By Femi Salako
THE passage of a bill by the Kwara State House of Assembly stopping pension to former governors and their deputies holding public offices is in the best interest of Nigerians. An action believed to have been influenced by Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was governor of Kwara, the Senate President has charged the remaining Houses of Assembly across the country to take a cue and save money for their respective states.
The bill was passed by the House of Assembly on February 27. Saraki subsequently issued a statement to commend the Kwara Assembly Speaker, Ali Ahmad, for ensuring the passage. While Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is expected to swiftly give his assent to this bill, the Chairman of the National Assembly deserves huge commendation for his rare demonstration of selflessness by influencing the action of the lawmakers.
The Senate President had said in his statement: “I am pleased that following my conversation with Kwara Speaker, Ali Ahmad, two months ago, the bill to suspend the payment of pension to former governors and their deputies when they hold a political or public office was passed into law yesterday by the Kwara House of Assembly”.
It is without doubt that many more acts of conscionable sacrifice by political elites in Nigeria, as exemplified by Saraki, would go a long way to make the country a better place. It would be recalled that the senator held the reins of government in Kwara from 2003 to 2011 and he has since represented Kwara Central in the Senate.
The self-seeking design of some former governors to keep feeding already fattened cows had recently been roundly condemned by Nigerians when it became public knowledge; but none of the concerned individuals, except Saraki, has thought it necessary to act in the interest of the masses. The Senate President could have as well chosen to turn deaf ears to the hues and cries against this double payment like his other colleagues in the National Assembly.
There are currently not less than 20 serving senators who are former governors and deputy governors.
Those in this category include Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso from Kano, Kabiru Gaya from Kano, Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom, Theodore Orji from Abia and Abdullahi Adamu from Nasarawa. Others are Sam Egwu from Ebonyi, Shaaba Lafiagi from Kwara, Joshua Dariye from Plateau, Jonah Jang from Plateau, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko from Sokoto, Ahmed Sani Yarima from Zamfara, Danjuma Goje from Gombe, Bukar Abba Ibrahim from Yobe, Adamu Aliero from Kebbi and George Akume from Benue.
The former deputy governors are Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti and Enyinnaya Abaribe from Abia. Danladi Abubakar Sani who served as the Acting Governor of Taraba State is also a serving senator.
Meanwhile, the double payment suspension bill, as advocated by Saraki, also concerns former governors who are Ministers in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. They include Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Steel; Rotimi Amaechi, Transport Minister and Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Minister for Power, Works and Housing.
It is left to be seen if any of the senators and ministers earning double payment could in good conscience rationalise this abnormality. There is just no way that these public office holders will not in the inner recesses of their minds give credit to Saraki for aligning with fairness and godliness.
The pension law in favour of former governors and their deputies in Akwa Ibom State provides for them equivalent to the salaries of the incumbent as their monthly pensions. The pension package includes a new official car and a utility vehicle every four years. This is in addition to one personal aide, a cook, chauffeurs and security guards at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor.
The situation is not any different in other states of the federation. The monetary compensation and the total package for former governors and their deputies are even far more humongous in financially buoyant states like Lagos. Bearing these facts of opulence of former governors and the impoverished governed populace in mind, the call by Saraki for the double payment suspension is as justifiable and as reasonable.
The Senate President has evidently risen far taller than holier-than-thou claimants to moral scruples.
•Mr Salako, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Akure, Ondo State.