Presidents and Heads of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (in this Act referred to as “former Heads of State”) shall be-(i) paid the sum of N350,000 per month as up-keep allowance; and (ii) entitled to the perquisites of office specified in Part I of the Schedule to this Act; and (b)Vice-Presidents and Chiefs of General Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (in this Act referred to as “former Vice-Presidents”) shall be- (i) paid the sum of N250,000 per month as up-keep allowance; and (ii) entitled to the perquisites of office specified in Part II of the Schedule to this Act.’’
There are also provisions for domestic staff, security aides, vehicles and up-keep allowances for families of deceased presidents.
For former presidents
For instance, each former president is entitled to an officer not below the rank of a chief administrative officer; a personal secretary not below Grade Level 12; three to four armed policemen; one Department State Service, DSS officer not below Grade Level 10 as an Aide de Camp to be attached for life and paid by the State Security Agencies; three vehicles to be bought by the Federal Government and liable to be replaced every four years; and drivers to be paid by the Federal Government.
They and their immediate families are also entitled to free medical treatment within Nigeria; treatment abroad where necessary at Federal Government’s expense; a well furnished and equipped office in any location of their choice in Nigeria; a well furnished five-bedroom house in any location of their choice in Nigeria; and 30 days annual vacation at home or abroad.
For former vice presidents
For former vice presidents, the entitlements include: an officer not below the rank of a chief administrative officer; a personal secretary not below Grade Level 10, two to three armed policemen; one DSS officer not below Grade Level 8 as an Aide de Camp to be attached for life and paid by the State Security Agencies; two vehicles to be replaced every four years; drivers shall be selected by the former Vice-President and paid by the Federal Government; free medical treatment for them and their immediate families within Nigeria; treatment abroad where necessary; 30 days annual vacation within and outside Nigeria at Federal Government expense; a modestly well-furnished and equipped office in any location of their choice in Nigeria; a well furnished three-bedroom house in any location of their choice in Nigeria.
According to the 1999 law that has been amended, the remuneration of the former leaders shall be subject to review whenever there is an increase in the salary of the serving President and Vice-President; and the Federal Government shall in its annual budget make provision for the remuneration of former Heads of State and former Vice-Presidents.
In the case of death, the family of an ex-president, at the beginning, was entitled to the payment of the sum of N1,000,000 per annum payable in the sum of N 250,000 per quarter; and deceased former Vice-President was entitled to the payment of the sum of N750,000 per annum payable in the sum of N187, 500 per quarter.
The allowances applied to the up-keep of the spouse and education of the children of deceased former leaders up to the university level. However, the spouse of a former leader shall not be entitled to the allowance, if she re-marries.
Experience in other countries
US ex-president earns $205,700 a year
The United States via the Former Presidents Act, FPA, charges the General Services Administration, GSA, with providing former presidents a pension, support staff, office support, travel funds, and mailing privileges. The FPA was enacted in 1958 to “maintain the dignity” of the Office of the President by giving a former President — and his or her spouse — certain benefits so that he would not have to enter unsuitable occupations after leaving office.
Prior to 1958, former Presidents leaving office received no pension or federal assistance. After leaving office, some former Presidents — including Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S Truman — struggled financially. In 1912, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie unveiled a plan to pay $25,000 pensions to all future former Presidents and their widows. The pensions were to be funded by the Carnegie Foundation of New York. Some Members of Congress and the public suggested it was inappropriate for a private company to pay pensions to former Presidents, hence the FPA.
Former US presidents also receive a lifetime of Secret Service protection and their children remain protected until they are 16 years old. The pension for former presidents matches the annual pay for senior political officials of the Executive Level 1 ranking and their salary is equal to that of the incumbent. In 2016, the pension was $205,700. Widows of ex-presidents are entitled to $20,000 a year.
For 2017, President Barack Obama has proposed a hike of about 18 per cent in appropriations for expenditures of former presidents.
Ex-president gets $188,000 a year in South Africa
In South Africa, former presidents continue to have all the payments, salaries and other packages that they were receiving the day before they left office, for the rest of their lives. They will also have their medical insurance fully paid.
Indeed, former President Thabo Mbeki enjoys the entitlements, which came through a resolution of the National Assembly that also allows the former president to have annual pay increases based on those recommended by the Remuneration Commission.
The resolution grants 50 per cent of the ex-president’s package to his widow if he should die.
Last March, the South African National Assembly voted to increase President Jacob Zuma’s salary to R2,716,798 per year or $188,000.
Indian experience, ex-president entitled to $13, 248 a year
In India, perks for former Prime ministers include lifetime rent-free accommodation, medical facilities, 14 secretarial staff, six domestic executive-class air tickets, unlimited train travel, office expenses against actual expenditure for five years and vehicles. All former prime ministers are entitled to benefits afforded to a cabinet minister, which includes 270,000 Rupees or $3, 974.
On retirement, a former president gets Rs.75,000 ($1104) a month as pension; a furnished rent free bungalow; medical facilities; unlimited domestic travel reimbursement with a companion by train or air; Delhi Police security; five personal staff including two private secretaries, one peon, one official car; and office maintenance expenses of Rs 60,000 or $883 per annum.
UK’s $515,000 gold-plated pension for ex-prime ministers
In Britain, some of the former prime ministers earn what has been dubbed as ‘’gold plated pension’’ that costs United Kingdom’s tax payers about £435,000 or $515,000 a year.
For instance, ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair is drawing the maximum Prime Ministerial pension – worth about £70,000 a year. The gold-plated pension comes on top of the £115,000 allowance that Mr Blair received, last year, to support his ‘public duties.’ Then there is his security team, which is estimated to cost, at least, £250,000 a year.