The revelation that taxpayers spend N37 billion in sustaining the pension and other benefits for 47 former governors of 21 states is indeed shocking.
The amount, according to reports by this newspaper, is even conservative as it does not factor in the provisions made for the security and other personal aides assigned to these former governors.
Towards the end of their tenures, most governors collude with their State Houses of Assembly to make laws approving these packages to make them comfy in retirement.
The generous pension provision for a former governor at the point of exit is besides the liberal severance package which stands at 300% of their annual salary as recommended by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Welfare for former political office holders was not provided for in the 1999 Constitution. It was the RMAFC that unilaterally proposed the 300% severance package for governors when they leave office.
However, the governors were apparently not satisfied by that provision as they separately initiated, through proxies in the Houses of Assembly, bills to provide generous pension schemes for themselves.
Given that the bills passed through due legislative processes to become laws of the respective states, the pension laws in the face of legal scrutiny may seem lawful. But the pension for the former governors even after the payment of the hefty severance package is a needless fiscal and moral burden on society.
The question of whether political office holders who serve for a few years should be entitled to such humongous pension benefits must be resolved against the background of the pitiful provisions earmarked for career civil servants who spend their entire working lives in public service.
Even more provoking is the fact that many deserving career civil servants, after serving for up to 35 years do not have their pension benefits paid in due season.
Stories of pensioners being owed years of their entitlements, with some of them dying in penury are commonplace, bringing to question the rationale of directing such disproportionate funds to a few political fat cats, some of who corruptly enriched themselves while in power.
To worsen the greed, many ex-governors go on to become ministers and senators and thus freeload on public funds from multiple sources.
Election or appointment into political offices should be seen as a call to public service. The huge benefits currently being enjoyed by these former governors give the negative impression that election into political office is an investment to secure permanent comfort at tax payers’ expense.
There is an urgent need to re-examine the legal and moral conundrum arising from the pension for former governors. This issue should be resolved immediately.s