We read with dismay a report in The Punch of Wednesday August 16, 2017, in which one of the associations of retirees, the Forum of 2011/2012 Pensioners, led by one Mr Omoniyi Ilesanmi falsely alleged that the State Government of Osun paid political office holders who served between November 2010 and November 2014 the sum of N50 million each as severance allowance.
This allegation is preposterous, malicious and false in its entirety. It is absolutely unreasonable and ludicrous for anyone to suggest that a state government will give each political office holder a N50 million severance allowance at this period when every available kobo is being mopped to pay salaries and pensions, provide infrastructure and social services and run a modest government. It is even totally reckless and irresponsible for any newspaper to have published such bunkum. It is a new low for journalism.
For the avoidance of doubt, the severance allowance of political office holders has been set in accordance with the State of Osun Public/Political Office Holders and Revised Remuneration Package Law 2007, section 4 (1) and (2) schedule (B) which recommends 300 per cent of basic salary as severance allowance. This recommendation was also taken on advisement from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which recommends 300 per cent of basic salaries.
However, the State of Osun law referenced above has a proviso of beneficiaries having successfully completed a full term or on pro rata basis, after a minimum of two year period of tenure.
With this arrangement, only the governor and his deputy are entitled to N6.6 million and N6.3 million respectively. However, the governor returned his cheque to the treasury, having waved his right to earn salary since he assumed office. Two principal officers qualified for N4 million each, 15 political office holders received N3 million each, and while 18 others received N2.8 million each. This was over a year ago.
Governor Aregbesola demonstrated sensitivity to the financial situation in the state when he did not constitute a cabinet for more than two years. When he eventually did, he put ALL political office holders on half salary. How then could he have paid N50 million to each to political office holders as severance allowance?
Mr Ilesanmi and his ilk have embarked on a campaign of calumny against the government, hiding under the plight of pensioners, telling barefaced and egregious lies, making outrageous claim and inciting the people against the government.
He moves around with a motley crowd and they parade themselves as representing the whole company of dignified and respectable retirees in the state.
He has constituted himself into an insidious political opposition, riding on the sentiment of the sympathy and respect the larger society has for retirees and senior citizens.
Mr Ilesanmi and his group openly campaigned for the opposition party candidate in the 2014 governorship election in the state, hiding under the cloak of retirees. He used the same platform to openly campaign for the candidate of the same opposition party in the last senatorial election in the state, curiously only in the cities where election held.
This is an abuse of privilege and he should desist from this less than honourable path. As a private citizen, he is at liberty to join any political party and exercise his freedom of association and political participation as he deems fit. He should however not drag the respectable, decent and cultured Omoluabi retirees into his filthy political waters.
If he has any evidence that the State Government paid any sum beyond what is
quoted above, he should bring it up for the benefit of the public.
It is most regrettable that a national newspaper would willingly lend its platform to be used for propagating falsehood and deception. The hallmark of journalism is investigation. There would be a thousand and one claims as there are claimants, each with his or her own motive and sinister agenda.
It is the professional duty of a newspaper (that clearly impinges on its integrity) to investigate a claim and establish its truth before publishing, if it wants to serve the cause of truth and justice. It is a cardinal principle in journalism that while comments are free, facts are sacred. A newspaper that publishes a false claim assaults the sensibilities of its readers, betrays public trust and is an enemy of the open society.
The media are therefore enjoined to first investigate and verify any claim made by any group or individual before publishing in order not to drag its integrity in the mud.
The media and members of the public can always approach the Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Office of the Governor; Ministry of Information and especially the Ministry of Finance and Office of the Accountant General for clarification and relevant information on any (financial) matter.